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Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (Blu-ray Review)

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.comFrom legendary action director Tsui Hark and the creators of international smash hit DETECTIVE DEE: MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME comes the captivating tale of Dee Renjie s beginnings in the Imperial police force. His very first case, investigating reports of a sea monster terrorizing the town, reveals a sinister conspiracy of treachery and betrayal, leading to the highest reaches of the Imperial family. 

 

 

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

Film 

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is the follow-up to Tsui Hark’s 2010 Detective Dee & The Mystery of the Phantom Flame, which also happens to be a prequel, hence the “Young” in the title of Rise of the Dragon. I’ll go on record now and say that I have NOT seen the first Detective Dee film, so this critique is only for RiseRise of the Dragon also happens to be young Detective Dee’s FIRST case. It’s filled conspiracy, coups, beautiful courtesans, imperial families, empires, dynasties, and a partridge and a pear tree. Yeah, that last bit of snark is very on the nose that I will explain as I continue the review.

The year is 665 and Detective Dee (Mark Chau) tackles his first case of what the navy reports to be a “giant sea dragon.” See, that’s only the first of many story lines in the bloated mess of a film that Rise of the Sea Dragon is. There’s a sea monster, right? Okay, let’s deal with that then. Wait, there’s also a humanoid sea monster thing attacking people and raising hell in town. Huh? Let’s drop everything and deal with that then! Hold on, the lovely courtesan must be sacrificed to the giant sea monster in order to appease a most worthy God who is punishing us for whatever reason. Okay then! That was the bit of snark I was eluding too earlier on. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is a giant bloated mess of a film that doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be because it’s throwing everything at the wall hoping it will stick. Some of it does but most of it does not.

Detective Dee operates with a sharp and reasonable intellect and deduces every possible outcome before uttering a word. Yes, if that sounds familiar to you, it’s because Young Detective Dee is Sherlock Holmes. He’s brilliant and can fight. The way Tsui Hark stages his abilities is also akin to the way Guy Ritchie staged his version of the films. We get pre-visualization sequences of Dee analyzing a hit and a likely outcome just before Dee attacks. These scenes are fine and all but it’s the overall execution of the film that drags these effective scenes down. There plenty of wirework enhanced fights, which don’t bother me, because I dig wirework and there are equally a lot of scenes that have more than questionable CGI. Those were a bit distracting but I heard that those scenes worked better in the 3-D version that was actually shot. This Blu-ray only has the 2-D version.

When we finally get the reveal of who or what the humanoid sea monster and giant sea dragon are it’s kind of confusing, because the explanations are technically rooted in reality but are too fantasy based and driven by the mystical that it can’t be taken seriously. At least the Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie’s too) were all grounded in reality, with hints of occult and horror, but had satisfactory outcomes that didn’t leave one saying what the hell was that 200 foot giant sea thing crushing ships. Reality or not, Rise of the Sea Dragon is a fantasy film with hints of a detective story.

I will definitely have to pay Detective Dee & The Mystery of the Phantom Flame and see where this one went wrong. It also doesn’t help that Rise of the Sea Dragon is two hours and thirteen minutes. They could have easily trimmed 30 minutes worth. There are some bits and pieces that offer nothing and only work in grinding the film to a halt. I should also emphasize that I didn’t hate the film outright, because it does have some cool fight sequences and the sea dragon is pretty cool looking as is the humanoid monster and so are the sets and costumes. All of those just take the back seat to the inconsistent storyline.

 

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

Video  

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is presented in 108op, 2.40:1 widescreen. The one thing that shines in almost every scene is the color palette. The colors are big, bold, and bright. Flesh tones are also consistent and never flush. The Debbie Downer would have to be the many instances of black crush and the greying of certain scenes at night. It’s pretty weird and the only other time I saw this was in The Rooftop, so as far as I gather, it’s either a transferring issue or just inherent from the source. Also, the English subtitles are white, which does not help due to them blending into the film itself. I hope future releases contain yellow subtitles so as not to blend into the film that I have to read.

 

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

Audio 

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The film and video specs may not be to par but in the one area the film gets it right in is this demo-worthy lossless soundtrack. Dialogue is crystal clear; the bass (LFE) is aggressive as hell, and the directional sound effects buzz and whirl all over the place in frightening clarity. About halfway in there’s a random establishing shot that shows a storm brewing and a lightning bolt swooshes from the rear right surround channel and travels in an almost diagonal way down to the front. It was amazingly real. That level of depth in the sound design really helps the viewers immerse themselves in the world being portrayed. It’s almost a shame, because the film isn’t that great, but I digress.

 

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

Extras  

No extras worthy of note except a theatrical trailer and previews for various Well Go USA releases. I’m not a fan of goose eggs.

 

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

Summary 

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is a very ambitious follow-up to Detective Dee & The Mystery of the Phantom Flame but stumbles along the way. The Blu-ray has an average video presentation accompanied by a great and bombastic audio track but fumbles the ball with no supplements. I will not totally dismiss the film as one to avoid, because there may be something there that you might enjoy. It’s worth a rental…maybe.

 

 

Order Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon on Blu-ray!

Young Detective Dee Rise of the Sea Dragon - www.whysoblu.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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