Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 4K UHD thoughts

Carlo Medina

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I did a search for a CTHD 4K review and couldn't find one. I found the two threads that were announcements for preorder, and the one problem thread I posted back in 2016 when my copy was defective (SPHE acknowledged an error and provided a working replacement).

This is going to be a mix of a brief, informal 4K UHD review and a personal film retrospective now that, can you believe this, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is 20 years old.

Let's start with the A/V details. Watching this on my Oppo 203D -> Sony XBR 65X900F LED TV, audio via Denon AVR-X4500H to Energy C6/AC300 mains/center, RSL CG3 front heights, and ELAC Debut 2.0 rear surrounds. Bass provided by Tom Vodhanel's (the "V" in SVS for those who remember) PSA 15" sealed downfiring sub (S1500 I think) . This is a more-than-solid 4K transfer. The HDR10 black levels are fine, exhibiting none of the issues that Unforgiven (HDR10) and The Deer Hunter (DV) issues do, where I needed to bump up the black level on my TV from 50 to 70 to bring out shadow detail that was lost by the misapplication of HDR settings (see The Deer Hunter UHD thread for some light discussions between RAH and me). The audio quality is also very good. CTHD was made on a $17M budget, so it's not going to look or sound like an MCU 4K title. I think the fairest thing to say is: it looks like a good representation of the film on 4K. It's not going to knock your socks off like Endgame. But it's hard to find fault with it. While I'm not fluent, the subtitles seem to be fairly accurate vs. dubtitles (a problem common with Miyazaki subtitles), though likely fluent speakers may identify some issues with the subs.

Watching this last night, and then today (yes in my advancing years I start movies too late at night and have to finish them in the morning) I wanted to just say a few things about the movie in general.

I view CTHD as one of the seminal films that helped to pave the way for Oscar success for future foreign films to get Academy Award recognition outside of their "foreign film" category, culminating in last year's win by Parasite (which I've just taken ownership of in 4K and will be watching soon!). It broke the $100M mark in the U.S. theatrically, quite an accomplishment at the time. It did not invent wire-fu, but it certainly brought it full force into the American psyche.

I admit to loving this film throughout the early 2000s. And then I didn't watch it for a very long time, for no other reason than there's just been a lot of great films that have taken up my diminishing amount of time I have for watching films. And so it was with some apprehension that I spun the disc up and watched it fully. Even when I posted my problem thread and on my 3rd disc (direct from SPHE) I only spun the disc to make sure it worked, and didn't really sit down and critically watch the film. I wondered if it would hold up. So much has changed in special effects during the past 20 years, how would it hold up?

The answer is: quite well. And to my surprise, it holds up so well as a film because of the storytelling, acting and directing. The wire-fu aspect was never intended to make the characters fly smoothly through the air like Captain Marvel, so the fact that the actors "gallop" through the air only accentuates the effect, rather than detract, to my eyes. And of course the choreographed fight sequences that accompany the wire-flying effects are top notch, even by today's standards.

There are quite a few "old movies" that, when I show some of my younger friends and colleagues in their 20s...I often wonder how they'll feel about it. And by "old" I mean movies from the 90s and 00s, how's that for marking the passage of time? Will they view the wire-fu the same way I looked at the stop-motion effects when I was a kid, comparing Jason and the Argonauts to the Star Wars (OOT) effects? Will the plot, acting and dialogue seem dated?

To my viewing, the answer is a resounding no. This film holds up tremendously well imo. I now am planning...after COVID of course...a movie night where I plan to show this to those 20-somethings, with no fear that it will be judged harshly based on it's age.

For those who are a fan of this film and haven't picked up the 4K disc...consider this my endorsement for the 4K disc (assuming SPHE has fixed the bad batch issue they had in 2016), and this film.
 
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