The Legend and the Hero

I never thought I watch it. So serious here. I actually followed the production of it somewhat when it first filmed. Because of how butchered it would turn out to be, I didn’t want to touch it. Yet I couldn’t believe years later, I’m sitting around watching this with my mom. How was it? Well, it’s a toss between half and half for the rest of us novel followers. But I think the positive side–the whole fighting and magic effects–won over all those side, nonsense dramas. For those who do not know the actual legends, it’s going to be a REAL lost. But that’s how it is so there’s nothing new. As for me, I was sitting there rolling my eyes a lot at first, but soon, I totally didn’t want to care about some side made-up dramas anymore so I just pay extra attention during the battle parts. That helped A LOT with getting through 2 full series of it. Yeah, funny that they thought it needed a second season. One should be enough if they cut out all the extra, side dramas and focused on developing the essential parts of the novel. But it was all right, I wanted to watch for some people. Not too much of a lost for me. But what totally ruined it for me was the lame ending.

Cast:

  • Liu De Kai as Jiang Zi Ya. A good choice for Jiang Zi Ya actually. Having been a fan of him since the old days, I felt it was a suitable character for him. Yet thinking about the character Jiang Zi Ya in general made me want to laugh. Because he seemed so helpless at times, always needing rescuing from others. But according to the novel, some events did happen so I’m fine with that. Yet I still have to say for a leader, he’s quite weak (like said above) and didn’t keep me interested enough. I just know that he’s essential to the story and that’s it. And way down the road, he had gotten more and more passive (thank you script-writers–NOT) to the fact that he had to go and clean up the mess Ji Fa created more than focus on the battles.
  • Zhou Jie and Victor Huang as King Zhou Wu aka Ji Fa. I want to say that I’ve never been a fan of Zhou Jie, but actually watching this, he really won me over. It’s just that I never got into him since the HZGG days AND possibly because of the weird Qing era hairstyle that I didn’t feel like paying attention to him. Though I know he could act. But this one, he was really charming and convincing. He made the character seemed powerful and intelligent. Not to mention there was a mixture of gentleness and playfulness added in at times as well. The script had helped also. Yet changing it to Victor for part 2 was just painful. I don’t know. Victor looked more like he belonged to the villain side more than this side. Then I suddenly pondered if Zhou Jie made a very good choice of not returning. Since though it was supposed to be change of cast AND not character, they made it so that the character was SO unreasonable at times, especially how he was yelling at his siblings and being stubborn about love. It was like he was taking on his oldest brother’s personality or something (like from the first part how Bo Yi Kao kept caring about love, etc). Whoever the writers were made his character really inconsistent to part 1. In fact, it had gone from bad to worse, and worse to worser. Yeah, I know “worser” is not a word, but I’m exaggerating to make a point here. Seriously? Disobeying Jiang to go search for the jade pieces? Honestly? Yeah, yeah, people might be saying it’s really touching how he cared for his girl, etc. BUT he was so into the whole thing that he disregarded the soldiers and what others were fighting hard for, etc. It seemed like he was not any better than the King of Shang Zhou. OR possibly he’s even worse. So why are all those people fighting for anyhow? Part one, they exaggerated and made Ji Fa ending up with Bi Can’s daughter, but it wasn’t so unbearable since they only squeezed it in between some conflicts. Yet this one? Totally going from bad to worse. And it’s not like I want to hate Victor either, but the script really wanted to kill him for it. At least it did for me. (It’s not like I’m against romance either since my blog is filled with dramas involving romances/soaps/whatever you call it. But this story wasn’t supposed to revolve around romance, honestly!)
  • Priscelia Chan as Zi Xian. Funny that they made her Bi Can’s daughter and even let her become Jiang Zi Ya’s disciple. However, I actually like this addition to the story and felt that was kind of a riot at times. At least she was the strong character and NOT nagging type. She was quite brave and was able to contribute to the plot majorly without being too ‘in your face’ at times. Which was good for me.
  • Bonnie Xian as teenager Ne Zha. So cute and funny. I read some comments about the confusion of Ne Zha being a guy or a girl and I have to laugh. The majority of past adaptations cast a girl to portray the role. (NOT sure if it was due to some superstition or something, I don’t know. It just have been that way.) Ne Zha is just plain cool in here. Having Ne Zha appear made the plot tenfold more interesting, aside from Huang Fei Hu already ruling the show in here.
    • Wu Lei as childhood Ne Zha. The kid was soooo cute! It didn’t matter if the role was supposed to be so mischievous but he was one cute kid. Good child actor also since he managed to exude the mischievousness to the max. Then the later parts with crying and all.
