As much as I enjoy watching Jet Li I have to admit that recently he has been used as fuel in a number of average movies, never really managing to secure a part the elevates him from the mediocrity of the films he’s associated with. After a mediocre box office run, the film is now coming to DVD as a Special Edition courtesy of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, and it was with some trepidation that I approached "The One," his latest film, directed by "Final Destination" director James Wong.
At the core of "The One" is an interesting premise, in which the "World" consist of a series of parallel universes in which everything and everyone exists as an independently developing duplicate of the remaining universes, oftentimes unaware of the existence of that multiverse. Set slightly in the future, mankind has learned to travel between universes through wormholes and as you would expect it is sometimes abused.
Yulaw (Jet Li) is one such abuser. He has learned that whenever one of his duplicates dies, the life energy is transferred onto the remaining incarnations of his self, making it stronger. Since that discovery, Yulaw has been on a mission to eradicate every single one of his opposite selfs and has succeeded to kill 123 of them – all but one. Over the course of his killing spree he has gained superhuman powers and is now out to visit his last remaining self, kill it and become "The One." According to his thinking, this will make him a God.
But as luck has it, the multiverse police force is on his heels after he has escaped imprisonment. Fully aware of Yulaw’s plans they follow him to see his last remaining counterpart, Gabe (Jet Li), who turns out to be a police officer himself. Will they be able to save Gabe from certain death and Yulaw from becoming "TheOne?"
I find the premise of "The One" intriguing to say the least. The aspects of a multiverse, the implications of messing with its integrity and the evolving plot are great material for a phenomenal story. Unfortunately that is where the film falls flat. There is no real story to speak of and characters are shallow non-dimensional puppets without depth or importance.
As it runs out, "The One" is an action fireworks spectacle. Through its 87 minute running length, the film is constantly exposing the viewer to a barrage of non-stop action sequences. One of the characters is constantly on the run for his life or entangled in close combat. While this makes room for some dazzling special effects and spectacular martial arts, after a while the viewer just feels exhausted. Jet Li is such a great actor who is fully capable of carrying dramatic and tragic characters as many of his Hong Kong films prove, that "The One" sadly feels like an abuse to his talents. To make things worse, any attempt for acting is overpowered by the computer generated special effects. While impressive and beautiful to look at, sadly these effects ultimately squeeze the last bit of "life" out of the story.
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is presenting "The One" in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen version in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as well as a fullscreen version that is a mix between an open-matte and a pan&scan transfer. In some shots it simply crops the edges quite significantly, in others it reveals some additional picture at the top and bottom of the screen while still slightly cropping the sides. Either way, the anamorphic widescreen transfer is clearly the one to be preferred if you wish to experience the film as it was intended.
The picture is clean and clear as you would expect from such a new movie. There is no grain anywhere in the image and the transfer reveals a very good level of definition that reproduces even the most subtle details. Some edge-enhancement is evident in a handful of shots but for the most part, the DVD presents an image that is very faithful and good-looking. The colors are vivid but never oversaturated. The result is a presentation that perfectly reflects the atmospheric cinematography of the film with its vivid color palette. Especially the blues of the film are beautifully reproduced enhancing the flair of the movie. Blacks are very deep and solid, never breaking up and never losing shadow detail. The compression is without flaws, leaving every bit of image detail fully intact.
One the audio side, the disc presents itself with a dynamic 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track as well as a French Dolby Surround track. Energetic, the audio is very aggressive and has a very modern feel to it. The pounding heavy metal music is equally powerful as the big sound effects and explosions. The bass extension is very good, giving the presentation a lot of bottom end, which fattens up the track enormously. The high ends of the spectrum are also nicely reproduced and the entire track is without distortion.
The DVD contains an audio commentary track with director James Wong, production designer David Snyder, cinematographer Robert McLachlan and editor Jim Coblentz. The constellation of this track almost dictates a fairly technical commentary and it quickly turns out that indeed, the commentators offer a lot of valuable insight into the actual production. The track is engaging and always interesting while the speakers reveal who many of the shots were achieved, how things were set-up, what the thought process was and how they managed to piece it all together. Since "The One" is stylistically a very technical film, this commentary is perfectly suited for it.
A 13-minute featurette called "Jet Li is The One" focuses on actor Jet Li as we get to watch him at work on the set. The featurette also offers interviews with the star as well as other cast and crew members as they share their experience of working with this Hong Kong icon, while also offering some good insight into the stunt work of the production.
In the same vein is a featurette that discusses the multiverse scenario of the film, although for some reason it plays just like the above featurette, heavily highlighting the stunts and martial arts work of the movie.
"About Face" is a featurette that covers how the duplication of Jet Li is done on-screen. Using computers to superimpose Li’s face onto a stunt double, this featurette shows how it has been done with original on-set footage.
"The Many Faces of Jet Li" is a short montage of all the selfs Jet Li is playing in the film. The DVD is rounded out by the movie’s trailer filmographies and an animatic to final film comparison of one of the movie’s key scenes.
While "The One" disappoints in the dramatic and storytelling department, it is nonetheless an entertaining film that is not all bad. The furious nonstop action will keep you glued to the screen and combined with the special features found on this DVD, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment makes sure, this DVD appeals to the action nuts among you, so give it a try.