This is a comparison between the cut international version and the uncut original version (both included on the German Blu-ray released by Splendid).
* 20 scenes with alternative order
* 12 scenes with additional material in the international version
* 16 recuts
* 3 zooms
Difference in time: 24:29 min (not including credits)
Quite a few action fans would love to be back in the good old 80s, when Jackie Chan (and many others) were at the peak of their artistry. Landmark flicks such as Police Story or Armour of God received sequels throughout the last years that were not even close to the quality of the originals. No matter how you think about the quality of Chan's movies from the last 20 years after his breakthrough with Rush Hour, it is still remarkable that at an age of over 60 years he is still able to fight in front of the camera with great commercial success. Dragon Blade was able to break even with it's production costs of 120 Million dollars in it's country of origin China and was also pretty successful in the USA, probably thanks to the Western supporting cast of John Cusack and Adrien Brody.
To be fair, the movie's visuals are convincing: The shots are well done and there are also a few impressive fight scenes to look at. The plot - a historically questionable depiction of several ethnic groups during the Han-Dynasty - is also not too bad. However, you have to sit through a lot of pathos and a pretty bland dramaturgy. Some of the emotional sideplots could have been constructed a little more intelligent and neither Brody nor Cusack really have a chance to exploit their full potential. Then again, regarding the circumstances one could not have expected a deep analysis, but if you're just looking for an entertaining movie for a mindless movie night, this flick might be right for you. There is also a 3D version.
Similarly to Chinese Zodiac, the studio altered the movie for international audiences, resulting in severe cuts and other changes. US audiences were solely able to see the international version. As for the UK version, things are not clear yet. The UK release from march 2016 is listed with a runtime that seems to resemble the original version. However, according to the BBFC, only the international version had been handed in for a rating.
The International Version
When it comes to the aforementioned Chinese Zodiac, the shorter version that is missing out on 14 minutes of footage does have some advantages. The international version of Dragon Blade is actually 25 minutes shorter, still it is not as bad as one would expect from such a drastic difference.
At first we have to mention unnecessary longer plot sequences which were simply taken out. Especially the sideplot of an archeological find in present time with its hammered in message seems pointless. The flashback that is resolved bit by bit does give Jackie's childhool some more depth, yet, it is also a little obtrusive. A similar thing can be said about about the detailed sequences including the different tribes as well as Jackie's wife: On the one hand it is pretty nice to have some more background, on the other hand they do not have any relevance for the rest of the plot. Thus it seems understandable that they were cut out.
In the end, this is also the case for several small cuts. Lady Cold Moon's affection for Jackie was consequently reduced and the former commander has less screentime as well. In general, it seems as if they wanted to give many scenes more drive without losing any content. It is a little sad for some of the beautiful imagery that is lost, in the end, however, one can cope with this easily. Unbiased audiences might even have a little advantage with this version. US-Reviewers sometimes criticized the jumpy plot - yet, as for many Asian movies, the original version does not really help.
A next point are stylistic changes and recuts which are not always understandable. For example, the international version at first shows a zoomed shot, only to a few seconds later use the original shot. Short reactions on the battlefield happen at different moments, and in the second half, some scenes were entirely postponed. Overall, they seem to have tried to give the movie a more typical dynamic without making any of the versions better or worse. Towerds the end there is a noticeable change to the background during a shot of a statue which is in line with the aforementioned frame story.
Despite all these positive aspects this does not mean that the original version is bad. We simply tried to clarify that this is one of the better international versions. However, there is one thing that might be bothersome: A few short fight scenes and violent sequences were cut out, too. Regarding the amount of violence that stayed in the movie, it can be doubted that this was done due to censorship - the movie was rated R anyway. Still, the fact that the slow motion shot of an arrow hitting a person in the face is missing does sour taste.
All in all, the international is worth checking out and is much more interesting to watch than the disrespectfully simplified Americanized versions that one had to sit through in the 90's which were often accompanied by a new hip hop soundtrack.
