(image credit: as marked)
I wasn’t planning to dive into this. I meant I was planning to watch Royal Tramp since I had been updating on that a lot last year. However, I wasn’t too sure about this–because I was judging the book by its cover (lol). Then I got curious, wondering how it would all turn out. Considering how there is a similar cast between the two productions–this and the upcoming Royal Tramp, I want to check out the cast to encourage myself even more. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting much, if all fails, I could abandon it. However, I was addicted right from the beginning. OMG, it was that good. Okay, I might be exaggerating here, but maybe because I didn’t expect anything so it turned out quite well for me.
- Wallace Chung as Qiao Feng (喬峰)/ Xiao Feng (蕭峰). I was surprised they cast him in the role. Yet I got past that and managed to hang on, to see what they could come up with. However, I felt Wallace managed to win me over with his portrayal. It was definitely different from previous versions and possibly expectations of what readers might have in mind for Qiao Feng/Xiao Feng as a character in general. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be changed because I believed Wallace had achieved that effect. He managed to keep some of the essences of Qiao Feng/Xiao Feng as a character but also added another side of Qiao Feng/Xiao Feng that would allow one to ponder. He had this gentleness and kindness to him. It seemed like he wasn’t fierce enough at times, but he was able to exude that fierceness if he was forced to. So in the end, I think he was powerful enough of a character for me. Oh yeah, I was so glad they (the production team) didn’t make it so he would somehow fall for Ah Zi too just because they were twins. (I’m serious, it seemed to want to go that way, but the little change only stopped at the sisters being twins and not other side stories, phew.) Love the way he portrayed the character overall. I cried buckets during the last scene. Okay, NOT really, but it was closer to there.
- Kim Ki Bum as Duan Yu (段譽). 200% surprised. I swear I was judging just based on the first impression of seeing some pictures and hearing about the casting at first. Yet when I watched it, I realized something. Like the other versions, except for Benny Chan’s version that I remember Da Li people had different outfits from the Zhong Yuan people. Then it hit me, what did Da Li people usually wear? What were their actual outfits anyway? And what did they look like? I meant they lived in a different region and had their own culture, right? So why not cast someone having distinguished features and have the Da Li people dressed differently like how it was in the series. It felt refreshing for me. The fact that Kim Ki Bum was so charming in the role made it a lot more appealing for me too. (Duan Yu’s actually my least favorite based upon the novel, and the first version I watched didn’t help his case either so yeah.) The plot really helped Kim Ki Bum since it made him less boring and less nagging/clingy that I felt more intrigued by what else they would eliminate just based on past adaptations. In fact, this by far made me feel hopeful for his character as I watched on, like his sense of caring for his family enhanced even more in here. They elaborated how he didn’t just care for his family or his sisters (who he and everyone had mistakenly thought at first were his sisters) when he needed them, but he really cared for them. Like at one point when he was talking to Wang Yu Yan (it was their first meeting), he thought of how much Wan Mei must have suffered after the disaster with them being siblings (so they couldn’t stay together anymore). It was like he wasn’t disposing of them after learning the truth but still cared for them. (NOT implying or encouraging them to continue on here, but I’m saying like he continues to care for them as family members now, wondering how they are, etc.)
- Han Dong as Xu Zhu (虛竹). After I was reassured with how Wallace and Kim Ki Bum had passed the radar (for me), I was really unease with how it would turn out with him. Yes, he would be the final key with me liking this version as an overall or not. It was really nerve-wracking of a wait since I know it would take a while with all the conflicts involved and the many subplots going on already. Knowing those things didn’t help keep me calm for the time being either. When he finally appeared, I was like, “Finally.” But it wasn’t because I was anticipating his appearance. Well, sort of, but because after what happened in the other parts of the plot, it got me even more anxious to see how he fended, etc. After watching several scenes, I gave up with trying to compare and enjoyed his version for its own depiction. (Because I swear Felix Wong ruined it for everyone. He did it when he was portraying Guo Jing too so nothing new here.) Anyway, back to this, I think it’s hard to portray a really “dumb/naive” type of Xu Zhu like how Felix did it. (Since he was just so natural in that role.) But I felt like Han Dong’s Xu Zhu wasn’t terrible. I could see that he was clueless at times, though not like outright super clueless, he was like in confusion and unsure of lots of stuff, especially how he was panicking to find a solution to back out of being part of the chess game, but couldn’t. I was able to see the uncertainties in his eyes and his face. He did indeed project a kind image though, so unlike his Tian Bo Guang role. (LOL) And his wrinkled face expression at times was understandable since it was normal to be scared of stuff. NOT like Xu Zhu was like to the enlightened stage to not feel fear anymore. OR when he was curious at times. Then I completely ignore the Xu Zhu in the book and forced myself to just focus on this Xu Zhu that the production team had created (or perhaps Han Dong had decided it, or both). How was it after all those? I think It was really easier to watch, not having to compare. I meant I feel just based on a projection of a clueless monk, just venturing out in the world, then after leaving Shaolin, he was adapting to the new life and the environment outside. He was still clueless at times and even say that he was a monk (lol) without realizing it. It was indeed quite funny and cute in a sense. I felt it was kind of strange with his hesitation at times (because again, I was used to seeing Felix so graceful and confident later on), but I soon realized that it made sense that Xu Zhu would be clueless or not as confident in some matters–or even become shy when talking about sensitive matters. So I was more accepting and just try to enjoy his performance from there on. Indeed, he was more comfortable when talking to his sworn brothers. Then later, he became more confident with directing the people from Lingjiu Palace (靈鷲宮), and eventually seemed more powerful so I was glad. Like he needed time to adapt and gain confidence with the world around him. It wasn’t too off. I ended up enjoying his role anyway. Even if he wasn’t the Xu Zhu in the book or like past adaptations, but I felt like Han Dong did a good job with making me like him or think of him in as a real monk walking out into a different world, etc.
- Mao Xiao Tong (毛曉彤) as Zhong Ling (鍾靈). I thought she was somewhat cute at first. Then like most of the cast in here, her outfit was distracting for me. Later on, I managed to get past those outfits already and indeed, she was quite cute. The way they made her character out, it was indeed suitable. I think I felt even sadder for her since she met Duan Yu first but had to back down because she realized Duan Yu and Mu Wan Qing were together. (And later on, I felt Mu Wan Qing was too mean to her but glad Mu Wan Qing cooled down and considered it seriously thus understanding how it must have been for Zhong Ling.) What I found strange though that she accepted Duan Yu as her brother too fast. But it soon explained the reason why. She was so used to being invisible that though she was shocked upon learning of the news, she still accepted it quickly after. The fact that Ah Zi was taunting her probably made her not wanting to lose ground in front of Ah Zi as well. But aside from that, lovable overall.
