A list of the differences between Ashes of Time Redux (2008) and the original Asian release of Ashes of Time (1994).
(The source material comes from the Artificial Eye R2 (PAL) DVD for the more recent film, and the Mei Ah (NTSC) VCD for the original. All time references (h:mm:ss) come from the Artificial Eye DVD, and descriptions generally point out what is different – inserted, removed or altered – in the newer film.)
Different starting sequence and titles. The newer film features a black and yellow paint/liquid motif.
(0:00:57) Insertion of a shot of a lunar eclipse. First shots of Leslie and Tony Leung Kar-Fei feature tint and lens flare effects. The lunar eclipse is intercut into their duel (often replacing the original ocean shots). Tony LKF's close-ups are in a different order (his hair is blowing further in one shot). The music is completely different – the new main theme is similar to the second to last theme in the original ('The Truth' according to the original OST)(further musical differences hereafter will only be mentioned when major, as the score has been rebuilt entirely). The first shot of the exploding mountain is removed.
(0:01:30) The water shot is step-printed in the newer film. The Buddhist quote is in black text rather than white.
(0:01:43) The entire wuxia combat sequence featuring Leslie battling Lau Shun (a cameo appearance by this wuxia stalwart), shooting flames from his palm, etc, is excised. As is the following sequence of Tony LKF fighting the horse thieves (who feature again later in the film). Also, all the related voiceover (Leslie's first mention of the theme of envy, as reflected in the Chinese title of the film and the nicknames of the characters) is naturally gone too.
(0:01:44) The shot of the dark scrolling landscape now scrolls in the opposite direction – i.e. Left to right in the new film, with step printing.
(0:03:15) Insertion of a yellow on black intertitle ('Jingzhe – Spring Awakens').
(0:03:35) Removal of a high shot of the outside of the inn at night as Tony LKF arrives. Replaced with a pan of a cliff.
(0:05:13) Tony LKF's lines (starting 'I don't quite recall') are read slightly differently, suggesting a different dub for him.
(0:11:08) Insertion of a shot of the outside of an inn at night (when Brigitte Lin first gets angry). The cut in to a close-up of Brigitte's face is delayed by about one second, removing the initial zoom in.
(0:11:41) Insertion of a shot of an inn at night reflected in water. Replaces the shot of a stricken cat clinging on to a pillar. A second shot of the cat is also cut a few seconds later.
(0:12:40) Audio of Brigitte laughing removed.
(0:12:57) No noticeable background music in this scene (when Brigitte as the male Murong first approaches Leslie for a killer) until 0:13:19.
(0:13:46) Insertion of a shot of an inn at night reflected in water. Possibly the same shot as above.
(0:16:10) No music in this scene (when Brigitte as the female Murong first approaches Leslie for a killer).
(0:18:18) Insertion of new (very subtle and quiet) music on this originally music-less scene (Brigitte and Leslie's dialogue by the spinning bird cage).
(0:20:20) Inclusion of a minuscule jump cut by cutting a few (fewer than five) frames in the last few seconds of the spinning bird cage scene.
(0:23:22) Leslie's voice mixed with noticeable echo ('you don't remember me?').
(0:26:42) This scene (the four-way dream scene), is played out without music (except for a very subtle musical motif near the end) in the new film. The effect is markedly different from the original. One of the shots of the shadows against the wall is cut. The voiceover is about 5 seconds late. One of the last shots in the montage (a hand going between two gaps of cloth) is placed one shot early in the new film.
(0:29:36) The sound of Brigitte moaning against a tree has been removed.
(0:30:02) A few shots removed from the Defeat-Seeking Loner Brigitte epilogue (between her drawing her sword and the shot of a tree line, then a couple of shots of a leap). Inclusion of a lens flare effect at one point. Removal of two screams from Brigitte as both Murongs.
(0:30:57) Insertion of a yellow on black intertitle ('Xiazhi – Summer rises')
(0:33:16) A voiceover ('everyone holds on to something special', rendered in the new version as 'everyone needs something to live for') is moved from here to a later scene.
(0:33:57) Insertion of a shot of peach blossoms as Leslie talks about his dream.
(0:36:00) The local swordsman Tony Leung Chiu-Wai ('Tony LCW' – hereafter, just 'Tony') duels with has a completely different voice from the original – much lower.
(00:39:02) Insertion of a blurred close-up shot of a flame (just before Tony lights a lamp – so emphasising his failing vision).