  • Han Dong as Er Lang Shen Yang Jian. OMG, so handsome and so cool in here! He didn’t appear until like more than the last half of the first part. But made up for all the made up lame plots/episode fillers previously. It was like he saved the show for me in a lot of ways. Glad they made his character cool like it was supposed to be in the novel and didn’t reduce him to some nonsense character. Then he got to do lots of cool stuffs too in part 2. I was so glad they didn’t replace the cast OR I would’ve stopped watching, same with how it was with Ne Zha. Then somehow, they just ended up pushing his character aside along the way, which I don’t mind as much as long as there were other characters involved and they kept the plot going at the right pace with some of the battles. And yeah, having him being in charge of the food supplies as important since no one could snatch it from him, etc. However, what I do mind was that they not only dragged the plot out to the point of unbearable with some of the love stuffs (that didn’t even exist in the novel), but also dragged him in as part of the stupid conspiracy while the other gods and goddesses and other deities were helping with that one big battle. (What the hell? I couldn’t blame him since the plot was that way BUT the plot was just pathetic trying to use his skills like that; and at such a hectic time where more pressing matters needed attention toward.)
  • Tay Ping Hui and Ix Shen as Huang Fei Hu. Okay, I like Ix Shen. He looks very cool in Angel Lover. But this one? Tay Ping Hui hands down. He looks so powerful as the general. I got used to Ix later on but it still didn’t feel right. I think it was because of Tay Ping Hui as Huang Fei Hu that I stuck around that long or hung on long enough for some other key characters to appear. And indeed, Ix’s portrayal did grow on me later since they managed to keep his character consistent even with change in cast. The most powerful scene must be his death. YET I felt it was for a really stupid reason. It was because he wanted to see the stupid ghost.
  • Zhang Bo Jun as Li Jing. When he first appear, I felt like he didn’t suit the role at all. It might have to do with the fact that Huang Fei Hu was so tall and overpowering others around him. Yet I later got used to him. This story made him less cruel (as it appeared at first) regarding destroying Ne Zha’s shrine, etc. They tried to cut back on that, which was funny how their priorities were. I didn’t want to drag the whole matter out anyway, but it seemed I rather see it focus on relevant matters than other side stuffs.
  • Wang Hai Di and Ding Ting as Jin Zha. Ne Zha’s oldest brother. Didn’t notice much since there were too many characters but good enough for me.
  • Steve Ma and Ray Lui as King Shang Zhou. Seriously? I have to say that Ray Lui rules! Yeah, people might be saying how they made Steve Ma more handsome and possibly more appealing in many ways to watch. However, the character’s not supposed to be handsome. I felt like the image they created for Ray was more suitable. Not to mention how Ray look more fierce and powerful. Not saying I hate Steve Ma since I really like both actors, and think they’re good looking in their own way. Just that Steve leaned on the side of looking like some lovesick dude, almost as bad as Bo Yi Kao, not really exuding the cruel king image as much. Though if Steve wanted, he was able to achieve fierce look at some parts. They tried to let others pity Steve or something. ‘Cause it seemed like they were saying ‘poor, rich king’ kind of idea. Though people leaning on ‘love’ stuffs would root for him because of what he did for love, BUT like the other goddess said, he doesn’t care for his people at all.
  • Fan Bing Bing and Ruby Lin as Su Da Ji. Um…have to say FBB was more convincing with taking the role of a fox. She exuded the cruel side and somewhat of the struggle between the fox and the real Su Da Ji really well. Plus, she was willing to go all out on the whole ‘seduction’ scenes so I guess that worked for her. Ruby tried to be super mischievous and was really cunning at times. Yet she was just too cute to be an evil fox demon, lol. I had fun watching her but I felt it was funnier than anything. And Ruby was so reserved in her outfits so she had become a cute little fox instead.
  • Miao Hai Zhong/ Miao Hao Jun as Shen Gong Bao. I swear he was like the master/pro of PR back then in the days. If not, how could he persuade them and/or recruit all of those people to die for him? He was sure slick. Yet he seemed to get away with it every time. (It reminds me of a certain someone in modern days.)
  • Du Zhi Guo as Su Hu. Su Da Ji’s father. SAD, tragic moments, especially how he was torn in between saving other people and sacrificing his daughter. Then knowing that it was some demon possessing his daughter, and that his daughter had to die later as well, etc.
  • Lou Qi as Wu Ji. Jiang Zi Ya’s disciple. One of the actual disciples from the novel. Had fun watching him and how he got a good amount of screen time, but it collapsed later when they made way for the soap of other stuffs. Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes again.
  • Qi Fang as Deng Chan Yu. OMG, one of the feisty and funny girls in here that actually existed in the novel. I loved watching her scenes and her constant bicker with her shorty husband, lol. Her death was actually the most tragic or seemed that way and it got me actually almost tearing up, unlike some of the senseless scenes in here. All the flashbacks and the background music was all it needed to captured their moments.
  • Mi Zi An as Princess Long Ji. Cute and another character actually from the novel. Except they did change some details regarding her. She should appear more, not some senseless characters.