- Zhao Yuan Yuan as Mu Wan Qing (木婉清). Surprised. At first, I’m like, “What in the world is she wearing?” I meant the mask, not the costume. Okay, the red and black outfit was kind of distracting for me too. But the mask was indeed weird. I was glad that was off after a while. But aside from that, what else? I felt her portrayal of Mu Wan Qing was also genuine in its own way. It was different like how though she tried to be fierce (since it was the way she was brought up by her master), but at times she couldn’t help laughing at Duan Yu’s lame jokes either. Sure, she was so fierce and she was unreasonable at times, but I also felt bad for her since her mother’s temper wasn’t helping her cause either. Her insecurities also arise from how her father had treated her mother, etc. But in the end, I was glad she wasn’t too unreasonable. Considering how she, herself, had suffered before so she would understand how Zhong Ling must have felt too. And though she was fierce with Duan Yu and somewhat snapping at Wang Yu Yan that one time (yeah, her temper got in the way again) with the whole misunderstanding, I was glad to know that she didn’t want Wang Yu Yan to return to Mu Rong Fu’s side, considering how much Mu Rong Fu’s betrayal had caused grief for Wang Yu Yan previously. (Because if she would allow Wang Yu Yan to do that right away, it would help her case, but she didn’t agree. Although Wang Yu Yan ended up returning to Mu Rong Fu’s side anyway, that was beyond the point here.)
- Zhang Meng as Wang Yu Yan (王語嫣). Another surprise. She’s really, really smart in the novel. Well, it was already obvious that she wanted to help her cousin, etc. However, I felt she was boring in the novel. The first adaptation that I watched didn’t aid her cause at all (like how it was with Duan Yu), because they didn’t just make her boring BUT also annoying. This one? A great improvement. Though I felt it was all right with the last 2 adaptations that I managed to catch, her character still didn’t stick with me until this one. (Despite the fact that people say that she wasn’t as beautiful as the past two actresses who portrayed the role. Yet hey, I don’t listen to the public anyway.) She was more down to earth in this one. It was like implying how she was so sheltered by her mother and was forced to act properly that she didn’t even dare to smile within her mother’s presence. Yet when she was with Ah Zhu and Ah Bi–and eventually Duan Yu, she was more mischievous and showed a livelier side. I felt that would be more realistic because even if she knew she should act proper and all (and the strict rules for girls during those ancient times), but as a young girl, she would still ponder about the many things of the worlds and want to go out to explore. Though the case here wasn’t just going out to see the world, but more like wanting to hunt down for news of her cousin. It was quite tragic for her since she’d chosen to stay by Mu Rong Fu’s side in the end, instead of following the others. However, I felt it made a lot more sense. Considering how she had admired Mu Rong Fu since little and had continued so throughout the whole events of the plot, it was hard to see how she would jump ship so quickly to Duan Yu. Whether Mu Rong Fu deserved it or not, it was debatable, but I felt it was strange to just forget about him after that one betrayal. Sure, it explained in the previous versions that she was touched by the many things that Duan Yu had done for her thus accepting him, but I felt it was still strange she was able to let go of Mu Rong Fu so fast. She indeed did feel grateful toward Duan Yu for his help numerous times, but she always treated him like a good friend (like they’d both acknowledged many times throughout their encounters) so it was weird to see her jumping ship just because of that one incident. It could be explained that she finally awakened and realized her foolishness of worshiping Mu Rong Fu all these years, but still…didn’t really convince (for me). Hey, she was still the queen, just not Da Li’s queen, but Da Yan’s queen. (LOL!)
- Zong Feng Yan as Mu Rong Fu (慕容復). Seriously, talking about a miscast. YES, I finally pick on someone, right? NOT true, I picked on some of the main cast in the past too, but when I actually watched it, they weren’t so off like I thought. This guy, no matter how I tried to be patient, was far from Mu Rong Fu. So I felt like he was a good actor at the part where Duan Yu was posing as him, but other than that, I felt he was a miscast for the character. He was so crazy and fierce at times, and was easily jealous, so how could he be the patient Mu Rong Fu whom others had mistaken? Though I was ready to hate him and did whenever he pulled those tricks throughout. (And somehow, I did understand it was a huge burden for him with how his father had forced him to keep forging forward to restore Da Yan like past adaptations but wasn’t as convinced for some reason.) Yet some of the scenes when his father finally let go and told him to do the same, I felt really bad for him. Because with Mu Rong Bo’s flashbacks, it seemed like Mu Rong Fu had nothing to think about but to restore Da Yan. So that was his whole life. Perhaps Wang Yu Yan was right in saying how pitiful Mu Rong Fu was with having such a burden. But it was so hard to sympathize with him when seeing him continuously pulling those tricks. Yet seeing him breaking down completely when his father told him to let go was really powerful. I think the actor could really convince, but like said before, he was wrong for the role according to how it was set up in the novel. I actually find him quite hilarious and convincing after he’d gone crazy and was playing the whole ‘king’ scenes.
- Jia Qing as both Ah Zhu (阿朱) and Ah Zi (阿紫). Um, okay, they weren’t supposed to be twins in the novel. But since TVB’s 1982 version pulled an “Ah Zhu and Zhong Ling” lookalike hence pushing Zhong Ling to Qiao Feng later on AND killing Mu Rong Fu and Mu Wan Qing as well, I guess this version wasn’t WAY over with making Ah Zhu and Ah Zi twins. But moving on, what about Jia Qing’s portrayals of both characters? Impressed actually. In fact, I was wondering how she was so heavily promoted last year with all of those projects (though I wouldn’t go outright bashing) and if that was just one of the artists that the company was promoting, etc. Yet I finally figured out why. Jia Qing seriously has great potential and hopefully, she would continue to impress. (Just like how that one article had shown her professionalism that one time and her ability to touch even other members of the cast as well along with her co-star.)
