The Great Battle Blu-ray Review

Routine Scuffle

South Korea (along with China) is fond of their historical epics. Red Cliff remains the genre’s champion. The Great Battle is then a second-hand story of nationalist pride. It’s fine, a Korean 300 of sorts as a small army fends off an invasion six times their size.

The genre has its tropes now. There’s burly comic relief, the starring role going to a Korean model (In-sung Jo), bold speeches, and the clear dividing line between good and evil. Great Battle introduces a touch of religious belief for its climax, that after a good hour of CG-laced fight sequences. Towering images depict miles-wide armies, clashing in the center as the camera sweeps around.

Elements of loyalty feed the South Korean mood, subsiding current anxieties against the north through such a story. There’s even a spy-turned-defector (Jo) who finds himself enamored by the courage of the general he was sent to kill. Great Battle is drawing sides, pumping in propaganda between the audience-satisfying action; Great Battle rushes to reach those striking clashes. There’s limited set-up. Until Great Battle situates key characters in their places, it’s confusingly crafted. Maybe not for the knowledgeable Korean audience, but as an import, that’s an issue.

Great Battle loves taking in the prelude to a sword strike in decorative slow-mo

Once settled, it’s a torrent of arrows, swords clashing, blood flying, and other hyper violence. Stuntmen light themselves on fire and dodge oil-soaked wheels. Cinematography slows down, appreciating form and style. Forget the substance for a bit – Great Battle loves taking in the prelude to a sword strike in decorative slow-mo.

Advertised as a three month battle, that’s partially true. Two months were spent by the occupying force building a cliff to gain height/strategic advantage. Great Battle wisely skims that time period, nourishing character growth in the interim. That’s no loss to pacing; Great Battle keeps itself moving with attempts as assassination and espionage, providing smaller scale to balance the enormity elsewhere.

It’s competent and well made, structurally sound, with buckets of blood. Heroes act out their roles as master strategists, villains vain and aggressive. Subtly isn’t a trait of Great Battle’s script. That clarity is there to weaken fears, providing an escape for a few hours, stating that all will be okay. No matter the opposition’s numbers and training, wits and leadership matters more.

Video

The only issue with Great Battle is depth. Black levels never turn over. Dimension fails to show, leaving images flattened with only darkened gray as support. This allows errant episodes of compression to fill in those spaces, distracting at times in an already noisy (likely digitally sourced) presentation.

Everything else works. Superlative resolution draws out facial texture in full. Lesser CG elements stand out due to the high-grade clarity. Beautiful cinematography is enhanced by way of this disc, especially wide views of grassy plains. Keeping clarity high, massive battle scenes maintain their sharpness.

Mostly sun-drenched scenery keeps contrast healthy. Some scenes at night with hearty fires push the format to its peak brightness. Armor and swords glimmer as they move.

A palette choice keeps things somewhat stable and drifting toward orange. Few primaries break free, dry as to produce a vintage aesthetic. At night, orange continues as the flames represent lighting. All that warmth is appealing though, captured well by this disc from Well Go.

Audio

Presented in Korean DTS-HD (with an optional English dub), this mix has plenty of zip. A near constant barrage of arrows fills each channel. Sweeping effects while the camera pans exhibit superb discrete moments. Swords and shields smash into one another, spread through the front and rear soundstages. Occasional bits of dialog step out from the center, if not too wide.

Sadly, LFE support and weakened range keep Great Battle from sonic perfection. While horse stampedes and catapult attacks energize the subwoofer, it’s too limited for the scale. The best moment comes as a dirt mound collapses, thundering and finally matched to the action’s size. A little more of that and this is reference.

Extras

On the case’s back, it lists a production commentary. That’s a little misleading. “Commentary” translates to a three-minute EPK promo. Likewise, the second featurette (this one four minutes) runs down the characters. A couple of trailers add a little value.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Great Battle
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

Another in a line of South Korean historical epics, The Great Battle doesn’t rise above its generic name, but does have fine action.

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