Crack. Owning me crack.
Attach all the yikes and eewwwws and hulksmashes and grunts…it is oddly, ridiculously, watchable. I am irrationally its slave after just 4 eps (with fastforwarding, of course, but less and less by the scene).
What does not work is everything you knew about the production these last THREE YEARS, no surprise: KC is too old the greatest miscast loseloselose for him/his career, drama and us; Princess is not cute/young/prettyyadayadayada looking enough, shouty, annoying…; costumes r extremely FUG esp hers, art direction is by a tasteless colorblind chimp stuck in the 80s; tonnes of headscratching rewriting ; OTP has no resemblance to the original characters in all departments. BLABLABLABLABLA
All true, let me just add the production value is like a time traveling trip itself, exactly of the C wuxia 10+ years ago aesthetics, which back then looked so laughably dated but trying so darn hard and had so much heart you felt bad laughing at the embarrassment for those poor crew stuck those few months at work in the vicinity of the atrocity to their eyes. HXY gives me an ugly shock visually still, no matter how prepared, on how insanely craptastic it looks… not surprised, our PD’s best known drama work to date is still 水月洞天/Paradise (2003). This even have very horrible dubbing, the worst I have witnessed again since those primitive C idolwuxia days.
Remember I was so pleasantly floored by the music?!? It is here alright, but more often the excess use of ROCK GUITARS in action sequences so in vogue in the…..yup early 2000s kitschy wuxias.
But it has some solid things going on, some exceed my expectation (OBVIOUSLY JX AND YH ARE PERFECT! PERFECT FOR ROLES! PERFECT IN CHEMISTRY!!! PERFECT AND WILL ANNIHILATE MY TEARDUCTS!), the rest frankly is taking me by the most pleasant surprise. I thought I would literally puke with the rewriting especially of our two main protagonists but I can now logically process it as a necessary evil after 2 eps. Yes, novel purist will still vomit gallons of real blood and the characters in the novel are much more alluring and cool and fantastic on their pedestal but dragging them down to normal hohum beings here serves the storytelling more cohesively. What is clear to me with the drama adaptation after just a few episodes: there will be lots more coup d’etat, cutthroat warring of the factions, a lot more mindgame intrigue which is written quite tight I must say *shock*. It gives depth to the characters, setting them in a viable devastating warring fiefdoms milieu with palpable threat to their country’s survival looming larger than their own human existence or the luxury of happiness which I found lacking in Tang7’s limp substanceless- prose too character-centric without much world building enriching the characters within its surroundings.
JiangXin is INSANELY handsome in this. Please marry me, line starts behind my behind folks. YH is totally at ease in his sparkling beauty as an attractive vivacious capable young general oozing yumminess, bringing his usual A game. Next to him, all the arguably as capable and more seasoned actors like KC are miserably out of sorts. KC does not have a period face, he is actually ‘saved’ by the Qing queue in BBJX, no hair piece funny bangs stuck on distracting him and us and he can better focus on fine tuning expressions, which he sorely lacks here. Idol fantasy wuxia still plays by the period drama rules, other than a few fusion revamps jesting as comedies, it has a higher requirement on subtlety, nuances, with lesser familiar/modern lines to aid in expressiveness, you need to do more with less with your facial features…which KC fails to do. His face conveys lots more machinations going on inside his head with his closer set eyes, convenient as a scheming attractive baddie as he started out in his first period drama early TVB days. This is not the stage of career to attempt sth so against typecast. It is saddening when I was streaming from one of the little known cable channel, there is a commercial inserted with a normal KC in a suit looking a million times better. Lesigh.
I was hoping the rewriting of his character will be more towards the sensibilities of Prince8, which my guess is closer to his RL persona, more reserved, fierce in keeping his inner thoughts/ turmoils contained, never a slip from maintaining the status quo of an impeccably soft spoken reticent well mannered dandy. I was praying for his Mu Yan to be an older Heir in Waiting, there is a living Prince…Charles. And when you ask a however charismatic actor closer age to HRH Charles to play a boisterous Prince Harry in his teenage flirty boy years, not gonna fit a square into a circle. Alas, his character is to my bleeding heart more bubbly than the young commanding cool as cucumber dreamboat prince in the novel, which is sth beyond anyone in his age bracket’s scope. I almost threw things when he asks damsel to let go of him when they are dangling off a cliff which she henceforth would definitely fall to her death. KC is decent in scenes when his Prince has to put on thinking caps and be on edge, but there are too much lighter, cutesy scenes I am just glad it is rushed through in the first 2 eps. There won’t be much time for lightness too soon anyway.
