The Movie: 8/10
Little Big Soldier is a different type of Jackie Chan movie, with the focus more on the story than wacky antics and crazy wire-karate moves. Of course, those aspects of a Jackie Chan movie are in there, but this just has a move epic, history driven feel than many of Chan’s other movies. This is a history, costume piece, and there is a lot of effort to make this look and feel like an epic Chinese tale.
Jackie Chan is a somewhat eccentric soldier who finds himself as one of the loan survivors after a seemingly massive battle that wipes out armies from two warring factions. Upon waking up, he finds a rival general from a warring Wei province (Leehom Wang) who he takes as his prisoner. Chan is from the Laing province, and he takes the injured general on a journey to hopefully get a reward for his capture.
Add to the mix a few nomads who are out to take anything of value from anyone they run across, and a group of Wei soldiers who are trying to locate the missing general, and supposedly kill him, and we start to get a band of two enemies that are forced to bond together to avoid death. The two start a friendship of necessity that grows throughout the movie, and makes for a strange buddy type of movie, set in ancient China.
The movie really is a period piece, and it is a nice departure from some of the slapstick comedy stuff that pervades most Jackie Chan type of movies. I liked it, and thought that the two main characters were likable, and really did a good job of moving the somewhat slow story along. While it is not for everyone, this was a movie that I thought really showed a different side of Jackie Chan. While he is still goofy and just a bundle of crazy action, even in this movie, it was good to see him do a more story driven film. And while it is not the best martial arts film I have seen lately, it is a good period piece, and I can respect the time, effort, and money that went into this movie. Jackie Chan should do more movies like this.
- Trailers – I am not one who really considers adverts for the movie as a true extra, but with the sparse features on this release, this is one of them. There are several trailers included here, with movies like Ip Man 2 and Shaolin.
- Jackie Chan Music Video – In a strange twist, we get a music video, in Chinese of course, from Jackie Chan. It is a strange video with him in the studio, mixed in with actions sequences from the movie. His signing is actually okay. This is just a strange inclusion.
- Making Of – The making of feature is actually pretty decent. Clocking in at about 14 minutes in length, it is infomative. In Chinese, with English subtitles, we get a good basic review of the making of and the ideas behind the movie.
- English Language Dub – The movie is presented in English, but it is strange as it does not appear that they used Jackie Chan to overdub his parts in English. It just seems bizarre sounding. The blu-ray is also accompanied by a standard DVD of the movie.
Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
The cover and menu for Little Big Soldier is shockingly dull. The colors seem to run together and are a mess of browns and dark tans, which kind of seem to get lost. (Incidentally, the cover image above is much brighter than the image that is actually on the cover of the blu-ray box.) I understand the two main characters ont he cover, but it just seems to be a muddle here, and on the menu. The menu features the same idea, and has shots of the movie over a small menu in the right lower corner. I just was not a huge fan of either the cover or the menu. A brigher more recognizable cover (and better, more readable font) would be great here. You can barely tell that Jackie Chan is on the cover to be honest, and he is the main driving force behind this movie.
Audio & Video: 8/10
I know that I complained about the muted coloring of the cover and menu, which is truly a gripe, and I realize that the movie is set to look this way, but the effect of the movie is pretty nice. The desaturation is a big part of making the movie feel old, and I understand that. The 2.40:1 AVC encode is sharp and it looks great. The details are apparent from start to finish, and I liked the presentation. The audio is good also, with nice use of the rear speakers, and a nice mix of action sounds (with a lot of bass umph) and good dialogue. The Mandarin mix is very solid, and the English dub is only slightly less powerful.
This is not a movie that non-martial arts fans will covet, but for those of us that have taken a liking to these types of historic chinese “epics” that have sprouted up as of late, this is a very good movie. Jackie Chan is at his best here, and he seems to make an effort to tone down his antics, and let the story drive this movie. The result is more along the lines of the Ip Man movies than the Rush Hour trilogy. It is a nice change to see Chan in a role like this. While the movie does drag at times, it is a good watch.
Overall Score 8/10