Title: Saving General Yang
HTS Overall Score:84
Sometime around 900 AD the Tang Dynasty crumbled and China spiraled into fractured segments that fought amongst themselves for control over territory. Two of those segments are featured in Saving General Yang: The Liao Dynasty (ruled by the Khitan) and the Song Dynasty. It’s within the Song Dynasty that the Yang family (a General and his seven sons) lived, serving a military existence and eventually becoming something of Chinese folklore where their exploits have been exaggerated and celebrated through stories.
Director Ronny Yu’s (Freddy vs Jason, Bride of Chucky) Saving General Yang is a story of authority, honor, and tradition, where family reigns supreme and vengeance drives decisions. Its violent foundation is a land war between the Liao and Song Dynasties; its story is dramatic, drenched in beautiful costumes, wicked weapons, and mind blowing sets and fields of battle. From a westerner’s point of view, it plays out like Braveheart meets Lord of the Rings sprinkled with shades of 300; the odds in most battle scenes are outrageously overwhelming and huge legions of soldiers are frequently no match for a featured character. But that’s all part of the fun and charm of Saving General Yang.
The story revolves around General Yang Ye’s (Adam Cheng) youngest son, named Yang Yansi (Xin Bo Fu), and his decision to disobey his father’s order to stay away from a Princess (Ady An). The princess is being courted by the son of a rival – and equally powerful – family called the Pan’s. Yansi’s desire for the Princess’ hand leads him into a sparing match with his competition and the unthinkable occurs: the Pan’s son accidentally dies. This causes a simmering rift between the two families to change into a rolling boil of hatred.
Fast forward a few days and the Emperor calls on General Yang and Lord Pan because the Khitan are invading their territory and the Song army needs to be dispatched. The elder Yang is put in charge of frontline soldiers and Lord Pan, who is seething about his son’s death, is asked to command the entire battle. General Yang realizes this scenario isn’t good but his respect for the Emperor keeps him from protesting. Yang is doubly concerned because the Commanding General of the invading army (named Yelu Yaun) is the son of a man that Yang had killed many years ago.
The battle begins and Lord Pan pulls a fast one and retreats with the vast majority of his soldiers, leaving Yang to fend for himself amid overwhelming odds. Yang and some of his soldiers are able to escape to an isolated area called Wolf Mountain where they setup camp and begin to lick their wounds. Unfortunately they are trapped and realize that Yaun’s army will eventually hunt them down. Yaun, however, is blinded by revenge for his father’s death and has other plans. Rather than attacking, he decides to wait for Yang’s sons to come to their father's rescue. It’s the perfect trap and presents a situation that will allow Yaun to kill all the men of the Yang family. General Yang’s sons oblige Yaun’s plan and show-up at Wolf Mountain, it's then that the real battle begins.
Saving General Yang is locked and loaded with epic battle scenes populated by massive armies decked-out in stunning warrior gear. To its credit, the film pulls these scenes off perfectly, with a thunderous and devistating catapult attack on Wolf Mountain taking the cake. The settings are equally impressive, frequently bathed in beautiful sunsets and expansive countrysides. Even the scenes depicting the dark and grotesque aftermaths of battle are beautifully complex in a morose sense.
The film has a historical feel that is convincingly real, but the stories of the Yang family are certainly embellished and the film tips it hat from time to time (for example, one of the sons is an archer that never runs out of arrows) to keep the fantasy feel of the movie alive. Then there are the actors, including the seven sons, which are difficult to tell apart simply because their faces are unfamiliar and their personalities are rather bland. It doesn’t help that the film flips between referring to the sons by name and their birth order. This becomes less of an issue as the story progresses and deaths occur, but during the opening stages of the film it’s entirely confusing. One character that remains recognizable is the evil Yaun. His aggressive cockiness, dangling earrings, and slick white uniform allow him to stand out as uniquely identifiable.
The film’s overall story strikes a chord that rings of interest but is ultimately rather ho-hum. The greatness of the film lies within its battle scenes (which at times suffer from cliché and predictability), but poor character development and rather weak dialog makes the film seem thin. It’s an odd combination, for sure, but when all is said and done Saving General Yang is certainly missing a sense of complexity. This leads to a story that seems to skip from battle to battle, which if you’re a total action junkie isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
NR; This film is not yet rated by the MPAA.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/sgy3.jpg[/img]Well Go USA delivers the goods with a glorious 2.39:1 MPEG-4 AVC transfer of Saving General Yang. The cinemascope image provides sweeping visuals, making it nearly impossible not to be drawn to its complex qualities, rich swirls of color, and extraordinary layers of detail. Contrast is the anchor of the film’s visual presentation. Blacks are impeccably thick and inky and details are generally excellent in low light and shadowy images. Many images include shots containing a beautifully warm sunlit back light that doesn’t washout or fade features of focus. The film’s color palate is fairly neutral allowing colors such as golds and reds to pop but not dominate the image. Fine details, such as flecks of dust floating in light or the finest of hairs on the faces of the cast, are exacting and razor sharp. While blocking and noise are never evident, there are several scenes where banding (distinct gradations) are visible in the background; this is evident in more than one dark scene. While visible and somewhat distracting, the banding is a minor issue in what can best be described as a superb transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//sgy4.jpg[/img]The disc’s menu provides viewers with several audio options. For this review I opted to select the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack (but also demoed the Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1). The two are identical except for dialog, which in both cases has good weight and is elevated and centered. The Mandarin dialog is slightly warmer and more natural, but the English dialog is good despite sounding somewhat canned and echoey. The rest of the audio experience is ever so slightly centered, but has moments of a great airiness and dynamic punch. The film has intricate directional sounds (such as footsteps, birds, and other ambient noises) and more intense/action oriented directional sounds (such as an arrow whooshing overhead or the total insanity and enormity of sword battles) that are incredibly impressive. Low Frequency Effects are large and in charge in multiple scenes. The film features thunder on three or four occasions that cracks from the rear channels and rolls into detailed and impactful rumbles with a wonderful warmth. Then there is the demo-worthy boulder attack on Wolf Mountain. Giant boulders literally whizz overhead and across the soundstage before they come crashing down with massive thunderous thuds. It’s a scene that is sure to please anyone looking for demo material to showoff the power of a system. All of this goes without mentioning Japanese composer Kenji Kawai’s (Ip Man, Ghost in the Shell) original score that seems to float around the room, living and breathing with the visuals and emotion of the film. It isn’t the most expansive score of the year (and is a tad bright at times) but is well above average and a total delight.
• Making of
• Interviews with Director and Cast
Saving General Yang is far from a masterpiece but it’s certainly a feast for the eyes and ears. If it only had a beefier plot to develop a true connection between the audience and characters; it could have been one of the more impressive movies of the year. For the casual viewer, the film will likely be slightly confusing because the delineation between characters is poorly executed. However fans of action and war will completely fall in love with the film’s raw battle scenes and choreographed fight sequences. It’s deluxe eye candy with excellent audio to boot. This film is worth a viewing simply because of those characteristics.
Starring: Adam Cheng, Shao Bing, Wu Chun
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Edmond Wong, Ronny Yu, Kat Lo (translation)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English: Dolby Digital 2.0, Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1,
Mandarin: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 10, 2013
Buy Saving General Yang on Blu-ray at Amazon