Our princess Ye Zhen was cool, wise beyond her years, loyal, fearless, selfless at 16 in the book. What’s not to like in a young fantasy heroine except it is tad too fantastical?! When you meet her in the drama, she asks a lot from you to just tolerate and breathe steadily and not be shouty… like her. She is now reduced to any typical 16 year old spoiled brat of a princess who has met her first guy catching her eye and thus he is The One with her head occupied with the ‘prom’ of her days ie the rare mystical bazaar in town nearby everyone will show face except her, girl just wanna have funnnn. As expected, with ample of eyerolling she will say darnest stupid things to her King Daddy, is the well being of the country more important than your daughter’s well being?! So relieved, she snaps out and grows lots after ep2. The tradeoff for dulling MuYan and YeZhen is we get meatier Dads played by hot Uncle I still swoon Tse KwanHo and Ray Lui.
IT is a pity PD is not a maniac fanboy of Blades and Petals because the Princess there in quite similar circumstances, played flawlessly by Kim OkBin is what I dreamt of our JunFu in real action should be. She embodies all the jittery girliness of falling in love with the last guy she should involve with, while juggling all that is on her shoulders as a princess of a state about to vanish and carries herself with all the right mix of strength, dignity, feminine poise, naivete and fragility. One can dream.
I appreciate some of the rewriting. SongNing is now the bff of Princess, growing up together like sisters, and vice versa for Prince and ShenAn. Did it warm my heart to giggles and screaming inside 8! 13! when KC delivers his best scene when they are being chubby…with YH saying lines like long time no see bro, I have missed you! Smiling like a flower with starlike sparkles only his eyes can?!
KC’s MuYan’s real bro in drama, yeah the I am evil written all over face obvious dude on the right has never felt more third wheel unnecessary ever.
What is working is we will get more scenes of all four characters outside of the snippets in the novel, giving the story much more emotional heft. As bystanders, Princess YeZhen/ Prince MuYan aka JunFu/SuYu witnessed SongNing and ShenAn’s glorious gutwretching fate alongside with much more baggage, elevating the intimate hook, reasonable Song and Shen can open up and confide in their BFFs/dreammaker in their harrowing state.
As soon as JX and YH appear, if you have ANY expectation of them at all, I dare you to be disappointed ever slightly. There is no doubt they are the characters no one sane can pick a bone. Their entire vignette flashed through my mind with their first meeting, all the emotions evoked sped through my mind, the chills, and shivers and goose bumps and that dull pain and melancholy, all is not going away soon, I realize right away. I have heard they have cleared out some misinterpretation in the novel by filling out the blanks left by Tang7, softening the edges of ShenAn, tone down the painful angst… but I still saw posts of weeping eyes out even fr fans of the novel, braving the rewrites. As long as the gist remains intact, I can deal with the rewrites. Who knows what SARFT is banning these days?! I am grateful as is I can watch what I wann watch.
PD Lee’s day job is NOT fantasy wuxia directing (lol duhhh) he is a very renowned award winning action choreographer you must have seen his best contribution in the industry, dazzling sequences dozens of time. I owe him one for the scene of Aaron Kwok bursting out of a waterfall in Stormriders (1998) *see I can make sense of KC’s blue swab of hair*
Not just JX+YH faces are made for periods, how they have mastered the period mannerism since they start their career is more than elevating the drama. AND they court by fighting, gorgeously choreographed action sequences not a second indulgent leaving me want more. Watching them is the same as watching any two good actors mesmerizing us at their job, or any professional ballroom dancers giving their all the smexiest Argentinian tango.
Gosh this reminds me so much of Jiang Xin in DemiGods SemiDevils (2002)
It hits me especially hard. I relived the moment I saw Mr Loverboy the first time moons ago, that fight sequence in LoCH, when his YangKang and his NianChi met the very first time, burning up the screen in a hot and botheringly angsty romantic tango they fell in madlove. So did I.
It is hard to come by a fantasy idol wuxia with a compelling story to tell first and foremost, even very shallow me can neglect so many many warts. Bottomline this is a better written C fantasy period with solid acting all around. There is already a link to watch all eps out, however long it stays available. Ciao, I am diving in!