Others: Died along the way or didn’t appear much or just plain didn’t have anything to contribute to the plot in general

  • Tang Guo Qiang as Yuan Shi Tian Zun. One of the most powerful gods. I cannot believe they dragged him into one of the most stupid moments of the plot too. Probably just to say, “One of the powerful gods said it too so it must be right” kind of thing.
  • Wu Ma as Shang Rong. The late actor took this very righteous role and he totally nailed it. It was super frustrating to see him die and like that, but that was what happened.
  • Guo Kai Min as Bi Gan. Poor guy. Yet it had to be that way, considering how his nephew was already WAY beyond help, even before Da Ji came into the picture.
  • Jin Qiao Qiao as Empress Jiang. She was a brave queen yet couldn’t escape either. Loved her as the elegant and graceful empress. Too bad with her fate.
  • Xu Huan Shan as Wen Tai Shi. For some weird reason, I just plain don’t like him. Well, it was obvious since he was on the other side. Yet I swear he was not that likable even if he tried to use his power against the king and made him obey, etc. He was so oblivious to stuffs at times, especially with the rant of how Huang Fei Hu betrayed them. (The guy’s wife and sister DIED, what else did the old man need as proof?) So he was actually one of those elders that I didn’t care for.
  • Eddie Kwan as Bo Yi Kao. I swear they made him so weak and so wishy-washy in here that it wasn’t even funny. I usually felt sad or pissed off when they kill him off in some of the other versions. But this one, I was just glad. Yeah, heartless, but the character got ruined because of other made-up catalysts.
  • Liu Tao as Moon Fairy. I enjoyed her scenes in here, however little it was. She wasn’t supposed to be in the story anyway, but they made it dramatic with the other couple so whatever. But she sure exuded the fairy-like look.
    • Fan Bing Bing as Moon Fairy. Seriously? What a way to try and come back to the show. And that was my reaction when I saw her name in the cast list. But my reaction when the scenes came around involving the Moon Fairy was “What?” Because of the somewhat blurry effects so I can’t really see if it was her. But it was strange making Ji Fa seeing that she resembled Su Da Ji.
  • Wang Li Ke as Zi Yu. Seriously? Why did they create her character for except for episode fillers and another distraction to the overall theme? I swear I couldn’t even like her at all. From the start, she was just boring, but I accepted that they wanted to waste time. Then she just went from boring to annoying several episodes later, with her whole tantrums and demanding Ji Fa personally go fetch her. Really? Oh, not to mention her rudeness to Lei Zhen Zi later during their first encounter. What the hell was that? And she became even more useless and annoying as time went by. I never imagine I would say “useless” for any character, BUT she sure pushed past that breach. (Since I don’t like to think of it that way, even at times when characters aren’t my favorites but they could be there for short time, etc.) What was the point of making her running off, going through some painful trials, committing suicide, and then try to revive her? What? Waste of time. I do get all the reasons for her character and personality and all the pain she went through BUT again, in such a story, why were the script-writers torturing us with the soap-ville stuffs? It was like trying to raise her character up yet failed since they did give her a lot of credits for stuffs throughout. It was like the world revolved around her BUT not really. I’m probably considered heartless by now but I’m the rare few that felt so strongly against her. (Or possibly the only one feeling that way.) As for Wang Li Ke, I looked up some of her pictures outside and I swear she looks better in real life. (And people think I was attacking WLK? NO, I was talking about the character.) What really irked me though was how they were on this journey to purify her before resurrecting her again, as if saying she was somehow “dirty” because she got raped. Yes, I was really pissed off at the script-writers for making it seemed that way. I didn’t like her character, but didn’t like how they implied that people who weren’t obedient would eventually get raped or killed, etc. Sure, it was during a turbulent time and so chaotic, considering how they were at war, etc. But that was soooo wrong to make it that way. Yet, why should I be surprised, right?