- As Ah Zhu (阿朱). As Ah Zhu, there were many lovable things about her. (Of course, lol.) She was very bright and cunning at times with her tricks. Yet other times, it showed her maturity and intelligence beyond her age. She had great deduction skills and could cause others to become tongue-tied all of a sudden. She, like the rest of the Mu Rong family, knew how to use the special disguising skills to her advantage. Yet that was also her downfall. Sadly.
- As Ah Zi (阿紫). Crazy witch. That was about it, lol. JUST KIDDING, but Jia Qing sure could convince. It wasn’t just about Ah Zi being loud and unreasonable either, but more like it got you thinking how was it possible for Jia Qing to be so gentle and graceful in the other role yet so obnoxious and devious in this one? Sure, Ah Zhu had her mischievous moments too, but it was apparently different from how Ah Zi would approach that ‘sense of humor’ as she saw it (mostly because of the environment she grew up in). Jia Qing’s weakness came in around the time Ah Zi became blind because of the poison. It was more like she couldn’t portray a blind person well. At times, it seemed like she let her eyes stayed still and could pass as being blind. Then other times, she got so excited with acting out Ah Zi’s obnoxious side that she had forgotten to keep her eyes still or appear blind. Perhaps being so used to acting with her eyes had caused a disadvantage for her at that point.
- Mona Wang as Princess Yin Chuan (銀川公主) aka Li Qing Lu (李清露) aka Meng Gu (夢姑). Wah! Finally a beautiful wife for Xu Zhu. (Sorry to stomp others down, but I never really felt right with past adaptations, even if I must admit the princess alongside Felix Wong was really cute.) Mona was really cute as the princess and really elegant too. She sure exuded the princess image. And I know she was not one of the major characters, but I included her in here anyway, because of her participation toward the last part of the series leading to the epic ending. She did have more scenes versus some previous versions so I thought I include her as well.
Other Key Characters:
- Bryan Leung as Xiao Yuan Shan (蕭遠山). As interesting as it got, he portrayed Qiao/Xiao Feng in TVB’s 1982’s version. It was really funny seeing him acting out as the father role in here. Well, he did portray the father role in the flashbacks of years ago (like how they often did with past adaptations of having the person portraying Qiao/Xiao Feng portraying the younger version of the father since Qiao/Xiao Feng looked like his father). But with this one, I just wanted to laugh. NOT that he wasn’t convincing, because he was, comparing to his recent years of portraying random roles. What I was laughing about was his participation in here and how he had chided his son for acting so rash because of a girl (saving Ah Zhu that one time), and I was laughing because he did the same thing in the other version. (LOL!) Back to this one, what can I say? He was really convincing in this serious role. He really brought out the many sides of his character well, and then eventually remorse. Not to mention other emotions of hatred and pain that had dominated his life all these years previously. Then finally letting go of revenge.
- Feng Jin Gao (馮進高) as Mu Rong Bo (慕容博). Mu Rong Fu’s father. He sure could act. I could see his arrogance throughout and trying to mold Mu Rong Fu into a killing machine and to resort to any means that they could to restore the Yan dynasty, but later when he finally turned around, he exuded the kind and gentle look really well. And what about him? Seeing him, it wasn’t hard to figure out how Mu Rong Fu turned out that way. The old man was setting his son out for the evil road real good. Whether he truly believed in restoring the Yan dynasty as a beneficial thing to their citizens or not, he sure caused many mishaps throughout. Not to mention 30 years of madness among several key characters in here. Though they were really dumb to just believe him like that, he sure could manipulate since it made sense during those chaotic times.
- Gong Fang Min (公方敏) as Xuan Ci. Xu Zhu’s father. I think he had a more active role in here versus some of the past adaptations. Sure, he was the “Leading Big Brother” (帶頭大哥) and had a great impact regarding Qiao/Xiao Feng’s life. Yet it seemed like he wasn’t as involved in some of the previous versions, especially the events leading to the Shaolin gathering scene. This one, he was leading for most of the time with the parts and managed to reflect the ‘leader’ role. (In one of the adaptations, it had Duan Zheng Shun directed the whole thing SO it seemed like Xuan Ci was less powerful.) Though he had broken one of the major Buddhist conducts, there were some other things that compensated for his character. Like how he was willing to let Xiao Feng kill him to avenge Xiao Yuan Shan’s death. (Perhaps that little detail had helped for Xu Zhu’s cause later on with the gathering as well so Xiao Feng wouldn’t be shocked and attacking Xuan Ci along with the others.)
- Canti Lau as Duan Zheng Shun (段正淳). Surprisingly disappointing. I had a lot of expectations for him. Yet he didn’t impress me or at least entertain me enough to ‘save’ the show as I initially had thought. (Since I was watching for mostly some of the veterans here, aside from the curiosity about the new cast.) Perhaps it was because this version didn’t focus on him so much as the previous versions. I was all right with that since I was kind of worn out with too much focus on the Dali people from past versions. It was a new feeling, but still feel that he seemed so weak compared to some past versions. The one thing about him that made sense was his ‘smooth talking’ skills and his sense of care for his family (whether he was honest or not). But I could feel he really cared for Duan Yu and his immediate family. Or perhaps he was one of those that could never make up his mind about his feelings AND ended up hurting so many women. But what I outright wanted to kill him for was still being so close to Kang Min–after knowing that she had caused Ah Zhu’s death.
- Duan Zheng Shun’s wife and lovers: Yeah, that guy seriously was smooth with his ways so even the super mean ones got tricked by him. Well, maybe they weren’t mean back then but ended up bitter and all because of him? Who knows? About all, the cast selection was quite good since it projected that Duan Zheng Shun seriously knew how to pick. (Not that I’m stomping on the past cast, but I just think this version’s cast selection seemed closer to the character’s age for this group.)
- Yan Qing Yu (閻青妤) as Dao Bai Feng (刀白鳳). Duan Yu’s mother. She could really exude the respectable image as the wife. Yet, like how her character was written, she had her own secrets too. But she couldn’t be blamed. It was in the heat of the moment and how she had gone through so much, having a husband who couldn’t be loyal to her. It wasn’t any better with the whole “two can play at this game” but if it wasn’t so, would there be Duan Yu?
