Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the image looked good.
Most of the film offered excellent delineation, but a smattering of night shots could look a little soft. Those weren’t a significant concern, though, so the vast majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. Neither moiré effects nor jaggies appeared, and edge haloes failed to become a factor. Print flaws also remained absent.
In terms of palette, Dragon opted for a mix of blues and ambers. Within those parameters, the hues appeared full and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots displayed nice clarity and smoothness. Only the smattering of soft shots turned this usually great image into a “B+”.
I found the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack – which downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on my system – to work fairly well. With its many outdoors locations, various natural elements added involvement to the mix, and the occasional “action moments” conveyed a good sense of events. The various channels brought out the material in a reasonably good manner that created a fine feeling for place.
That said, I thought the mix could seem restrained given the film’s martial arts orientation. Even when the movie emphasized combat, it felt like it didn’t kick into higher gear. The soundscape contributed a nice sense of the material but it didn’t become as involving as I’d expect.
Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while speech appeared natural and distinctive. Effects came across as accurate and dynamic, with good range and punch. Though good overall, the soundtrack lacked the sizzle to become better than a “B”.
The Blu-ray brings us a nice array of extras, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first involves director Ang Lee and co-writer James Schamus, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion of story, characters and editing, sound design and music, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, stunts and action, effects, and related areas.
For the most part, Schamus does little more than crack jokes, so that leaves the weight on Lee to create an informative commentary. Though the director throws out occasional nuggets, he doesn’t give us a great look at the film. Lee touches on basics but the track feels less substantial than I’d like.
For the second commentary, we hear from cinematographer Peter Pao. He delivers his own running, screen-specific chat that emphasizes cinematography but also looks at sets/locations, cast and performances, effects, design and working with Ang Lee.
Despite the track's semi-limited focus, Pao offers a good conversation. He demonstrates an open, engaging personality as he discusses his craft as well as other production domains. This easily becomes the better of the two commentaries.
Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of seven minutes, 49 seconds. These tend to add exposition, especially in terms of characters. Some of these focus on the leads while others look at supporting roles. A couple of them seem useful but most come across as superfluous.
Under A Retrospective, we get three components and an intro (0:32). These break down into three “In Conversation” pieces; “Ang Lee” (29:58), “Tim Squyres” (25:11) and “James Schamus” (25:59).
Overall, the conversations work pretty well. The piece with Squyres becomes most interesting mainly because we didn’t hear from him earlier, but both Lee and Schamus seem more focused and informative than they did during their commentary.
One annoyance: interviewer Tasha R. Robinson constantly interjects “hmm” and “huh” during the sessions. I get that she wants to demonstrate an invested personality during the chats, but her vocalizations become a real distraction. Despite that factor, the interviews offer good information.
Next comes The Making Of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It runs 19 minutes, two seconds and features Lee, visual effects supervisor Rob Hodgson, senior compositor Travis Baumann, and actors Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun Fat. The show looks at story/characters, cast and performances, stunts and martial arts, and visual effects. A smattering of useful facts emerge but “Making” usually endorses hyperbole and praise.
A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh lasts 13 minutes, 49 seconds. Here the actor discusses aspects of her work on the film. Though fairly promotional in nature, Yeoh produces a decent number of insights.
Two Music Videos appear, both for “A Love Before Time”. Singer CoCo Lee does both, but one offers Mandarin lyrics while the other uses English words. Both are pretty terrible.
Finally, the set includes a Photo Gallery. This shows a running six-minute, 50-second montage of shots that covers pics from the set, movie images and publicity stills. I’m not wild about the format, and because no one reformatted the photos for Blu-ray, they suffer from degraded quality.
When I first saw it in 2001, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon left me cold, and I didn’t find myself more enchanted by it in 2016. Although the movie occasionally shows signs of life, too much of it comes across as slow and dull. The Blu-ray presents generally strong picture and audio along with a reasonably positive set of supplements. Perhaps someday I’ll join the film’s legions of fans, but it won’t be today.