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Issue #114 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES July 1st, 2002

(1997; China Star Entertainment / Win's Entertainment / Flea Market)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Tin dei hung sam
Mandarin: Tian di xiong xin
English: Heaven Earth Great Ambition

Not to be confused with the Michael Bay atrocity (which opened a year later), this HK science fiction thriller deserves points for ambition but, judging from the muddled screenplay, the filmmakers were either never entirely sure of what they wanted to convey or began production without a finished script (not uncommon with HK cinema) hoping that everything would come together in the end. When a noted scientist is incinerated by a mysterious force at the precise moment that several satellites fail, "walking encyclopedia" Dr. Ken (Andy Lau Tak-wah) is called in to investigate. Authorities believe that the death of the man (an apparent instance of spontaneous combustion) and two others in his field may be the work of an enigmatic group called the "Brotherhood of Technology." The dead scientists were peers of Ken, who is the inventor of a revolutionary system called VOD, which greatly enhances the capabilities of one's TV set in regards to entertainment, internet access, etc. As VOD would put internet providers and video software manufacturers out of business, police suspect that these companies would like to see Ken put out of commission (ie. dead) before it hits the market. When another man is reduced to fragments, Ken's team (which includes Anthony Wong Chau-sang as his everyman cop buddy) begins to explore different theories but none of them can provide an explanation for the sudden re-appearance of Ken's girlfriend (Michelle Lee Kar-yan / Michelle Reis) who was killed in an accident some time earlier.

THE X-FILES premiered on HK television around the time that ARMAGEDDON was produced and the film is quite similar in a number of ways, mixing together science, high technology, speculation about various weighty topics, and horror movie stylistics and imagery. While initially interesting, the developing mystery soon bogs down, as the cast members cite various philosophies and religious precedents as explanations for what is unfolding, and a second act detour to Prague does nothing but add some attractive scenery. When a Caucasian messenger of God (or he is from the other place?) appears, the proceedings grow progressively sillier and culminate in a very unsatisfying wrap-up.

Cover art courtesy Tai Seng.

Andy Lau and Anthony Wong. Image courtesy Tai Seng.

Michelle Lee and Andy Lau. Image courtesy Tai Seng.
Tai Seng ##90734 (U.S. Label)

Sync Sound Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Dubbed Mandarin (Dolby Digital 1.0), and Dubbed English (Dolby Digital 1.0)

Optional Subtitles In English

20 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills

Letterboxed (1.85:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

112 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Tai Seng.

British Columbia: PG (Violence, Coarse Language)
Hong Kong: IIB
Ontario: AA (May Offend Some)
Singapore: PG


Director Gordon Chan. Image courtesy Tai Seng.

The presentation looks rather soft, with middling colors and weak contrasts, and the layer change is mildly disruptive. Digital video noise reduction flaws pop up on occasion and the 35mm source print is worn in spots. The sync sound Cantonese version has a nice, expansive stereo mix that adds considerably to Chan Kwong-wing's score. In addition to only being in mono, the English dubbed version is stilted and tends to dumb the dialogue down, making it easy to pass up (there is also a mono Mandarin track). Special features include a "Making Of" documentary (22 minutes) in Cantonese with permanent English subtitles, filmographies, two trailers, trailers for five additional films director Gordon Chan Kar-seung (left) has worked on, and trailers for five other Tai Seng

DVDs. There is also a commentary track, with Chan prompted by author Stefan Hammond (SEX AND ZEN AND A BULLET IN THE HEAD, HOLLYWOOD EAST). The director points out that his $US2 million budget (fairly big by HK standards but not that sizeable when the effects and location work are factored in) required some improvisation and corner cutting, why he likes to use amateur actors in supporting parts, and the research he did to prepare for the production. The track suffers from too much play-by-play on Hammond's part but there are some interesting anecdotes and insights, and those who enjoyed the movie will find the discussion worthwhile.

ARMAGEDDON is available at Poker Industries.

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