- Florence Tan (陳秀麗) as Gan Bao Bao (甘寶寶). Zhong Ling’s mother. I think she was the kindest and most gentle among all the lovers. It didn’t mean she lacked strength, but she just wasn’t the scheming type or manipulative type either. Though she caved in near some of her ending scenes and called Duan Zheng Shun “Duan Lang” (段朗), I didn’t blame her too much. Unlike some past versions, this one cut out the part where Duan Zheng Shun snuck into her room through the secret passage and had a secret meeting with her–to the expense of her husband and daughter being right there. I welcomed that change. Though she had deceived (and possibly the only deceptive part about her character really) her husband about her daughter’s real father, but I felt it was excusable on some level. She was still loyal to him all through the years of their marriage. At least until the inevitable ending.
- Shu Yan (舒硯) as Qin Hong Mian (秦紅棉). Mu Wan Qing’s mother. Among Duan Zheng Shun’s lovers, I admired her the most. Though she was really hot-headed and ‘crazy’ in many ways, she had raised her daughter on her own. Even if she had to lie about her real relation to her daughter initially, but she still kept her daughter by her side. And though she seemed quite mean on the surface, she could be so soft-hearted as well. Just like how she was convinced by Ruan Xing Zhu and even joined forces with Ruan Xing Zhu in the later parts of the series.
- Wang Xuan Yu (王宣予) as Li Qing Luo (李青蘿) aka Madame Wang (王夫人). Wang Yu Yan’s mother. She sure looked mean. (LOL) And she seemed crazier in here. Though some past cast had exuded the evil look quite well too. She was just plain bitter and crazy, considering how she wanted to kill all the people who went by the surname of “Duan” (段). That sure was taking it to the extreme. Then there was also the part where she wanted Mu Rong Fu to kill all the other women yet that was just a bluff. Talking about crazy, eh? (It wasn’t bad enough that Mu Rong Fu’s father had driven him to craziness up to that point, but now his aunt was doing the same thing.)
- Sylvia Cheung/ Zhang Yi Mu (張譯木) as Ruan Xing Zhu (阮星竹). Ah Zhu and Ah Zi’s mother. I never liked her regardless of the version, but this one made it less hateful. Maybe it was the different scenes that she had with her daughters and even Duan Zheng Shun. She was 2nd on the manipulative list. Because she seriously could sweet talk her way out of trouble, especially how she had conquered Qin Hong Mian just after that one talk. Seriously? Pro all right. What I hated about her the most wasn’t her ‘careful’ ways and the ability to get along with others, but with how she had abandoned her daughters and still dared to cry over the tragedies later. This version kind of toned that down a bit, but to me, it just didn’t stick. I meant, okay, those were scary times back then and how it was hard to survive with criticisms of having children when she wasn’t married yet. But the others had raised their children–one way or another. Why couldn’t she? She was partially blamed for Ah Zi’s evil deeds after all. Can’t disregard the fact that Ah Zi grew up with that monster and there was no proper guidance. How could the others expect Ah Zi to change like that? (Regarding Ah Zhu, I think it was because how Mu Rong Fu had exuded the kind attitude out front so others wouldn’t suspect him hence Ah Zhu having grown up in a better environment. Yet Ah Zhu wasn’t so innocent either since she did try to steal the manual from Shaolin that one time. It was just that Ah Zhu was luckier in some ways, but still died tragically.)
- Viann Zhang as Kang Min (康敏) aka Madame Ma (馬夫人). The most despicable and manipulative among all the women. I think this version also made her the most hateful yet I didn’t mind. I meant I think this version managed to capture her manipulative abilities better. Maybe some might think she appeared so much, but I thought that was what made her scary and hateful at the same time. The other versions, I would be “yeah, yeah, she’s there” and we know what role she would play (based on the novel or the past versions). But this version showed how manipulative she was, laying out scene by scene of what she did and continued to control others around her. And it wasn’t like she was hogging the screen so much that you would eventually yell “enough already, she’s supposed to be dead a long time ago.” They showed enough of the role she played in the overall picture. That also made the Beggar Clan looked ridiculous for falling for her traps, which I got a kick out of it because I seriously hated them for being so easily manipulated by others and didn’t investigate properly.
- The Four Evils
- Du Yu Ming (杜玉明) as Duan Yan Qing (段延慶). Duan Yu’s biological father. If you read the novel or watched past versions, you know. But if not, yeah, it was a shocker indeed. But it turned the whole plot around for Duan Yu, in accepting about his biological father, not just caring about how he wasn’t related to the girls. Because I think this version captured it real good as well (along with 2 other versions). The tragedy didn’t end at Duan Yu losing his parents but learning that his biological father was one of the four evils. What to say about Duan Yan Qing except he was crazy? Like some of the characters in here, he was driven to restore his ‘crown’. Though I was really pissed with how he had killed Yue Lao Shan, this one sort of made it less hateful during his death scene. It was tragic that one could forgive him for what he’d done. I didn’t completely forgive him for what he’d done, but in a way, it showed that he was willing to die for his son. So there was still some good in him. It was just that he was so into his plot that he’d astrayed so far from the right path. And how in the world was Mu Rong Fu able to kill him? I think it was due to both because (1) Mu Rong Fu had gone mad after this last attempt in restoring Da Yan and losing his two loyal followers thus fueling his energy even more, and also because (2) Duan Yan Qing himself wanted to die. Duan Yan Qing himself was one of the four evils after all (and Duan Yu had stated that as the sole reason why he didn’t want to accept the man as his father) so how could he let Duan Yu suffer from the upcoming possible criticisms/debates from others? He probably wanted to sacrifice himself in an attempt to get Duan Yu to forgive him as well.
- Meng Xia (孟霞) as Ye Er Niang (葉二娘). Xu Zhu’s mother. Like Mu Wan Qing, I was so annoyed by the mask they created for her. It was really odd and disturbing. Even if I wanted to say she was part of the four evils after all and they were all weird, but it was really distracting. Yet she wasn’t bad as Ye Er Niang. The reunion scene with her son was really tragic and touching.
- Lin Yi Zheng (林以政) as Yue Lao San (岳老三). Duan Yu’s disciple. He was seriously funny in here. (My favorite Yue Lao Shan is actually the guy from TVB’s 1982 version–despite that version having many holes. But I have to put this guy in as well for 2nd favorite.) He had many funny scenes and was seen really loyal to Duan Yu numerous times. He tried to back out of the deal the first few times yet later really kept his words. He really tried to protect Duan Yu and died because of Duan Yu. I felt really sad that Duan Yu didn’t know that. Or did he overhear it? But still quite tragic with his death too.
