I realized I never reviewed this, lol. It was like I updated once and never went back. The thing was, I wrote some notes down while watching and after watching yet just never returned to finish it up and post the review. So, here it is now, lol. I had to change some comments after having cooled down a bit. But the majority remained about the same. So, how was it? It was disappointing, to say the least. It started out quite promising actually. I loved every part leading up to where all the major characters finally appeared. Then it just went downhill from there. Okay, I know, I know. This is the umpteenth adaptation already, so they had to put some kind of twist into it to attract viewers. I get that. I read somewhere once (and had forgotten where actually so can’t name the source) that each adaptation represented that generation (aka what they could relate to, etc). That actually made a lot of sense because of how the stories and perspectives got changed and somewhat modernized over the years. Sometimes, it leaned more toward one side or another because of how the production team wanted to approach the story. So, yes, I learned to analyze it from different perspectives instead of just blindly following the original source like previously. But what dragged this version down to the point of frustration was that it seemed like the scriptwriters gave up and eventually just wanted to end the series. I’ll get into more details later. But the general low-energy feeling also made me want to give up on it as well. Except, I sort of wanted to see how it all turned out so I stuck around. In some ways, it was more realistic, but in other ways, it just made you want to scream because of the amount of frustration going on during the last fifteen or so episodes. Enough gloom and doom from me, right? LOL! Let’s get right into it.
- Joseph Zeng (曾舜晞) as Zhang Wu Ji (張無忌). Surprisingly passed all expectations. Not saying that I didn’t have faith in him. Yet I started watching him first in Fighter of Destiny and his role was extremely lively and bordering on obnoxiousness (initially until things got intense later on). So, I didn’t know what to expect–or if he could portray such a calm and toned down character. It wasn’t like Wu Ji didn’t have his mischievous moments, but there was an obvious constrast to that of Tang San Shi Liu. Anyway, as Wu Ji, Joseph brought out the character quite well and made it his own in this adaptation. I saw some criticism regarding how Wu Ji was crying too much or seemed weak. I didn’t think so. Because comparing all Jin Yong protagonist, Wu Ji was probably the kindest of them all, except for possibly Xu Zhu (because of his monk background). So it made sense that he was extra sensitive and all. I felt Joseph did really well in those scenes, bringing out all sorts of emotions that he went through or it highlighted the relations that he had with those characters.
- Yukee Chen (陈钰琪) will be Zhao Min (趙敏). I was scared to death that I wouldn’t like her when she finally appeared. Serious. Because it just seemed too good to be true with me liking the casting for the majority of the characters thus far. She was the female lead yet was the last to appear–as it should be like how the story was told in the novel. Yet when she appeared, the scene just lit up tenfold more–if that was possible. She handled the character brilliantly and made it her own. I was amazed. She was gorgeous, almost fairylike yet also projected off this suspicious, cunning vibe as well. It was fascinating to watch what Yukee could do with the character. Her best scene was probably at the seaside when she told Wu Ji that one day she was more capable of cruel acts than him, which ironically caused her more trouble later.
- Bambi Chu (祝绪丹) is Zhou Zhi Ruo (周芷若). I actually really liked her at first, which was really rare for someone portraying ZZR. I meant I know differences between actors and their roles. I know that, but I felt she was so suitable and her story made me actually like ZZR at first. I even liked her more than Sheren Tang’s version because she exuded the innocent and kind image better and how I was impressed with the way they made her skills improve bit by bit, showing us how she could become someone with such potential. What got me really upset was how she got away with everything. Sure, they exaggerated the bit about her wanting to be queen someday. BUT given all the crap she pulled, she sure got away with it so easily. I was siding with her regarding Song Qing Xu’s situation because he was an asshole to her when he was little YET only stalked her and demanded she was his because she grew up all beautiful? So I welcomed it when she used him since he totally deserved with all the suffering he caused her. But the turnaround was a joke regarding both characters anyway. It was a shame.
- Kabby Hui (許雅婷) as Xiao Zhao (小昭). I also quite liked her. It was interesting to see that she could be kind and gentle yet also possessed this strength within her also. She was probably the one who understood Wu Ji the most (if this made Zhao Min fans sad, I’m sorry but that seemed consistent with some past adaptations too). She wanted to be by Wu Ji’s side and conceal herself, not caring if she was invisible. Yet she knew who he cared about the most hence having that talk with Zhao Min later. Although I knew others had the right to be upset with her, especially Wu Ji, for her deception at first, I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for her. It was mostly because she was always pushed forth by her mother to do all those schemes, not having a life of her own. She had to be the replacement for her mom in the end, needing to use herself to mend the gap and live a life where she couldn’t control either. People might think that she probably ascend to a role of power later, but seriously, it was all those people pulling the strings later on.
