Ang Lee’s martial arts wuxia masterpiece Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon flies onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray once again in a new single-disc release as part of the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. Now with a new but only slightly improved Dolby Vision transfer, the disc scores the same solid Atmos mix, and a host of excellent bonus features. Recommended
At High-Def Digest, we’ve previously reviewed Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon a few times now and our opinion of this modern martial arts masterpiece hasn’t diminished with each release. Filled with incredible action sequences, drama, romance, and humor - the film remains an incredible piece of movie-making from a director in peak form. I still would have loved to see what Ang Lee would have done with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines instead of jumping in on Hulk, but here his powers as a storyteller are perfectly honed so that not a single scene is wasted. By the time the film finishes you’re ready to watch it all over again.
Previous High-Def Digest reviews of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
After a solo standard release and a SteelBook, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon comes home with a new single disc 4K Ultra HD Blur-ay exclusive to the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection. Pressed on a BD-100 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover art, the insert art reflects seen on the 15th Anniversary “Cinema Series” release. The disc loads to a standard menu finally doing away with that janky “click wheel” menu structure Sony originally used for their 4K discs. Standard menu options rest along the bottom with bonus features on the righthand side.
Part of the hope with Sony adding Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to the 11-film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection was that with a new Dolby Vision HDR presentation, a number of the issues that plagued the first disc release would be resolved. And while this new transfer is certainly better, it’s not the floating leaps and bounds improvement we’d hoped for. With a new disc encode, the bitrate is greatly improved averaging 20+mbps higher for any given scene. Some of the more noisy and distracting grain issues have been resolved to leave the image with a cleaner presentation and tighter details. However, a number of artifacting issues like motion blur, and some heavier gauzy-looking grain are still present. It’s been 20+ years since I saw a film print projected so I can’t remember if it's always been this way or just a thing that’s been carried over from disc to disc, but it’s still here and it stands out.
Now the Dolby Vision pass does go a long way towards improving black levels for a number of scenes - including that amazing night fight sequence with Michelle Yeoh. Skin tones look healthier with more natural and lively primaries. Whites are bold and crisp without blooming. Again this is a better transfer, and flipping between discs it’s quite easy to see the improvements, but it’s still not quite a home run. Some of these issues could well be baked in, or Sony could simply be resting on the existing master and calling it a day. Considering their recent efforts with back catalog titles, I’m inclined to believe the former over the latter. But if you were interested in the Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection, this release isn’t strictly the disc to grab it for.
The same overall excellent Mandarin Atmos track is presented here and it’s still lively as ever. You can also enjoy a Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1 track as well as an English Dubbed DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, but I don’t know why you’d want to do that. The original Mandarin is where it’s at.
Here are our previous 4K review’s thoughts for this Atmos mix:
"Like the video, Ang Lee's gorgeous film has also been upgraded to a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, presumably taken from the same new remaster of the camera negatives. On the whole, the original sound design ascends to the object-based format with great results, offering several appreciable improvements.
Granted, there isn't a whole lot going on action-wise since much of the focus remains on the conversations and character interactions, but ambient effects occasionally bleed into the ceiling speakers with discrete effectiveness. The last half hour provides the film's most aurally impressive moments. While Li Mu Bai fights Jen Yu in the bamboo forest, the wind blows, and leaves distinctly rustle above the listening area. Later, when the two confront each other again, rain is heard pouring all around and overhead, and the sound of water trickling into the cave echoes everywhere and from up high, creating a satisfying dome-like soundfield."
As the highest-grossing foreign language film to take American theaters by storm, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is an instant classic. Ang Lee masterfully blends human drama with exhilarating action set pieces in one of the most visually poetic martial arts films ever made. Now as part of the 11-Film Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary Collection, Crouching Tiger scores a new and only slightly improved 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. The new Dolby Vision transfer helps improve the visuals over the previous HDR10-only release but it still suffers from a number of anomalies keeping it from being a genuine show-stopper. We do get to enjoy the same active and effective Atmos track along with a nice selection of bonus features. A Great film, but not a worthy enough upgrade to be the sole reason to purchase that big box set. Recommended