Ip Man: Awakening Blu-Ray Review
Well Go USA releasing a physical copy of a streaming title is good news in a world full of streaming-only titles.
Hiyah! is a streaming service for dedicated martial arts fans, featuring classic titles, new films & originals playing exclusively on the platform. One such original, available to watch now on Hiyah!’s SVOD service is Ip Man: Awakening, a prequel of sorts to the Ip Man legacy of films. You can try the service for free for 7 days here (supported on various different platforms), and charges $3.99 per month for its surprisingly extensive collection.
Among Ip Man: Awakening, Well Go USA is distributing numerous Hiyah! Originals on Blu-Ray disc, alongside Spiritwalker, Raging Fire, as well as the previous release of The Paper Tigers, also seeing an exclusive streaming presence on the service. This is great news for films that gain exclusivity on streaming platforms but for fans of the movies themselves the ability to own these is a great opportunity for them and the distribution studios. This release is fairly bare-bones but we hope to see more extras on future releases as more titles become available on physical media.
So let’s dig into the specifics on the release for Ip Man: Awakening.
The film is presented in anamorphic 16x9 aspect ratio and, as a recent film, looks extremely clean and unblemished. The colors are ultimately alluring and vibrant, especially during daytime scenes. The lighting is uniformly even which lets details in-camera speak for themselves, further enriching the viewing experience. Night-time sequences use a well-balanced bluish tint (even if used day-for-night) and never look too dark for the viewer to determine facial expressions or details. Some fast cutting during martial arts sequences can challenge some details of their respective sequences like geography and momentum of the fights, limiting them in some respects. But as the film goes on it creates its own as it ramps up towards the climax.
Ip Man: Awakening is presented with two language options, the original Chinese language track in either stereo or DTS HDMA (High Def Master Audio) 5.1, and an English dub track mastered in both stereo and DTS HDMA 5.1 as above. The audio imaging in the 5.1 works as it should, giving the film added sonic depth and spreading layered sounds like Foley art, dialogue, and underscore across the three-dimensional space believably. The film’s English language track is a brand-new dub, but if you’re picky about how you watch your films, this dub won’t change your mind in either case.
The Blu-Ray disc contains trailers for the above-mentioned Well Go USA titles & Hiyah! Originals: Spiritwalker, Raging Fire, and The Paper Tigers. A trailer for Ip Man: Awakening is also available on the disc.
Although it brings nearly nothing new to the table as a martial arts movie or an Ip Man film, it does a decent job at telling the story of the early days of the young master. Set in a nebulous biographical period of time well before the establishment of his Hong Kong martial arts school, we meet an adolescent Ip Man, a student at this point in his life. A British company comes to the territory, forcibly instilling its presence alongside a human trafficking ring in Hong Kong. Ip Man and his friend Bufeng find themselves in the middle of it, and although the intended element of danger is certainly present, the performance of it (especially in the characterization of the aggressors) is sluggish and uninspired. The action choreography is hard to track in between the quick cuts in post at first, making some straight-forward fights feel more erratic than they should. It finds its footing as the film presses on, but still feels stinted and partially there.
There are some nice dramatic beats offered throughout and the onscreen chemistry between Ip Man and Bufeng works well enough here. But things seem a little too clean for this story of rebellion against British annexers leading into the climax of Awakening. The plot of the film leads naturally into a feel-good tale of protecting your homeland from colonial aggression, but in the midst of being a territory for the British in any case the triumph feels pushed to the realm of the everlasting, despite how we know where Ip Man’s story goes from here. It’s a strange bright detour from the dour nature of the world Ip Man becomes all too familiar with, and whether this film does the circumstances justice or not resides with the viewer. It doesn’t lean very far in either direction to be that memorable in any fashion. Recommended for Ip Man completists and martial arts film enthusiasts.
Ip Man: Awakening is available to pre-order now, releasing on Blu-Ray & DVD June 21st from Well Go USA.
Disclaimer: Well Go USA has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.