- Cao Xi Yue (曹曦月) is Yin Li (殷離) aka Zhu Er (蛛兒). I really liked her in this version too. I felt that it was a shame they didn’t make her expose ZZR like other versions. She didn’t remember at first and then she banged her head on the pole and remembered. Yet, of course, it was too late with lots of stuff, so she chose to remain silent and be happy like how she was expected. It was indeed sad. Zhao Min knew later because she (Zhu Er) accidentally let it slip, but it was still so sad. The relationship between her and her father was mended again, because how she pretended to not remember YET I didn’t think the asshole deserved it. But I guess it was her choice.
- Lin Yu Shen (林雨申) as Yang Xiao (楊逍). I didn’t really feel his Yang Xiao vibe at first. But I wasn’t really against him either if looking at a different character. Because he was indeed enjoyable and exuded his power when needed. He was quite charming too. So I was more accepting of him later in regard to that. I guess what I was trying to say was he gave off the wanderer, vigliante vibe more than the leader of some cult. Yet I got used to him later and quite enjoyed his performance.
- Zong Feng Yan (宗峰岩) as Fan Yao (范遙). I thought it was interesting that Fan Yao developed a real master and disciple relationship with Zhao Min in here. Especially the conflicting feelings he went through and ended up rescuing her from the execution site. However, it showed that he was using her to forgo his agenda in the end. It was indeed disappointing but not too out of character for Ming Cult. He was given more scenes near the end (versus how it was often seen that Yang Xiao appeared more in past versions) because they needed some change? I wasn’t totally against it but the asshole made me even more mad when he appeared more than when not. So yeah. Aside from that, I thought the actor did quite well with his portrayal.
- Sun An Ke (孙安可) as Yang Bu Hui (楊不悔). And I just realized and discussed with various family members that Bu Hui would always be likable regardless of version. It was indeed true in here as well. She was so kind and lovable. Yes, she could be so stubborn and stuff too, but it was much-needed and it was who she was. But I loved her so much. She was one of the shining spots of the show. The more shame that she ended up with such an asshole. YES, they made the 6th dude even more annoying in here. He didn’t deserve her at all. So I welcomed Yang Xiao giving him a hard time at times, lol.
- Wang De Shun (王德顺) as Zhang San Feng (張三丰). Considering how fierce he looked in the production stills, I would expect him to uphold the sect’s rule much more. Yet it failed. The forgiveness route just didn’t jibe well with the situation. Especially it was a slap in the face and a joke to the 7th guy–who died so senselessly.
- Kathy Chow as Abbess Mie Jue (滅絕師太). Zhu Zhi Ruo’s master. She was sure ten shades of disappointment for the role. Yes, I said it. I was actually looking forward to watching her because of old sentiments, lol. Even if she wasn’t my favorite back in the days either. The reason? The plot killed it. It wasn’t really her fault and I got it that the production team wanted to approach it a different way. Sure, Kathy’s acting wasn’t lacking. Yet the script made it really pitiful that she wasn’t as powerful as she seemed to let on. I don’t know if Jin Yong changed the third version, but I doubt it. But the first version had it that she was the one who went over to the Mongolian territority and snatched the Heavenly sword back thus earning her reptutation and ascending to power. Yet this version made it that Yang Xiao was the one doing that in order to fulfill Xiao Fu’s wish, lol. That made it a good detail for those into their romance, lol. YET it was really, really pathetic on Abbess Mie Jue’s part. The other despicable deeds she did to justify her “righteousness” and that she was from the “good side”? Yeah, that was already a given from the novel, so no surprise.
- Louis Fan (樊少皇) as Cheng Kun (成昆) aka Yuan Zhen (圓真). Um, okay, I just wanted to laugh each time he appeared. I meant I think those days of Louis portraying serious roles are so over. I don’t know, he just looked to goofy nowadays. The details of the plot did make him dispicable. Yet that was just part of plot detail that needed to be there. That was all.
- Zhao Chao Ren (张超人) as Song Qing Shu (宋青書). Song Yuan Qiao (宋遠橋)’s son. He got such a noble ending? OMG, anyone wanted to scream? I’m not against people redeeming themselves but I felt they were always lenient with him in here just because he was Song Yuan Qiao’s son. I was glad the scene were Wu Ji was framed was short and all. However, it was stupid to let him off so easily. It was strange that they got the manipulative bit of the other sects and cult down, but refused to commit with calling Song Qing Shu out on his misdeeds and wrongdoings. It was like they refused to condemn him for his attempted rape on ZZR, his disrespectfulness toward Zhang San Feng and the sect in general, and much, much more. It was so frustrating that you wondered if the writers were on something. It was like the 7th guy died for nothing. Anyone wanted to think about him anymore? Guess not.