- Ji Wei (纪伟) as Yun Zhong He (雲中鶴). Um…they didn’t focus on him as much in here as some other versions with showing more of his kidnapping girls, but it was all right. It was somewhat funny that he was mocking Yue Lao Shan about being Duan Yu’s disciple at times. That was about it.
- Lu Yong (盧勇) as Jiu Mo Zhi (鳩摩智). Royal Adviser of the Tubo Kingdom. They cut out some of his scenes in here, but it was all right. I rather they focus all around with different characters than linger on and on with some characters only. I kept making fun of his hairstyle in here and how he needed a comb (or two, lol). But must admit he’s a good actor with portraying the cunning person. Then later, he repented for real and thanked Duan Yu for saving him, etc.
- Jin Ming (金銘) as Tian Shan Tong Lao (天山童姥). At first, I was doubting her. Not sure she could do it. But I guess having 2 people portraying her role made sense. Or were there 3? The 3rd one being the person who turned really old with white hair. (‘Cause I couldn’t really tell if the makeup was done OR a different actress. But I had guessed it was a different actress.) Not only had she managed to convince me of her cunning nature but also her cruel side as well. She was quite manipulative too. And I felt ten times more sorry for Xu Zhu whenever she hit him over the head. Seriously, major abusing but it made sense with her nature.
- Alyssa Chia as Li Qiu Shui (李秋水). Very graceful and powerful. I swear Alyssa’s version made me feel more convinced as to why she has all these ‘abilities’ to seduce Wu Zai Zi and won others’ hearts. Many might be complaining of the age thing here again, but I felt it was suitable because people back then, especially those in the jianghu realm and knowing martial arts of various sorts could use their skills to reserve their beauty through time. It wasn’t until her death that she showed signs of aging.
- Eddy Ko as The Sweeper Monk (掃地僧). The most powerful and enlightened monk within Shaolin Sect. Even if they exaggerated on his skills (as with many of the characters in here), I felt I could understand his role in the overall story better. He was the guy who could put a stop to the conflicts that had rippled several key characters’ lives in the past 30 years. The way they made him to be, it was easier to relate and how he was able to convince them to stop the killing and fighting.
I decided to put these people in here, because even though they did make some major impact in the story but weren’t around as much.
- Samson Lai (賴水清) as Wang Jian Tong (汪劍通). The predecessor of the Beggar Clan. Yes, the director decided to take part in the production as well with the ‘on-screen’ side. Yet he wasn’t around long. Just a little bit.
- Min Zheng (闵政) as Ma Da Yuan (馬大元). Kang Min’s husband. A good person yet too soft-hearted at times. If not, how could he have fallen into Kang Min’s trap?
- Gao Yu Qing (高玉慶) as Bai Shi Jing (白世鏡). Somehow, this version made him less manipulative and less despicable. It had pointed the finger at Kang Min being the master manipulator so he was seen more human in a sense. Yet it didn’t let him go that easily either since he did betray his good brother.
- Wu Hua Xin (吳華新) as Quan Wan Qing (全冠清). Made him even more despicable. But as I flipped back to the novel and read some parts of it, it fitted with his actions.
- Guo Kai Min (郭凱敏) as Duan Zheng Ming (段正明). He didn’t appear much except some scenes in the beginning and later after Duan Zheng Shun died. But he was fine. He did exude the kind-hearted person and all. But he wasn’t a coward toward Duan Yan Qing’s many schemes either. He was willing to protect his family and all.
- Shen Bao Ping (沈保平) as Reverend Huang Mei (黃眉大師). Helped save the Duan family from an embarrassment scene that one time when Duan Yu and Mu Wan Qing were captured by Duan Yan Qing.
- Wang Kun (王坤) as Zhu Dan Chen (朱丹臣). One of Duan Zheng Shun’s bodyguards. He often disguised himself as a scholar. His other skill was creating secret passages. Always great to have him around.
- Wang Zheng Jia as Chu Wan Li (褚萬里). One of Duan Zheng Shun’s bodyguards. He often disguised himself as a fisherman. Though he was killed by Duan Yan Qing, he was aggravated by Ah Zi’s words. Hot-headed but still kind-hearted, didn’t deserve his fate at all. But what else could be done, right?
- Hugo Ng as Zhong Wan Chou (鍾萬仇). Gan Bao Bao’s husband. I seriously doubt Hugo could portray it at first. It was because I was more used to his overly serious roles. This one? He sure was crazy at times, and he managed not to look intimidating. It was really fun to watch. And I indeed felt really sad for him with being a shield at times but didn’t feel too bad for him when he tried to bring the four evils in and even resorted to such tactics of even involving Mu Wan Qing into the schemes as well. Considering how his wife and Qin Hong Mian were good sisters after all so how could he do that to Qin Hong Mian’s daughter?
- Hua Jiao (華嬌) as Ah Bi (阿碧). One of Mu Rong Fu’s servant girls. Stayed by his side at the end and managed to recruit some people to play out the “kingdom” scenes. Cute image and indeed quite clever with her appearance. She really exuded the ‘mischievous’ side as well, along with Ah Zhu when they both appeared at first.
- Hou Jie (侯杰) as Bao Bu Tong (包不同). Followed Mu Rong Fu until he was killed off. I found it really funny that he kept arguing with Duan Yu at various times and Duan Yu matched his speed, lol. Couldn’t blame him too much since he was being loyal to Mu Rong Fu after all.
- Li Yuan (李远) as Feng Bo E (風波惡). Followed Mu Rong Fu until he was killed off. Also argued with Duan Yu from time to time though less than Bao Bu Tong, but also can’t blame him either.
- Chen Zi Han (陳紫函) as Madame Xiao (萧夫人). Xiao Yuan Shan’s wife, Xiao Feng’s mother. Small appearance but really captured the tragic event of that time.
- Zhang Ming Ming (張明明) as Zhuo Bu Fan (卓不凡). I seriously got confused. Did they merge his character in? Like really? That was indeed strange. But forgivable.
- Alec Su as Wu Ya Zi (無崖子). OMG, he was so arrogant. Well, comparing to some past version, he was less arrogant with the words, because one of the versions Wu Ya Zi actually said that Xu Zhu was ugly, etc. This one only said he was just an ordinary little monk. (LOL) But I was mumbling about how he was so picky, lol. It was funny seeing Alec Su in such an old role. But it was enjoyable while it lasted. The flashbacks were also cool. Even if he wasn’t my favorite character, but I enjoyed Alec’s performance.