Couples/Friendships/Bonds/Whatever else:

  • Zhou Jie and Priscelia Chan as couple. Cute couple! I like how they were somewhat of a bickering couple. Very subtle at times and it was enough to the story, NOT too lame and draggy like how some of the other parts in here were. So I didn’t mind if they exaggerated the thing about the two characters getting together, etc.
  • Ray Lui and Ruby Lin. Thanks to my sister, I suddenly remember that they had collaborated in this old ATV series where he was Zhao Chao and she was Princess Fei Feng. They didn’t end up together since he didn’t like her and she was later married to someone else. But it was really funny seeing them together like this and this time as a couple. Sometimes I enjoy their scenes (though there were indeed cruel and ‘shaking head’ parts but that was somewhat going along with the story) more than others. Then it got WAY more dramatic so I was like “ugh” as well.
  • How the disciples of various characters were fighting at times. OR more like they were competing to see who got there first or completed a certain task first. That was hilarious and I loved those parts. It was actually funny, unlike some parts they tried too hard.

Interestingly Funny or more like “What?”: Some of them were actually funny of how they made up stuffs AND others were just worth some head shaking or eye-rolling moments.

  • Bo Yi Kao and Su Da Ji were engaged before Da Ji was forced into going into the palace. Really? When did that happen? Not only that was outrageous with their supposed relationship along with how they were somehow linked to the Zhou side, but it led to some really draggy subplots later, like for Bo Yi Kao’s focus on love only, not caring for other stuffs. Well, he did pull himself out of it when he realized it was going to harm his family BUT still, unnecessary plots.
  • One of the two guys by King Shang Zhou’s side is actually Su Hu’s cousin. Really? When did that happen? And here we go again with them linking together different characters.
  • Ne Zha’s mother was actually Huang Fei Hu’s sister. REALLY? So they wanted to connect the loyal/good people together. But seriously? Like who would believe that one? I actually let it slide since I was laughing the whole time, but still. It seemed like they were eager to link different characters in here.
  • The exaggerated love between King Shang Zhou and Daji. Or more like with the fox-spirit. Like seriously? That went on and on for the majority of the first part, which I was fine with since it didn’t last long. Yet it just kept dragging on with how the fox spirit had fallen for the king for real and even wanted to help him keep his dynasty. Really? And what was more was using reasons or excuses for the king’s behaviors at times throughout the story, like in part one with him not really doing it on purpose for causing the death of Huang Fei Hu’s wife. Really?
  • Princess Long Ji is actually the late King Zhou Wen’s adopted daughter. WOW, really? Yeah, I’m saying “really” A LOT. But it’s that outrageous with how they try to connect different stories together.
  • Anything having to do with Zi Yu and Ji Fa for that matter. (Part 2 for Ji Fa since I liked him in part 1.) AND yes, I have to pick on them again. But since the storyline kept emphasizing their relationship, I think it’s fair game. Again, what the hell was that? Episode fillers and waste of time. I’m talking about characters and plot surrounding them, NOT the actor and actress SO don’t jump in trying to say I’m just hating them or jealous with them or something along those lines. And by the time I got to almost the end (since I was still hanging on for some characters), it got from worser to worset. Because not only were the story-line draggy and pointless, it dragged Yang Jian into their stupid conspiracy, which made him miss the last battle between the disciples of the gods and all. Then making it seem like some epic romance by dragging one of the higher gods in by praising their so-called love story.
  • Lei Zhen Zi was made into a senseless character. I didn’t remember much from the first part except he was cool enough. Yet again like characters in the 2nd part, he was reduced to some senseless role. Like he would go around and try to search for one of Ji Fa’s chicks like that. There’s a war going on! His mission (according to his master) was to go help Jiang Zi Ya fight in the battles, NOT go search for Ji Fa’s chick. Then eventually, I give up on his character altogether, especially with how he blamed Ne Zha for Zi Yu’s death. Like really? It was a slap in the face to be called stealing someone’s woman when Ne Zha was outside. Of course Ne Zha had to go confront Zi Yu and asked what the hell was going on.
  • The King of Shang Zhou went to Heaven to suck Ji Fa’s energy out of the star that represented Ji Fa? Really? Who thought of this one? Another episode filler?
  • The monkey/ape who fought with Yang Jian near the end will turn into Sun Wu Kong in the future. What? Um, like really? I laughed harder than the rest of the made-up stuffs. It was actually funny and interesting how they tried to link both stories together. But seriously? I couldn’t stop laughing until the next day. The characters from both works were linked later because the ones who fought against each other in this part will eventually become gods/goddesses or fairies of different sorts. But trying to link Sun Wu Kong in because that one ape also knew the same skills as Yang Jian? LOL!
  • Jiang Zi Ya reserved a spot for himself YET gave it to Huang Fei Hu later. The BIGGEST what in here. Like seriously? Jiang wasn’t supposed to be one of them since it wasn’t his fate. Huang Fei Hu was already secured for that one spot to begin with. There was no “dividing the pig” after the battle, seriously. AND having that part with Jiang arguing with his late ex-wife was also QUITE stupid and off.

