Heavenly Sword Blu-ray Review
Heavenly Sword was a breathtakingly beautiful and critically-acclaimed game that released for Sony’s PlayStation 3 console back in 2007. Rumors of a movie adaptation have been circulating for quite some time, and now Cinedigm’s Heavenly Sword CG animated film is finally releasing on home video formats. With an all-star cast featuring Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), Anna Torv (Fringe) and Thomas Jane (Hung, The Punisher), Heavenly Sword essentially retells the game’s story with at least one notable departure from the established narrative.
Heavenly Sword tells the tale of Nariko, a red-haired warrior who is burdened with the task of keeping the titular sword out of the hands of the malevolent King Bohan, whose great army wishes to use the sword for their own nefarious purposes. When King Bohan discovers that the Heavenly Sword is being held in Nariko’s village, he sends his entire massive battalion to kill Nariko’s clan and seize the weapon. The elder tribesmen entrust Nariko with the Heavenly Sword, even though she is not the foretold Chosen One who was meant to possess the sword. Soon after, King Bohan reveals to Nariko that she has a brother – who is the Chosen One – and Nariko makes it her mission to put the angelic blade in his hands or die trying.
Heavenly Sword’s production team, Blockade Entertainment, has been developing this film for a long, long time, as the bonus features attest to. Some have wondered why the film is releasing seven years after the game’s initial release, but the team talks about the numerous hurdles that they had to overcome to release Heavenly Sword. The writer, Todd Farmer, reveals that a script was created way back in 2008, and that it was to be created as a six episode TV series and was even sold to the SyFy channel.
Unfortunately, the economic collapse greatly hampered the film’s progress, and it was basically shelved until Blockade Entertainment showed interest in the project, and created test footage using the original game’s assets. Since all of the game’s original assets were still available, Blockade was able to greatly reduce the film’s budget by using what was already created and simply tweaking and expanding upon it. Apparently, Sony was so impressed with the team’s work on Heavenly Sword that they gave them a larger budget to create the upcoming Ratchet & Clank animated film.
The one major addition, and twist, to the Heavenly Sword story is that here, the true Chosen One was born; Nariko’s brother, Loki, is alive and works as a blacksmith in a nearby town. It’s strange that Thomas Jane was brought in for this role, as the character is only in the film for less than two minutes, but he does well with what he was given. Anna Torv does a great job reprising her role of Nariko, lending the emotional depth necessary to carry the narrative. Alfred Molina takes over the role of King Bohan from Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis, and does a fine job with his reinterpretation of the character. Also it must be said that Nolan North is a fantastically gifted voice actor – here he plays not only new character Kyo but also fills in for the actors that played Roach and Shen originally.
It’s obvious from the outset that Heavenly Sword was made on a relatively tight budget, although the film looks pretty good for what it is on Blu-ray. One has to remember that this film was created using mostly PlayStation 3 assets from 2007. That said, the character models have been noticeably touched up, sporting higher polygon counts, higher-definition textures, and much better hair, especially in the case of Nariko’s long, flowing red locks. Still, some rough textures crop up from time to time, and I noticed some clipping and other side effects of the film’s meager budget. The fact that Heavenly Sword looks as good as it does given the circumstances it was created under is impressive, as is the fact that it was seen to completion in the first place. If you adjust your visual expectations, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Heavenly Sword’s extras consist of all of the trailers and one behind-the-scenes featurette, “The Making of Heavenly Sword”. This fifteen-minute feature has interviews with all of the main members of the cast, as well as the producers of the film and the screenwriter. It sheds light on the troubled production’s lengthy development, as well as the inspired idea to utilize the game’s $10 million worth of already-created assets to make a solid-looking film on a tight budget. Alfred Molina shares his thoughts on the character of King Bohan, and Anna Torv talks about what it was like to come back to the role of Nariko after seven years.
Overall, I found Heavenly Sword to be an engaging, highly entertaining film in spite of its budget. While the visuals leave something to be desired at times, in general the animation is solid, and there are some very well-choreographed action scenes here as well. Fans of the game will not be disappointed – Heavenly Sword is a very faithful adaptation that stays true to its source material, changing only what was necessary to provide an engrossing film narrative. And if you’ve never played the game, the film wraps up the story in a tidy, concise 85 minute feature. Here’s hoping that Heavenly Sword creates enough buzz to green light a new game (or at least a film sequel).