(0:44:37) At the start of Tony's battle sequence, his three fire-breathing attacks from the original film have been cut down to one.
(0:45:01) An entire sequence of Tony leaping through a gap in the roof, fighting on the roof and jumping back down has been removed.
(0:45:20) The audio for this part of Tony's action sequence has mid and high frequencies removed, giving a feeling of sluggish senses. At 0:45:24 the scrolling shot of foes fades in from white with a bleached, overexposed effect. This effect occurs several times in the sequence, emphasising the difficulty Tony has in seeing. In the original, at this point the foes were underexposed and dark, emphasising the same but using the opposite effect.
(0:45:33) Insertion of a shot of the sun being obscured by dark moving clouds. The following slow motion shot of Tony, sword outstretched is processed much darker in the new film.
(0:46:14) Just after Tony squints and three successive foes attack him in three separate shots, in the new film two consecutive lens flare effects are applied to obscure the attackers.
(0:46:51) As a horde of attackers swarms out of a hut, there is a brief shot of a sun inserted in the new film, followed by lens flare and sepia effects (lasting only about one second), and then the audio is once more mixed with bass frequencies only (the rest of the frequencies are mixed back in at about 0:47:07).
(0:47:23) Insertion of a shot of twigs on a windswept sand surface. The following shots in the action sequence have a strong, yellow sepia effect (almost monochrome), and increased grain compared to the original.
(0:47:38) As Tony is killed by the left-handed swordsman, a shot of a sun superimposed on a desert dune appears for about one frame. Then the shot of the swordsman drawing his sword as the camera zooms in features a lens flare effect in the new film and the shot is shorter than the original (to compensate for the additional shot). Unlike the original film there is no dramatic echo from the fatal blow.
(0:47:47) The original shot of blood spraying from Tony's neck is CGI-enhanced now, with the blood behaving in a more 'liquid' fashion.
(0:48:03) The shot of the gap in the tented roof starts off much darker then the original, then lights up more dramatically as the sun comes out.
(0:48:12) Insertion of a yellow on black intertitle ('Bailu – Autumn turns')
(0:48:14) Removal of the scene following Tony LCW's death of Tony LKF drinking at an inn. In the original film this was a short scene with Tony LKF mentioning in voiceover his regret that Tony LCW never forgave him. Missing this coda to Tony LCW's story makes it a little less clear how Tony LKF reciprocates Tony LCW's emotions, and how he valued their friendship.
(0:48:20) The order of several shots in Jacky Cheung's first fight have been moved around. The shot of him washing his hair is now put in the middle of a series of shots of horses galloping. A shot of a horse rearing up on to its hind legs has been removed. A shot of a fighter backflipping through the air has been removed. A shot of a horse being kicked aside has been removed, although the final frames (post-kick) are reinserted a shot or two later.
(0:54:47) Removal of a shot of a dead body with a sword obviously stuck behind it rather than in it. This is after Jacky Cheung has defeated the horse thieves.
(0:55:01) The three shots of dead swordsmen are all altered with different tint effects. The first two shots flip to darkened after a second or two, while the last fades to black (in the original the last darkened and then lightened again).
(0:56:37) Removal of a shot of Leslie walking to a window to observe Jacky and his wife. This happens immediately after Leslie meets Jacky's wife for the first time and tries to tell her that Jacky has gone. This shot is reinserted to near the end of Charlie's story, after she tends to a sick Jacky.
(0:58:51) The voiceover mentioned above as missing at 0:33:16 ('everyone needs something to live for') is inserted here, as Leslie watches Charlie Yeung.
(0:59:34) The order and choice of shots in the action sequence as Jacky avenges Charlie Yeung's brother has been altered significantly. Now the shot after the first foe spitting is Jacky leaping forwards. This is followed by a close-up of a blade being drawn. Neither shots are in the original. The original and new film feature the next shot of someone falling on a table. But then in the new film the shots afterwards are apparently shot from a different angle, with the insertion of someone dying sideways, eyes wide. The two films coincide once again when someone takes a chunk out of Jacky's hat, but then diverge again after a table is split asunder. The new film then skips to a shot of someone being slashed in the midriff, missing a few shots from the original, but including some new footage after that (probably just the missing sequence shot from a different angle), before both films once more coincide on a man falling dead. There is yet more divergence, the action coinciding on a man falling dead on a gap in the split table, then some more divergence (the new film features a few shots, including a table falling backwards, and a person falling from height, which featured later on in the fight in the original). Both films coincide when Jacky loses a finger. After some more divergence both films coincide as he messes up the last foe. The new editing achieves two things: 1) the new sequence is a little easier to follow, and 2) all the ancillary foes are dispatched before Jacky gets serious with the main foe (whereas in the original film he was still fighting others when he was getting busy with the main boss).