Other Topics:

  • “Can it get any worse than this?” is like a dare to the production team. YES, it’s true for part 2 mostly BUT every time I utter that phrase out loud, the answer delivered somewhere several scenes later or several episodes later seemed to say, “Challenged accepted.” I’m so serious.
  • Part 2? Like seriously? I meant okay, I know some of the details for part 2 were what happened in the novel, more or less. But did they have to split it? I think if they cut out all the nonsense crap and the exaggerated love stories (on both sides actually), they could fit it into 40 eps or so.
  • What could have been focused on? There were a lot of interesting stories in the novel and could have been focused on instead of some made-up senseless stuffs that couldn’t match up to it. In fact, I’m tempted to go read the novel again and extract stuffs from it that was more relevant. (My first read was somewhat unsuccessful because of some side stuffs so I didn’t finish exactly but knew some of the things were irrelevant.)

What was good about it? Yes, Apparently I’m saving this topic for last because I rather end it with a positive note (or whatever is left of it that I could find).

  • Effects. Seriously, love the effects and it was really suitable for these types of stories.
  • Ne Zha. YES, the cute kid actor and eventually the actress who portrayed the character. Plus all the cool stuffs Ne Zha got later on, weapon wise and the skills acquired.
  • Yang Jian. NO, Yang Jian’s NOT suppposed to be under command of that Ji Fa. Since Ji Fa wasn’t that bossy in the novel. Besides, Yang Jian only listen to his master, who they merged it in and gave a lot credit to that one god, BUT he wasn’t supposed to be Yang Jian’s master in the novel. And when he was sent down to help Jiang, he only listened to Jiang, NOT some idiot. Aside from that, Han Dong is now my favorite Yang Jian. So handsome, so cool, and all. YET they ruined him near the end. BUT I guess it wasn’t his fault.
  • Huang Fei Hu, mostly Tay Ping Hui, but yeah. Loved the character overall and he was the sole reason I stuck around for more than the first half of the story (like stated before) and managed to hang on.
  • Ji Fa–BUT only the first part. YES, I have to say it again, Zhou Jie made a very wise decision for not coming back.
  • Zi Xian. Priscelia made it very cute and likable at times, but she was also a very strong and admirable person.
  • Deng Chan Yu and her shorty husband. Favorite couple in part 2 since they were sooooo funny. Too bad they had to die tragically as well.

Recommended? After all my rants, it’s more like from the side of the minority who couldn’t stand it anymore. But for people who enjoy it or like the cast, go ahead. I actually don’t think it’s worth it and if possible, just fast forward or search around for scenes that you might enjoy and watch. ‘Cause I swear I wasted like millions of brain cells watching it. (My fault actually, but since my mom wanted to watch and I somehow was just sitting there, I might as well.) But one thing’s for sure, I will try to avoid this producer and director’s works for the future JUST to eliminate another mistake I might make.

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14 Blades

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you DO NOT want to be spoiled, please DO NOT read. You have been warned.

Wow! I didn’t even expect much of it, considering how long it was I last seen a movie. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much from all the cast. I thought that what was even better was having a decent plot to move the story along and then leaving a lot of time for fighting scenes. Of course there were romances too but it was only briefly and only existed between one couple in here and I was glad. They focused on the right elements so the whole movie did not drag at all.

Donnie Yen was great as always in his fighting sequences. It was an interesting collaboration between him and the rest of the cast. What I thought was interesting and found quite fascinating was having seen Donnie’s interactions with Vicki, Chun, and Kate. Their relationships were very different yet each played an essential part to the story. It brought out his and their characters as well. There was no lack of screen time for anyone OR at least I thought it was relevant for the story and was not overdone.