We would like to thank Splendid Film for providing us with the German Blu-ray.
Runtimes are listed as follows:
International Version / Original Version
After several identical logos they at first altered a firm logo was switched to a different place, followed by a few more identical logos. However, while the orivinal version continues with the producer credits, the international version immediately Während die Original Version (= OF) nun jedoch mit Producer-Credits fortfährt, hat die international version immediately goes over to the director and cast credits.
Original Version 22.6 sec longer
Alternative Scene / Additional Material in the international version
01:02-01:49 / 01:24-06:31
The start of the movie is entirely different.
In the international version we can see a shot of the desert and a title card tells us that the story takes place in 50 BC and that a Roman legion had disappeared. Traces of them had been found along the Silk Road. After that, there are a few close-up shots of the battlefield which already tell us a few future events. After a reference to the true story the movie is based on we see the title.
In the end we see a map. Once the galloping horses are shown, both versions are back in sync.
In the Original Version we instead at first see a reference to the true story and in between more extensive credits we get to know that a team of American archaeologists in 2015 had acquired a manuscript from the han-dynasty. Some more details tell us the backstory of the Roman occupation. In the end, the archaeologists have some doubts about everything. As a result they go to the location themselves (Rebum).
The car convoi arrives and the woman continues to read the manuscript. Christian sits in the driver's seat and says something over the radio.
After they climbed up the hill, they finally found the ruins. Enthusiastically, they wipe off the „Rebum“-sign. Immediately, they start to measure the place. They start a discussion over the fitting music. While we can hear classical music, the satellite scans the surroundings.
The movie draws attention to the spire through flashbacks. In the end, the movie zooms in and shows the title.
Just as in the international version, we then see the map and some text, which is a little more extensive: 36 nations were fighting in order to claim the Silk Road theirs.
Original Version 259.1 sec longer
Alternative Scene / Additional Material in the international version
02:21-02:23 / 07:03-07:56
In the international version there is solely a shot of the hill.
In the Original Version there is also a shot from this perspective, however, Huo and his people immediately get there and watch the encounter from a distance. Somebody asks himself, which nation it is and via a book and the emblems they are able to identify the group. In the process they realize that the huns are actually further away in the south and Huo deduces from this fact that they try to expand their territory because of a heavy drought.
In the end the two parties are shown a little earlier: Leader Alisijiang tells the Huns to give the stolen food back. The Huns' leader replies that they should just settle this argument according to the rules of Silk Road and thus starts a fight.
Original Version 51.2 sec longer
02:26-02:27 / 07:59
The international version shows the shot of Lady Cold Moon from the previous block of scenes again.
+ 1.6 sec
02:38-02:40 / 08:10
Another shot of the Huns after the attacker went down. Apparently, this scene originates from 03:07-03:08 / 08:34-08:43.
+ 1.2 sec
02:49-02:50 / 08:19
Again, theres a postponed half long shot.
+ 1.5 sec
02:56-02:58 / 08:25 bzw 08:45-08:47
The international version shows a shot of Huo riding – which in the original version follows after the hit of the whip.
No difference in time.
03:07-03:08 / 08:34-08:43
Now, the original version also shows the Huns riding along. The woman tells the fighter that he has lost the battle and should leave. The man insults her and wants to ride off, which is also shown in the international version – however, the half long shot starts a few frames earlier.
Original Version 8,1 sec longer
03:10 / 08:47-08:49
Before Huo joins them, we can see Lady Cold Moon whipping some more.
03:14-03:16 / 08:53-08:55
When Tache spots Huo's troops, the international version zooms into him. In the original version, the camera does not move.
03:18 / 08:57-08:58
When the Hun woman reaches for the stone, the original version's shot begins a little earlier.
03:21 / 09:01-09:02
Huo runs a little longer.
03:24-03:27 / 09:05-09:08
The yell for the battle starts a little earlier in the international (before Huo tries to reconciliate).
No difference in time.