- Gao Yuan Yuan as Li Bi Yun (李碧雲). Li Qiu Shui’s sister. Didn’t appear much but exuded the ‘goddess’ state all right. Better than some of her past roles. I meant like she usually would wrinkle her face all the time (or probably because of the roles) but this one, she was just passive or appearing kind of ‘cold’, which was fine. It created the mysterious aura.
- Liu Chao (劉潮) as You Tan Zhi (游坦之). Seriously dumb. If not, why would he still loved Ah Zi so much after being tortured by her so many times? No wonder Xiao Feng let him take care of Ah Zi–even after the whole incident in Shaolin, etc.
- Han Zhen Hua (韓振華) as Su Xing He (蘇星河). This version somewhat gave an out for him? Well, when I read the novel again of that part, it had actually had that part so he wasn’t totally blamed for the deaths of the Shaolin elders?
- Wang Gang (王崗) as Ding Chun Qiu (丁春秋). Ah Zi’s master. Didn’t have much of an active role like some past versions but I was all right with it (yup, yet again forgiving the production team). He was sure lame. Like how he let his followers/disciples praised him to Heaven. It was really hilarious to watch. But after all, he was a traitor. And oh look, karma, Ah Zi betrayed him as well. Nice? Full circle? What was even more hilarious was how his disciples abandoned him after severing their ties with him at Shaolin. He got what he deserved.
- Wang Jian Xin (王建新) as Yelu Hongji (耶律洪基). I swear, it was really strange seeing this guy portraying Yelu Hongji, but I told myself I was being influenced by some past adaptations. Yet I guess it was all right since he didn’t appear as much anyway.
Relationships (romance, friendships, etc):
- Wallace Chung, Kim Ki Bum, and Han Dong as sworn brothers. In here, I could feel their bonds even more. Well, I could feel it for all versions that I watched, but at times I felt kind of loose, especially the ’80s version where it focused too much on Duan Yu’s chasing of WYY that I eventually felt like he wasn’t so into the whole ‘brotherhood’ as he’d claimed. Though he indeed did help his brothers when they needed him. Yet it was kind of loose. (The other two’s acting helped.) In here, I was glad they added in that bit about Qiao Feng and Duan Yu drinking together that one time after they left Heroes’ Gathering Manor (聚賢莊). Though Duan Yu wasn’t good with wine (and this version made him less dependent on wine than the ’80s version, thank you), he was still willing to accompany Qiao Feng and tried to drink while they chatted away. Then there was also the whole Duan Yu speaking up for Qiao Feng at various points throughout, not just standing nearby WYY all the time to annoy her even more and not speak up for Qiao Feng. (Yeah, I know it seemed Duan Yu kind of become a busybody with interfering with some stuff and needed to be told off about it but I was glad it was because he wanted to speak up to defend his ‘good brother’. It showed their bond.) Then later on when Duan Yu met Xu Zhu, it was a riot how Duan Yu kept teasing Xu Zhu about WYY at first but after learning the truth, he ended up teasing Xu Zhu about Meng Gu. Xiao Feng joined in on that joke later as well. They were indeed brothers. Cool team for me.
- Wallace Chung and Jia Qing as Qiao Feng/Xiao Feng and Ah Zhu. My favorite Qiao Feng/Ah Zhu pairing is actually Bryan Leung and Cecilia Wong’s and it has always been that way since none of the others stick with me, even if I liked the cast portraying those roles. But this pairing has now moved up to the second spot. YES, surprisingly, they were so addicting to watch in their own way. Their scenes were increased a bit more, but that didn’t mean it was dragging. It added more depth to their story and the different portrayals of some scenes made it really funny and cute. I never thought of Qiao Feng and Ah Zhu to be cute, more like a mature type of relationship. Yet this pairing managed to make me feel it was all right to think of Qiao Feng and Ah Zhu as cute. Several scenes were dramatized to stir some emotions for them, but I felt it wasn’t too over. Like the heart-wrenching departure at Heroes’ Gathering Manor. Then the many conversations they held, though still sticking to some details of the novel, but there were differences. Like how she actually didn’t condemn him for the killing of that one medic when he was little, but thanked him for telling her the story, i.e. trusting her enough to confide in her. Who could forget the heart-breaking goodbye as well? (Though that was super fake that there was no blood involved when she received like 5 blows of the Dragon Palms Skills.)
- Kim Ki Bum and Mao Xiao Tong as a couple. Interestingly, I didn’t feel anything for them at first. But then later when she appeared again to take care of him, I could feel the cuteness and her innocence and care for him. Even more when she was willing to just stay by his side silently only. Yet later Duan Yu got the ‘agreement’ from Mu Wan Qing so they also get to be together. Which was cute.
- Kim Ki Bum and Zhao Yuan Yuan as a couple. OMG, I never thought I liked them so much. But they stuck with me even after knowing the inevitable of the plot with how they were siblings and they have to separate. I felt both were fighting harder for it to not be true. Then when they knew it was inevitable and when they were trapped in the cave together, they were fighting harder not to let the poison control them. Well, only she was suffering from the potion because he’d become unaffected by all sorts of poisons after those two creatures jumped into his mouth that one time. Yet I really liked her bravery with how she attempted to kill herself to just end it rather than giving in to some delusional thought that they couldn’t be siblings OR letting the other dude have the satisfaction of condemning them. Then he had to stop her. He reassured her that they would be fine. It wasn’t fake at all the way their interactions were. Though there were times after that event that she still wished that it wasn’t true with them being siblings and how she still couldn’t accept it, but it was hard to control it. She needed time still to move on, considering how he was like the first guy in her life (that was important). There were also times that Duan Yu thought of her, like that one time talking to Wang Yu Yan (as mentioned previously) and later when he was talking to Xu Zhu. It seemed like he couldn’t let go yet and he had to remind himself that they were siblings so he had to forget about her, etc. Then their reunion later. What made it even cuter at times throughout at relevant parts was how he called her Wan Mei (婉妹). Hey, at least I thought that was cute. Though time didn’t permit any more dramatic moments between them because of what happened in the end, I felt the production team could have done without the whole misunderstanding of Duan Yu and Wang Yu Yan. Though it made sense with Mu Wan Qing’s insecurity with worrying that he was like Duan Zheng Shun, and she sure had her mother’s temper yet I felt it was strange. They should’ve provided that little time for Duan Yu and her reunion instead.