- Ethan Li (李东学) as Zhang Cui San (張翠山). I didn’t know what to make of him at first, was just going through the motion of watching the initial scenes that I’d witnessed many times before during past adaptations. But I actually enjoyed some of his performances and later grew to like him more as the character. He really lived up to the role. I really like somewhat of his mischiviousness as well. It was subtle at times but it was there.
- Maggie Chen (陈欣予) as Yin Su Su (殷素素). I really liked her in this role. It was really surprising–yes, another surprise one. I thought she brought out the character quite well, making you think more about the character’s essence and who Yin Su Su was. She exuded the confident side very well at first and how ruthless she could be with her enemies as well. That was who she because of her father and her initial background. The things she grew up believing–or was taught. Then there was the scenes of later how she realized she didn’t want all of that, but just a normal famliy. She wasn’t naive to not understand the situation. But it indeed felt like a blessing that they were trapped at that one island. Because seriously, it was the only time they were able to live peacefully and away from all those dramas.
- He Zi (黑子) as Xie Xun (謝遜) aka The Golden Haired Lion King (金毛獅王). Regardless how much I hated his hypocritical ass later too, the actor did quite well in his role. His fierceness was at the right touches. Then the gentle side when he was with Little Wu Ji at first was hilarious.
- Yang Ming Na (杨明娜) as Dai Qi Si (黛綺絲) aka Purple Dress Dragon King (紫衫龍王) aka Golden Flower Granny (金花婆婆). She sure fitted the role quite well with the appearance the production laid out for her. Then her acting did the rest. I quite like Yu Ming Na, so I enjoyed her brief performance, even if I thought she was as psycho too, lol. Hey, she was from Ming sect after all. Couldn’t be too normal.
- Ewen Sun (孙亦凡) as Wang Bao Bao (王保保). Zhao Min’s brother.
Relationships – romances, friendships, etc.
- Joseph Zeng and Yukee Chen as Wu Ji and Zhao Min. I swear I loved their characters individually but together, they weren’t that compatible. Yes, their acting had me convince later that they indeed belonged together but if just looking at them at times, I wasn’t as convinced as some past pairings of Wu Ji and Zhao Min.
- Ethan Li and Maggie Chen as Zhang Cui San and Yin Su Su. They surprisingly shared great chemistry with one another. At least, I thought so. During their brief appearances at the beginning, they made a greater impact than the last third part of the series, which was sad–to say the least, lol. But I usually found myself enjoying Wu Ji’s parents’ story more–regardless of version. So, yes, it didn’t change for this one. Even if I liked some of the later parts too, but I felt their scenes together were the best part of the series itself. It led on a bittersweet feeling. Too bad, they had to return to reality and dealt with all of those stuff and then the inevitable happened. I could say that they were my second favorite pairing of Cui San and Su Su. Yes, over the years, only one couple made an impression on me regarding these two characters’ portrayals. Now, these two became my second favorite.
- The friendship and trust developed between Zhao Min and several of the characters in here. What was interesting was seeing the friendship and trust that suddenly sparked between Zhao Min and Xiao Zhao. I didn’t expect some mushy talk between them before Xiao Zhao left for good. Yet it was an interesting and refreshing scene for me. Interesting how both Zhu Er and Xiao Zhao had this bond with Zhao Min that ZZR couldn’t. It was a riot for me in some ways and compensated for how terrible Zhao Min was treated somewhat. But yeah.
- The majority of the main cast. I thought they matched really well with their characters.
- Costumes. I was surprised they didn’t go for super weird combinatios and these actually looked like ancient wuxia type of costumes. It seemed like they did put in a lot of efforts with different sects and all. It wasn’t hard, but some of the past recent ones got me scratching my head for a bit. The only flaw I have to once again point out was regarding Wu Dang’s seven desciples. Thy weren’t Taoists exactly, but Zhang San Feng’s special desciples. Unlike the rest of the other Taoists, they were allowed to marry. SO, I didn’t like it that they kept repeating the same mistake for this version with dressing them in Taoist clothes.
- Scenery. When all things failed, at least the beautiful sceneries made it worthwhile, right?
