(image credit: as marked)
Interestingly, I never reviewed this either. Or at least, I didn’t care to go back, lol. I just didn’t feel like doing that at that time. I don’t know. I guess I might as well since I had some notes and all. How was it? Mixed feelings throughout actually. I guess it was inevitable–due to the fact that this wasn’t the first version ever to be made. But there were some things that stuck out, which were hard to ignore. I’ll start with the usual, of course, before diving in deeper.
- Li Yi Tong (李一桐) as Huang Rong (黄蓉). She was adorable. If you could say that about Huang Rong, that was. She could be so mischievious at times too. If you read the novel or watched past adaptations, you get the idea. I don’t need to say it anymore. But what made her different and stood out for me was how the production team didn’t cut back on her martial arts scenes. I don’t know. In the past, only one person who portrayed Huang Rong made an impact for me during fight scenes and that was Athena Chu. (Yes, I loved Barbara Yung and she’s irreplacable and made an impact and was also my favorite Huang Rong but the production team cut back and downplayed her fight scenes so she didn’t shine in that area for me. There was a lot of awesomess about her, so that part could be overlooked.) Yes, I said it. But Athena’s fight scenes (especially the part they snuck into the enemy’s camp to investigate at the beginnning and she used various martial arts techniques to fend off her opponents. That was one of the scenes that defined her character but past adaptation had failed.) Anyway, back to Li Yi Tong’s scenes, I loved her martial arts scenes even more. Although, the production team did exaggerate at some parts, but it actually enhanced Huang Rong’s martial arts skills and made up for all the versions that downplayed her skills. I meant we heard from other characters about her background and having inherited all her father’s skills–and much more. Yet it was like she didn’t get the chance to demonstrate her skills. This one, it gave Huang Rong plenty of space for that and Li Yi Tong carried out her role wonderfully throughout. She was witty, she was intelligent and could be so cunning time called for it. Other times when she was with Guo Jing, she let her innocent and gentle side came out, which was a nice touch because it showed a different side of her when she was with the one she loved.
- William Yang Xu Wen (杨旭文) as Guo Jing (郭靖). He was surprisingly impressive. Yes, it was mostly because he was brand new (or almost) at that time. No one really knew what to expect of him. Yet he delivered. He became my second favorite Guo Jing. Yes, I’m picky. Granted, Guo Jing is really hard to portary. He could be so noble and firm in his beliefs (mostly influenced by his upbringing) but could be so clueless about other stuff. It could be said that he was just simple-minded, uscheming and had a kind heart. William did really well potraying those characteristics. What made him a success for me was how he managed to portray the character in a normal sense, not slow his motor skills. What do I mean by that? Some of the past adaptations seemed to let on that just because Guo Jing was a toned down character and simple-minded (unscheming), he should be slow when it came to his motor skills too. (Well, unless it was during the fighting scenes, of course.) That was not the correct approach–just because some people thought that was how a simple character should be. William portrayed it in a way that was much more normal for Guo Jing’s age, considering how he was indeed exploring the various environments when the others led him back to the mainland. Then there were lots he had to learn about human mind, instead of his somehwat safe bubble since little. His reactions were normal and relatable, not just super slow and disorganized like some had portrayed previoulsy. So, yes, I credited him and the production for noticing those details and wanted to humanize his character even more instead of the robotic ways some had chosen to portray the character. Some ended up abandoning the approach halfway, which made the character even more contradictory thus failing. (That was why, aside from Felix, I hadn’t liked anyone who potrayed this character before.) The little details mattered. That was why William became my second favorite after watching.
- Zoey Meng Zi Yi (孟子義) as Mu Nian Ci (穆念慈). Unfortunately, she was a major disappointment as Mu Nian Ci. I actually liked her style at first with her powerful moves and her vibrant appearance at times. I felt it was a different type of character since to be honest, I never thought Mu Nian Ci could be a sexy type of character before and she brought that forward. It was a different feeling and I won’t stomp on that bit. However, her lack of participation in the main plot made me frustrated. Not like I wanted her to steal everyone’s spotlight by appearing at the wrong time—unlike a certain adaptation, but she was so inactive with helping Huang Rong and Guo Jing that I wondered what her role was in there. That scene when Guo Jing was attacked in the palace? She ended up running away and committing suicide instead of confronting Yang Kang and helping the other two. Sure, it was devastating for her to find out the truth about the man she loved, but I felt her lack of reaction made it frustrating. What about her friendship with the other two? Not to mention Guo Jing was on the brink of death. They actually somewhat reinvented her character, I wished they had thought it through carefully, considering how well they did to uplift the other two with some details I had mentioned.
- Chen Xing Xu (陈星旭) as Yang Kang (楊康). He wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the ultimate Yang Kang either. Yeah, I guess having Michael in the production made it a tad unease. I thought his best scenes were after he thought he lost Nian Ci and then eventually scheming against everyone, including Wanyan Honglie. He possibly gave his stepfather the creeps too sometimes because how the man stared at him from time to time, wondering what was going on in his head. It was near the end how he was going to go to the max with his evil plots. Because the rest didn’t make he feel he was Yang Kang. Just a casual villain.