- Kim Ki Bum and Zhang Meng as a couple or just friends. Because of how they interacted from the moment they met until the later parts of the story, I feel like I could root for them more in this version. At least I wasn’t feeling like it was just an obsession he carried throughout and couldn’t even step away like a decent human being but just kept tagging her and annoying her–along with other people. Their relationship started quite pure. Well, he initially did dub her as “Shen Xian Jie Jie” (神仙姐姐), but moved way past that, learning to like and respect her for herself, not just obsessing over her because she looked like the Fairy Lady he spotted in the cave. The fact that he didn’t keep focusing on his silent bitterness and jealousy of Mu Rong Fu made it tenfold better too. Sure, it probably steered from the main theme of the novel a bit regarding his character, but I totally welcomed this change since I’m sick and tired of seeing Duan Yu with no backbone when it came to Wang Yu Yan. (And for the record, I didn’t dislike her in the novel because she didn’t like him, but more like not liking her because she wasn’t interesting enough for me–despite her intelligence.) I felt it was kind of sad that when I finally could like Duan Yu and Wang Yu Yan as a couple, they (the production team) decided to follow Jin Yong’s third version (aka letting WYY stay by Mu Rong Fu’s side). Well, it made sense with how the story developed because they were more like friends and how he really wanted to help her be together with Mu Rong Fu than just plain wanting to win over Mu Rong Fu. Throughout, they also made Duan Yu think of Mu Wan Qing and worried for MWQ more than just plain obsess over WYY so it wasn’t too much. Then she was always caring for Mu Rong Fu and MRF’s burden of having to restore his kingdom that she couldn’t let go either. So it made sense they weren’t together. However, as I said before, it was too bad when I finally like them yet they couldn’t be together.
- Han Dong and Mona Wang as a couple. Seriously, so cute! So little time together yet worth it. The production team dramatized it a bit with how he missed her from time to time and how she set up the place in the ice room. And their reunion was quite dramatic as well. Yet I didn’t mind. It was indeed touching and cute. (LOL! Even the prince of Tubo got touched by it. Which he pretended to not care later but still funny.) Then the later parts. Again, so little but cute. Near the ending, it was kind of funny that he was about to utter the Buddhist chant but she grabbed his hand and stopped him, lol. It was like his habit and he couldn’t help it. The fact that they were so cute, I can’t wait to see how their roles would turn out and how their interactions would be for the new Royal Tramp.
- Zong Feng Yan and Zhang Meng as a couple. What can I say about them? Not sure what other changes were there about them in the third version of the novel. But this one made it so that Mu Rong Fu really cared for her too. It was just that his needing to restore Da Yan went past everything else. I guess that kind of ending for them was suitable. So tragic in a sense because he would never be normal but maybe only in that way could he be happy and care for her. And she also got what she wanted. Even if his mind wasn’t normal anymore. It was easier for me to believe that she continued to follow him despite his past betrayals than her changing her mind so fast to follow Duan Yu. It felt artificial for me. Even if that meant she realized who was the real person caring for her all along. But considering how much she cared for Mu Rong Fu all these years, how could she just let go like that? Heartbroken, yes, but could she just let go? (Even if like I said above that it was too bad for her and Duan Yu, but it was more convincing story-wise if she ended up with Mu Rong Fu.) They seriously didn’t match cast wise though, lol. It was odd to me.
- Alec Su and Alyssa Chia as a couple. I don’t care for their story, and it couldn’t be any other way. But I was soooo happy to see Alec and Alyssa reuniting again for this production. They dramatized that part so much but hey, it gave a different perspective into the story, lol.
- Alec Su and Gao Yuan Yuan as a couple. OMG, it was strange how she finally won over Alyssa, lol. Well, technically, Alyssa and Alec’s characters married in here, but she was the one who had his heart. It seemed like their feelings for one another were mutual, with how she had taken a sneak of the wedding scene, etc. Then his stealing looks at her too, etc. Yet it couldn’t be any other way with how he wanted to stop the conflicts between the other two so they couldn’t be together.
Other good things about this production:
- Music. I can’t say that it was epic or anything. Yet I really liked the background music used. It helped a lot with those dramatic moments.
- Extended development on some relationships. I think I could feel it more than just the somewhat following the gist of the novel. It was like we know the relationships for those who read the novel or at least watch some past adaptations. Yet this one extended so that we could feel more for those characters and their relationships, not just using some subtle actions or words to make us believe. Like I didn’t even know why I was crying at various points, especially when some key characters died (duh, I know) but I didn’t really think much when watching some past versions, because I know it would happen anyway. (Well, except for a rare few scenes from past adaptations due to some performances that got me crying. But really rare moments.) Like I could feel the Duan family were really family, not just out there on their own, chasing their own ‘girls’ or whatever. Or some elaboration on some much-needed parts.
- Expansion on the Shaolin Sect gathering scene. This was the part where various sects, clans, etc were gathered to clarify some matters and it was revealed that Xiao Yuan Shan and Mu Rong Bo weren’t dead yet. I seriously welcomed this one. Seriously, it never seemed enough in some past adaptations because of how they rushed it through and expect us to believe. This scene was supposedly the most important because it clarified all misunderstandings and took care of allowing Xiao Yuan Shan and Mu Rong Bo to stop their senseless killings and fighting. It was also the part where Xu Zhu was reunited with his parents (and eventually lost them). There were so many things going on. It made sense to focus on it more. The Sweeper Monk played a major role at this part also. (Like mentioned in his character description.) And this one chose (like some other adaptations) to let Xiao Yuan Shan and Mu Rong Bo really understand to “let go” and become monks for real. TVB’s 1982 version seriously insulted the Sweeper Monk by making it that Mu Rong Bo faked it. Seriously, I always have the feeling the Sweeper Monk was quite enlightened with his Zen talks to Xu Zhu for that version, but he wasn’t able to detect that Mu Rong Bo was faking it? Well, he had a hint of it and helped Xiao Yuan Shan to escape from Mu Rong Bo. Yet that had really insulted the Sweeper Monk’s ability to solve the conflict and convince them to let go, and also insult his skills as well. Seriously? He was that miserable that he couldn’t defeat Mu Rong Bo? So back to this version, the extended scenes throughout the conflicts, fights, and other stuff really highlighted the essence of the plots thus far, especially regarding Xiao Feng and Mu Rong Fu’s sides.