So who was Donnie Yen really in here? Donnie portrayed Qing Long (青龍 aka Green Dragon), a leader of Jin Yi Wei (錦衣衛 – Cẩm Y Vệ), who possessed 14 blades. With those 14 blades, he had the power to off anyone to protect the emperor and defend the dynasty. All in all, it seemed like the best position. However, that was not easy since he was set up by Eunuch Jia Jing Zhong (賈精忠–who gave him the orders to kill Councilor Zhao Shen Yan) and betrayed by his own fellow guards (except for Bai Hu and Zhu Que who were killed off by Xuan Wu and Tuo Tuo respectively). However, he managed to escape and seek shelter elsewhere until he was able to recover the Imperial Seal (which was snatched from him while he was in the middle of confronting the councilor).

Vicki Zhao portrayed Qiao Hua (喬花), the daughter of Qiao Yong (喬永–who was the head of the Righteous Escort Agency – 正義镖局). She encountered Qing Long when Qing Long arrived at the doorstep of their agency, offering them money for their service. This time, they had to safeguard him out of the city. It was not a problem since Qiao Yong was thinking of marrying his daughter off and was ready to set out with her within several days. After some corny jokes from Qiao Yong’s old friend–and some offering of money (of course), the group was able to pass since Qing Long was hidden inside the bride’s carriage. They found out Qing Long’s truth identity when they were ambushed in the woods. Qing Long took Qiao Hua as a hostage after fighting off all the guards and told Qiao Yong and his men to head east to divert attention from himself. They were to meet him at a village up ahead so he could return Qiao Hua to them unharmed. Along the way, Qiao Hua discovered that Qing Long was not a cruel or rough person liked it was led on at first. They exchanged some witty comments at this one rest stop and somehow explored more about each other along the way.

Wu Zun came into the picture when Qing Long and Qiao Hua arrived at the pre-planned village. He was seen spying on them from a distance at first. He was introduced as the leader of the Heavenly Eagles Clan (天鹰幫 aka Tian Ying Bang). He was actually the real World’s Number One Sabre (天下第一刀 aka Tian Xia Di Yi Dao), ‘Judge of the Desert’ (大漠判官 aka Da Mo Pan Guan), not like the impersonator of that one group who tried to rob Qiao Hua’s agency in the woods (and was also killed off by the guards awhile after). Anyway, he challenged Qing Long at the inn. It proved that they were a match for each other and Qing Long decided to join forces with them to go against the eunuchs, the guards, and Prince Qing (whom Qing Long found out had join forces with the eunuchs in an attempt to overthrow the emperor). In exchange for their help, Qing Long offered the golds that were transported by the guards. It was impossible and seemed too easy yet Qing Long convinced the Heavenly Eagles Clan that he wouldn’t go back on his words (aka letting the clan have all the golds).

What was admirable about Da Mo Pan Guan was not only the fact that he kept his words to help Qing Long, but he even interfered with the battle–aiding Qing Long when Qing Long was surrounded by the guards. Qing Long took a quick glance at him before turning his cautious eyes back on Xuan Wu, asking, “Da Mo Pan Guan, don’t you just know how to rob?” He returned those words by uttering, “I love to rob, but I love fighting more.” Witty exchange. Probably their first time fighting alongside one another and it was also the last since Mr. Heavenly Eagles Clan’s Leader got killed off after saving Qiao Hua and sending her off with his last words to Qing Long.

Kate Tsui appeared at various points of the movie and was known as the adopted daughter of Prince Qing. Her name was Tuo Tuo (脱脱) and she was one powerful fighter all right. She had major scenes with both Donnie and Chun. The fact that she was responsible for both guys’ death was even more chilling. It was hard to swallow but somehow that was some of the most powerful scenes. Tuo Tuo was not only skillful but she was so chillingly scary. She was one of the most powerful fighters in here yet in a way she was very pitiful because she was only her adopted father’s tool. She was only a killing machine. She ended up paying a price for all her dirty works. It was mentioned that Prince Qing had shed tears upon hearing about Tuo Tuo’s death but was it true? Not impossible but what was the point after she was dead? Or was it because he trusted her so he bestowed upon her shoulders of such duties? Something to think about really.

What was really cool about the whole thing was the number of gadgets each character possessed and/or specialized in. Vicki did not get to use as much since she did not have many fighting scenes though Qiao Hua’s bravery and intelligence made up for it. Among the other three characters, Donnie’s Qing Long beat the other two by miles since he had 14 blades, to begin with. There was also the whole idea with his wires that he manipulated to move from one location to others or hang loosely high above. He also had some of the other weapons inside the blade box, which was equally useful and not to be taken lightly by anyone–friends or enemies.

