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

     Actors: Mark Chao, William Feng, Angelababy, Carina Lau, Lin Gengxin
  • Director: Tsui Hark
  • Format: Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: February 11, 2014
  • Run Time: 134 minutes


            The 3D format has become a hugely moneymaking gimmick, and one which has certainly played a large role in giving audiences a reason to see a film in theaters rather than waiting for home entertainment or downloading illegally. We have seen from successes like Avatar, The Avengers and Gravity in the United States that people are willing to pay more if it gives them a unique viewing experience, and filmmaker Tsui Hark (Seven Swords, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) has been at the forefront of a similar shift in Asian cinema. The only problem with this mentality of making movies is the shortsightedness when it comes to home entertainment, especially as that is the primary means of seeing these films as imports. The effects are still very good in Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, but there are elements better suited for 3D, and at times they resemble the type of flat, unfinished CGI effects from the late 1990s.


            Brighter, slower, with less detail seems to be the key to making 3D effects that pop without being disorienting, but these same characteristics can be poisonous to the same film in 2D. Though Hark has managed to pull off some magnificent sequences near the end of the film, the first half has more than a few moments which scream out artifice. Fortunately, there is also the success of the previous film in the franchise to fall back on, providing much more than visual effects to drive the film.


            Detective Dee is something of a Sherlock Holmes type character, with the added ability of martial arts to help solve the 7th-Century mystery. Rather than a direct sequel, Rise of the Sea Dragon is a prequel with Mark Chao replacing Andy Lau as Dee Renjie. His very first case in the Imperial police force involves a massive conspiracy and parasites that have the ability to mutate human beings once infected. This story often unnecessarily convoluted with many characters and a variety of motives, landing much more clarity in the action sequences than in the narrative. At 134 minutes, I was surprised by how few sequences utilize Dee’s mental abilities in solving the mystery, instead focusing on bringing several characters into the fold and making them fight their way into resolution.


    Entertainment Value: 7.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 6/10

    Disc Features: 1/10


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