(1:02:47) Insertion of a shot of rain failing on a straw-strewn floor. This is just before Charlie asks Leslie to help Jacky.
(1:04:47) A change of dialogue as Charlie talks to an ill Jacky. In the new film he ends his conversation with, 'remember, don't do anything stupid.' In the original he says 'don't do anything stupid,' followed by 'remember, there's always someone waiting for you.' The new film has the line spoken while the shot is on Charlie's face to mask the re-spliced audio. Then the new film cuts to a shot of Leslie walking to a window (a shot moved from earlier in the film).
(1:04:54) The scene of Jacky's wife tending to him as he recovers has been removed. The removal of this scene affects how we perceive Charlie's dilemma, as we now don't know how Jacky recovered, and whether Charlie did 'sell herself' to pay for a doctor (as Leslie suggested she should). The shot of Jacky's wife singing outdoors is moved to after Charlie's final shot, although the implication – from the original film – that Jacky's wife helped him recover is much less clear in the new film.
(1:05:46) Replacement of a shot of a desert dune with a shot of a different desert dune, with a camel. This occurs when Jacky gets his wanderlust and decides to start moving again.
(1:08:12) Jacky's epilogue fades to black, with the text on this black background (rather than just on the picture of him walking into the storm). In fact, the whole of his epilogue is much darker than the original.
(1:08:54) When Leslie recalls his last night with Maggie, the first shot uses the whole frame, whereas the original was cropped and zoomed to approximately 40% of the frame (giving a 'second-hand' effect, with Maggie occasionally off the edge of the frame).
(1:09:54) Leslie's last encounter with Maggie starts to diverge at this point, with the new film reaching a traditional shot/reverse shot face-to-face encounter. The original did not show a close-up of Maggie facing the camera, and instead included a short jump cut to her in her bridal gear moaning. When Leslie does accost her, some of the over-exposure effects from the original are less pronounced.
(1:10:25) Insertion of a yellow on black intertitle ('Lichun – Winter fades')
(1:12:37) The shot of the sea starting Maggie's extended scene now fades in from black.
(1:12:49) Maggie's monologue diverges at this point. After (rough Cantonese translation rather than the inaccurate subs) 'he doesn't say a word,' she skips straight to 'he never asks for what he wants.' This leaves out: 'He never raises a smile. But if you don't talk to him, he just stares at you. I wonder what's on his mind?' Also, in her dialogue with Tony LKF, the guitar music from the original is absent.
(1:14:44) Insertion of a shot of a mountain range set against dark, fast-moving clouds. Conversely, two shots have been removed: Tony LKF biting into his pear, and a shot of Maggie from behind, silhouetted against the window.
(1:20:26) Insertion of a close-up shot of peach blossoms. This is just before Tony LKF's epilogue.
(1:20:46) Insertion of a yellow on black intertitle ('Jingzhe – Spring returns')
(1:26:11) As at 0:01:44, the scrolling landscape now scrolls left to right, with step printing (the original was right to left).
(1:26:29) The text explaining Leslie's fate in Chinese now takes up four vertical lines instead of three. It is, however, the same text.
(1:26:39) The final montage of action is much shortened now, and only features Leslie battling through a line of enemies (the last sequence in the original montage). This leaves out a sequence of Leslie battling Jacky (presumably the duel where they both die, as predicted in the text in Jacky's epilogue), Tony LKF in a clinch with an unknown lady, Brigitte flying in with an umbrella (looking mad) and Brigitte lying on hundreds of red chilli peppers (looking mad again). Leslie's sequence is amended slightly too – the original superimposed him against an upside down shot of flames. The new version superimposes him against fast shifting clouds instead, and features a heavy sepia effect. The final freeze frame fades to black in the new film, whereas the original version cut straight to the white background where the black credits appear.
(1:26:56) The closing titles in the new film ditch the old black text on white background for animated black text on a stylised background of desert (which appears to consist of two CGI desert shots moving in different directions horizontally).