Chun came in second with Da Mo Pan Guan’s razor-sharp saber, lethal flying double saber, and hidden little arrows strapped on his leg. There were also the golden coins that he used as weapons, flicking it in the air–saving Qiao Hua that one time from her near death experience. Then the last one could be said as part of his clan’s weapon, which was the special bow and explosive arrows they shoot out to inflict damage from a distance. And did anyone realize how his image sort of looked like Jack Sparrow? (Okay, that was just me since it was a big difference between being a pirate and some person famous for roaming the sands.)

Kate’s Tuo Tuo came in third with only two gadgets–her long flexible rope and the sharp stick she used to strike at her enemies. Because she was extremely skillful, the lack of gadgets did not decrease her powerful stances either.

The other cast was as great though they only appeared at various points. Damian Lau was Councilor Zhao Shen Yan so he only appeared at the beginning and the little of the ending part because he was imprisoned for the majority of the movie. Still, that was a relief that he was alive and was able to reunite with his family. Law Kar Ying was portraying Eunuch Jia Jing Zhong–who taught Xuan Wu about the importance of success and only others were able to see that part of the achievement, not all the means that one used to reach that point; and was ironically killed by Xuan Wu for that same philosophy. Sammo Hung was Prince Qing–who was seen giving orders to Tuo Tuo at the beginning and then was seen near the end with the voice-over of Qiao Hua telling the audience that he committed suicide before his execution date. It was interesting to see Wu Ma as Vicki’s father in here also–though brief but convincing. The production team should not be forgotten either because, without them, it was not possible.

The plot aka the story itself was another typical corrupted officials, eunuchs, incapable kings, heroes among thieves with the mixture of subtle romance, friendship, and companionship. Yet what made up for the rest of the story was the fighting sequences. It was enjoyable that it made way for lots and lots of fighting scenes yet the story still made sense. They did not linger long to drag out the feelings between Qing Long and Qiao Hua nor were they stressing too much of the ‘knowing the hero, respecting the hero’ concept between Qing Long and Da Mo Pan Guan.

It was there through the stories told or brief words exchanged. It was not dragged out or overly dramatic about the themes mentioned. The humor was subtle, really subtle so I was glad of that. You know it was there, but it was not dragged out OR to the point where you roll your eyes and mutter, “Lame.” It was in there at certain points to ease the moment or showed to some extent that they were not in danger–yet. All in all, the fighting scenes were well done. That was the hallmark of the movie and they had succeeded.

Acting? This was like 90% fighting between the main cast so I won’t say much but I thought they did their part to make it happen and that was what mattered. I thought it was a great opportunity for various cast members to learn from some of the veterans and/or the ones before them. Chun got his wish to work with Donnie and that was great. Not sure about Kate but I’m sure she learned and interacted with all the cast members well enough to make it work. She had fun with her action scenes–it seemed, but probably a lot of hard work for everyone involved, including herself. One thing I noticed was practically everyone had to maintain their cool looks throughout. It was hard not to, considering how the story was. Everything was so intense. So that was an easy part? OR was that a challenge to try and not laugh?

Recommended or not? I thought it was worth it for action movie fans. But it depends on your standard. I am no expert, so I can’t speak out of professionalism. But I thought it was one of the best out there.

*All images were scanned and/or captured by DTLCT

Ticket

*WARNING*: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you DO NOT want to be spoiled, please DO NOT read. You have been warned.

A journey to find one’s own identity has been done numerous times with emotional breakdowns. But this one is totally different from that. I was thinking that it would began with some really touching story and the whole growing up process before the actual journey to find out what had happened. So it’s really nice to see it differently with Yu Tong all grown up and has a career going already before going on the journey to find her parents.

Although the character was well crafted, I must say I was quite confused with Zuo Xiao Qing’s actions and emotions she displayed at various points of the movie. She seemed to display a contradicting attitude toward some parties or something. I could not relate to the fast transition between the aggressive, non-believer attitude when she was desperately trying to interview Mrs. Lin at the beginning and then changed her point of views afterward upon seeing how strongly Mr. and Mrs. Lin (portrayed by Chin Siu Ho and Liu Si Tong) felt toward their child–although there was such a slim chance of the baby surviving. However, I thought that other cast made it more bearable to watch, such as Nicky Wu’s charming performance as the mischievous yet considerate Zhi Xuan. Cecilia Yip made a guest appearance as Sister Zeng but was more convincing than ever with her brief scenes.