What was the downside?
YES, I would be lying if I say there are no complaints.
- The costumes. OMG, only the Da Li people dressed well. LOL! The rest are like so-so. I know the production team was trying to make each region dress differently or whatever, and I previously said I found it nice that they attended to that detail. But some of the costumes were like really strange and like kind of too much.
- Mu Rong Fu (慕容復)’s name. Thanks to someone on YouTube for this. In several flashback scenes of Mu Rong Fu and his father, it seemed like the Yan dynasty was still at war with some country YET Mu Rong Fu’s name was already “Fu (復)”? Because it was mentioned later that his name was to remind them to “restore the Yan dynasty”. SO if they haven’t lost it yet, how could his name be “Fu (復)” already?
- Ah Zhu never seemed wounded/injured enough at major scenes yet others were seen spitting out blood even with minor injuries? Um, this one pointed out by another YouTube member. (Yes, YT users could get carried away at times but I seriously agree this time.) I don’t remember any more about the Shaolin incident with Ah Zhu spitting out blood or not after she was hit with the powerful strikes when she had stolen the manual. But during her death, they tried to make it beautiful BUT forgot all about the blood and all after she had received like several powerful strikes of the Dragon Palms Skills. Yet in a later scene when Duan Zheng Shun went to confront Kang Min, he got slapped by her and spit out blood? Was Duan Zheng Shun that weak? With or without the poison taking effect, I didn’t think he would be that pitiful.
Just to end this review on a positive note, I’m placing this section in.
- Snowboarding. Qiao Feng/Xiao Feng was seen snowboarding down the mountain at the beginning of the series. SO wacko, but still cool in a sense.
- The scenes where Duan Yu got into senseless arguments with Feng Bo E and Bao Bu Tong. I don’t know, I found it funnier that Duan Yu was able to defend himself but was witty, not petty. It drove the other two insane but still reserved a sense of comical relief for some of the intensity of the situation.
- The scenes with Duan Yu and Yue Lao San. OMG, in here, it elaborated more and more on their master and disciple relationship than in the past. I meant in the past, Duan Yu would gladly call Lao San his disciple to get out of sticky situations, etc. TVB’s 1982 version especially made Duan Yu seemed more annoyed with Lao San than amused. After all, Lao San was part of the four evils so it made sense to not be involved with him. But for this version, it made it quite comical that Duan Yu enjoyed torturing Lao San a lot YET didn’t really disregard Lao San after he was finished using Lao San for some means. I liked watching every time how Lao San was questioning if the girls by Duan Yu’s side was his ‘si niang’ (師娘), lol. He especially tried to pull Duan Yu and Wang Yu Yan together, lol. Even if he didn’t succeed but it was too funny with him trying to defend Duan Yu from time to time. Oh yeah, the Shaolin gathering incident gained Lao San even more points for jumping out to fight with Mu Rong Fu, saying that Mu Rong Fu dared to bully his master, lol. And how could I forget the part that he sacrificed himself to defend Duan Yu and Duan Zheng Shun? Tragic all right.
- Duan Yu’s comedic side in general. YES, I decided to just merge it into one at last. I don’t know, it’s very surprising that I like Duan Yu already and all. But I talk about him more in this version too. Anyway, he seemed to be the comic relief for the majority of this version, which was cool with me. The most hilarious part must be the part with the Shaolin gathering after Xu Zhu and Ye Er Niang already reunited, and Xiao Yuan Shan forced Ye Er Niang to say Xu Zhu’s father’s name out. Though that part was really touching and sad for both mother and son, Duan Yu jumped in to say, “Don’t tell me it’s my dad.” LOL! I cracked up so hard. Yeah, it sure fitted Duan Zheng Shun’s profile all right. Like meeting a beautiful lady, courting her, then left suddenly after a special “get together.” I wouldn’t blame Duan Yu for thinking that. LOL!
- The scenes leading up to how Xu Zhu finally reunited with Meng Gu. OMG, I was going insane with how the Prince of Tubo was cutting Xu Zhu off when he was just plain nervous and possibly shy to disclose his secret in front of the crowd. (It made sense since he used to be a monk after all so how could he say it out like that?) But then later, I really loved that prince (not really) for his loud mouth. Because when Xu Zhu finally blurted it out the real answer and Duan Yu repeated it in a louder tone so the others could hear, that prince yelled out that Xu Zhu finally replied. LOL! It was just crazy!
So in the end, why am I praising this version up and down? Seriously, I didn’t expect to. So possibly it was because of my not much of an expectation that had allowed me to enjoy it more? Or was it because of the fact that the first version I watched never captured my attention as much? (Though I do admit I like some of the stories and events that managed to make its way into that version.) I finally figured out why. It was because the majority of the characters–regardless of the plot involved–got humanized in this version. I swear, past adaptations made me feel like they were going through the motions of just living the role by interpreting the characters in the novels and play it out–whether they decided to do this or that–or if the scripts call for it or not. It felt like they were just following along, except for some of the cast. I felt this one attended to more of the details regarding different relations and stressed those points more than just, “Okay, these people are related” or “these two would eventually swear to be brothers” and then that was it. I didn’t feel the relationships as strong as how it should be, even if some parts did get extend in past adaptations to dramatize different bonds as well. Well, some parts did get change and they didn’t stay true to it 100%, but some of those adjustments made it better, not exaggerating some points out to the point of excruciatingly painful to watch.
So recommended? Up to you. Since I stated many times before that I operate on my own wavelength. Seriously, I didn’t care to read too many reviews or side discussions from others. It’s actually for my sanity (or whatever it’s left of it), but I did hear my sister say people were complaining about it. It’s actually normal since it happens a lot when new adaptations come out. (And I was also blurting out my own “What” when I saw different stills too so I’m not saying that I’m innocent from those initial criticism.)
One of the pluses though is that Huace loaded it onto their YouTube channel so it’s accessible for the world to see. They’re working on the English subtitles as well so it’s cool. (Click here if you’re interested. And they should provide a link for English subtitles playlist as well, just search around their channel some more.)