- Xiao Wu Ji and Xie Xun were so cute. Xie Xun even forgot about his saber and went to play with Wu Ji, not caring about anything anymore. It made sense of how heart-broken Wu Ji was upon learning how blood thirsty his godfather was later on during that scene by the seaside when Xie Xun killed everyone of the Mongoalins who came to pick them up. Sure, he learned from different stories but thought the man had already redeemed himself after hearing that Xie Xun realized his mistakes of killing an innocent monk (who had been conned too to be in such a place).
- The humor at times between various Ming Cult members. Yang Xiao, Yi Yi Xiao and Zhou Dian were seen snapping at each other at times that it was funny. YET I couldn’t forgive of them for their asshole moves either. Too bad.
- Themesong. NOT saying I have a problem with Wakin Chou or the song. The song was a good one and suited the theme. Yet it was recycled and was a bit lazy, to say the least. The ending theme song was good though.
- The ending, definitely the ending. NOT talking about the final scene where Wu Jji and Zhao Min reunited after so much went on. I was talking about the events leading up to it and all the wrap-ups. It was a mess and the writers definitely went all out on the killing, which made it tenfold more ridiculous than it should be. What was that word I was looking for? Overkilled. Yeah, that. It was so overkilled that I just rolled my eyes a lot while watching those parts. It wasn’t impossible because they were at war after all. But it never seemed like they wanted to stop. They just went and killed all the major characters like that. Also, I was told that there would be a heated confrontation between Wu Ji and Zhi Ruo regarding what happened to Zhu Er and how ZZR pulled all those schemes to frame Zhao Min. But I was so disappointed because it was brief and wasn’t like anyone else knew. Once again, ZZR got away with it. Even when such a misunderstanding occurred, Zhao Min got no justice. Xie Xun was an asshole for not clarifying stuff to the others either, not caring that the rest of Ming Cult hated Zhao Min even more. Thus making his becoming a monk a joke. He was still holding grudges or biases toward others. Zhao Min was right when she said Xie Xun was being really unfair to her. YES, even when he became a monk, he also wanted to force Zhao Min away. Even if it was the other Ming Cult members wanting him to do it and/or persuade him, it didn’t matter. He made his own decision in the end. Instead, he chose to be nice and gentle with ZZR and sacrificed himself for her. Yes, he was right that they were both similar in their blind hate BUT it was a joke to see him so invested in her. What made it a bigger joke was him liking ZZR so much because she was such a kiss-up to him previously. I swear, he hated those who were sweet talkers and ass kissers previously, BUT he was partial to her because she once treated him nice? Please. It made him another hypocrite among the seas of hypocrites. That brought me to my next point. This version sided with Zhou Zhi Ruo major time. It wasn’t like it was a bad thing to have another approach. But I felt like the stuff they let ZZR get away with made it frustrating to another level. Sure, she did a lot of awful stuff and was scheming YET she was from Zhong Yuan so they let her get away with stuff? This version was also very unfair to Zhao Min that made past versions so tamed down. In a way, it was more realistic, but I felt Ming Cult was really being hypocritical for treating Zhao Min like that. Yeah, they were bitter BUT so was all of ZZR’s actions toward them or Emei’s actions in general. Yet once again because Zhao Min was Mongolian and ZZR was still from their side, supposedly, so they let her off. The Ming Cult probably was more realistic in here that they showed their ruthless and scheming nature more. They used and disposed of people, especially Wu Ji in the end that made it all so frustrating that Wu Ji was that kind to them. Zhao Min was indeed right that they were just using Wu Ji’s reputation and the ability to gain trust toward the different sects already so they just let him be a puppet leader while they manipulated everything in the background. I think there were many things to consider and felt like it was more realistic in a sense rather seeing them all get along, BUT I felt they (the scriptwriters) sort of missed the mark about making everyone equally scheming one way or another. Because Jin Yong’s jianghu often implied that the supposed good side wasn’t all that good, just a front. YET in here, almost everyone had their own agenda. The first version of the novel, it was indeed revealed that Wu Ji left in the end because he overheard the Ming Cult members talking about getting rid of someone after using that person for some scheme. It was a misunderstanding, they were talking about someone in the cell next to Wu Ji, which Wu Ji was unable to see. That was why Wu Ji left. NOT sure if it was revise in the third version regarding that detail. But I felt it was too cruel to see how they went all out with isolating Wu Ji and treating him like a puppet later on. Sure, it was more realistic, but I think it was overkilled with piling it on like that.
Recommended? I think you could watch it if you want, for the cast. It’s a different perspective for the current generation. If you like the cast, definitely check it out. It’s worth it for them. After all my ranting, you would think I don’t recommend it. But in actuality, if you don’t associate it with the original source and treat it like a standalone wuxia series, it was one of the decent ones in recent years.