Aside from the subtle yet moving plot with various characters and their interactions in here, the scenes were also nice to see, especially the part where Zhi Xuan and Yu Tong were walking to the little village surrounded by water. There was also a part where they had to use the pulley to cross this one river. It was quite interesting because Nicky could show off his stunts. (I honestly hope he did it for real and not using a double to fool us.)

There were also other scenes as well to see the different regions and how different their lifestyles were. A lot of inspirational messages were weaved into this movie–both subtle and outright obvious. However, it was not overdone. It might receive some harsh critical comments for boredom or whatever else, but it was not meant to entertain. It was more to inform and let everyone see a different perspective.

The lighting might not be up to par in some of the scenes, but it was intended to show the realism of the actual environment that the people were living in, like the scene shown above.
Anyway, although I complained about Zuo Xiao Qing’s acting earlier, I must admit she did have the image for portraying such a role. Yes, her acting was not up to it. But she did have the look for it. Plus, she was cute with the scenes that were required for her playful actions. She just needed to convey her emotions more appropriately for the more controversial scenes. However, she did improve in the later scenes of the drama–not sure if it was filmed out of sequence but she did better in some scenes versus others. I especially like the scene where Yu Tong was trying to re-live the memory of her mother trying to bring her across the river by using the pulley and her (the mother’s) own strength to complete the mission. It was like she (Yu Tong) was trying to reconnect to the past and think in her mother’s situation of the hardship.

Another scene was the part where Yu Tong finally learned the truth that her mother never abandoned her, to begin with. The realization made her dazed and disoriented, grabbing onto Zhi Xuan for support–literally, trying to remember back. It was fast but traumatizing at the same time. However, Zuo Xiao Qing needs to stop breathing so hard. It would’ve been better to display her shocked and overwhelming feelings by using her hands or other gestures to convey the message better. (Breathing too much made it seem like she was suffering from an asthma attack.) The initial part with the breathing was a bit too much but the crying scene after improved a bit more.

Zuo Xiao Qing does look cute with Nicky though.

Talking about Nicky, even with age, he still has it with the whole acting. Didn’t deteriorate at all. Haven’t seen him since Heroes on a Silk Road (and that was ages ago). I just realized he’s turning 39 this year but wow. (Yes, you can see the age–sort of–but still a bit unbelievable.)
Back to the movie, it was very worthwhile watching it. After so many melodramatic productions, I think this would come off as a breath of fresh air. (Based on my opinion so don’t take my word for it.) This sort of restored my faith for watching more movies instead of just TV serials.

There were of course some very humorous scenes in here–although kind of subtle to ease the thick intense atmosphere that was building around the whole journey Yu Tong was traveling through to uncover the truth. I’m talking about the guide (portrayed by Wu Ma) that they hired who was really full of himself for most of the movie, causing many humorous scenes. He referred to himself as the ‘living map’ and was also weaving his way into being an interpreter. It was hilarious that Zhi Xuan let him have his moments. Even if he was kind of humorous with his ‘know-it-all’ gestures but I must give him credit for taking it into his hand to lead the principal over to them so that the truth would come out instead of the one-sided assumptions from Yu Tong when they discovered her mother’s whereabouts. It really showed a different side of him versus the whole ‘goofy’ side. It also played into the whole idea with him being a ‘guide’ and then he was guiding the truth toward Yu Tong. (Neat concept!)

The most brilliant part of the story must be paving the way for Yu Tong’s mother and making us viewers guessing why. It was still typical that we might guess it was just for some selfish reason. But in this case, it was really for the ‘greater good’, not the usual ones that people toss around so loosely. That wasn’t the brilliant part I meant to say either. The brilliant part was where Yu Tong finally held all the pieces of the puzzle to her mother’s past, connecting with hers and looking toward the horizon. We then see the scenes of Yu Tong’s childhood but this time from her mother’s point of view. It was honestly touching with the music playing in the background and her subtle appearances at various points of Yu Tong’s life but making such an impact. (Worth a bunch of tears if you ask me.)

The ending scene was also a test of several related cases in this movie, i.e. the scene where the Taxi driver almost lost his kid. To say it in a mean sense, it would’ve been his ticket to freedom. But he chose to seek help in searching for his son again thus proving that he was a responsible and loving father. It really tied back to the first story at the beginning of the movie.

Conclusion? You just have to watch it to know what it’s like. But then again, if you think it’s too boring or not your type, you shouldn’t torture yourself with it.

*Note*: This movie was actually adapted by Director Jacob Cheung from Professor Lee Chia Tung’s short story “Ticket”.

*All images were scanned or captured by DTLCT