- Five Invincible Beings
- Michael Miu as Huang Yao Shi. LOL! When the news came out, I laughed for half an hour straight. Okay, exaggerating here BUT seriously! He was Yang Kang in the past, so it took a lot of convincing to see him in the role of Huang Yao Shi. (Initially, because I changed my mind when I finally watched.) If I had to admit, he was the handsomest Huang Yao Shi. (Yeah, I said what I said, NOT sorry.) Okay, for real, though, it wasn’t surprising that Michael pulled it through with his acting chops. He might not be your typical Huang Yao Shi that you had in mind, but he sure delivered with his own version and made it convincing. His attitude was sure stingy and could be arrogant at times, lol. But he delivered.
- Hei Zi (黑子) as Ou Yang Feng (歐陽鋒). I thought he would have nailed this character without a doubt. But I was wrong. Considering how he had several similar roles where he was quite stingy and stubborn. Basically, hard to get along with and all. Perhaps, the scriptwriters wanted to dial it down a bit and make it different. Yet, it was the wrong call. Because he seemed much more reserved and polite that it made him less powerful in the grand scheme of things. Why would he be polite to those Jin royalties? He was a famous martial arts master after all. Wherever he went, he caused fear and havoc. He didn’t need all the decorum act. Yet those scenes where he was actaully polite to those people made me feel unease. It was so out of his character for someone like Ou Yang Feng. If he was being polite, it was just a facade. Like how he would do with the five invincible beings on the same level as him (because he was testing the water and didn’t want to rock the boat with them until he could beat them all). Yet this one showed genuine respect for some parties that made it hard to endure. To top it off, it seemed like he was getting chummy with the others whom the Jin royalties recruited to help their agenda. It was unbelivable. Seriously. (Yeung Chak Lam still the best, lol. Sorry, but he totally nailed the role.) But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the actor himself here. It was possibly due to the fact that the scripwriters wanted him to be different yet missed the mark on their experiment.
- Ray Lui as Reverend Yi Dang (一燈大師). After having seen him portrayed Bodhidharma, I had no doubt about it and he delivered. I know it has been a really long time since that past role. But this was considered a safe role for Ray. So, I didn’t think he needed a crash course or anything, lol.
- Zhao Li Xin is portraying Hong Qi Gong (洪七公). I surprisingly liked him much more than I expected. Mostly, because I didn’t know what to expect with some pictures and initial trailers. I really liked his humor, his mischievousness but also his serious side. The actor did really well to make the character likable and lively all around.
- Han Dong as Wang Chong Yang (王重陽). It was a brief and interesting appearance. He delivered. It wasn’t that hard, lol. But he made the character seemed serious and respectable enough for what was relevant to the story.
- Seven Freaks of Jiangnan
- Wang Kui Rong (王奎荣) as Ke Zhen E (柯鎮惡). The leader of the group.
- Ji Chen Mu (姬晨牧) as Zhu Cong (朱聰). The brain of the group.
- Wang Chun Yuan (王春元) as Han Bao Ju (韓寶駒).
- Ma Jing Jing (马京京) as Nan Xi Ren (南希仁).
- Xin Peng (信鹏) as Zhang A Sheng (張阿生).
- Long De (龙德) as Quan Jin Fa (全金發).
- Xiao Yin (肖茵) as Han Xiao Ying (韓小瑩). The only female member of the group.
- Mi Lu as Mei Chao Feng. She delivered her character well. No doubt about it.
- Zong Feng Yan (宗峰岩) is Wanyan Honglie (完颜洪烈). I thought he did a good job for his role. He was convincing.
- Liu Zhi Yang (刘智扬) as Ou Yang Ke (歐陽克). I got used to his image as I watched further into the series. I realized that since he came from a different place, it made sense that he was dressed differently. However, his character, that was a different story. All right, the background story was the same for the most part. It was different in a sense that it allowed us to see more into his character than what was on the surface. We got to see his vulnerable side and his emotional state with his abandonment issues and his struggles growing up. I welcomed those different interpretations. It made sense, considering where he came from and how he must have suffered because of his uncle’s techniques, etc. Yet that sort of presented this tricky situation and became a double-edged sword in the grand picture. How? It became an excuse for his behaviors later and how it projected this rapists apologist vibe major time. How in the world did I jump to such a conclusion? Ou Yang Ke was a serial rapist. Yet having him so relateable distracted some viewers major time and sympathized with him, even siding with him in some situations. There were comments circulating about how Huang Rong was cruel to him. It was disturbing, to say that least. Once again, I need to clarify that I’m not picking on the actor. I felt he did a good job portraying this adaptation’s version of the character and I could feel his pain at times with being abandoned by his father when little and was forced to be tough. However, the scriptwriters glossed over the fact that all the women that he kidnapped and raped didn’t do a thing wrong. He was a dangerous person, why should Huang Rong show him mercy? If he captured her, she would be Victim # who knows what. (Which didn’t make sense during the ship explosion incident that she entrusted her master to him. It was a ridiculous bit. It showed Huang Rong’s vulnerability at that point and she wasn’t thinking straight but I didn’t like that bit.)
- Ning Wen Tong as Zhou Bo Tong (周伯通). I thought he was funny at first and didn’t mind his over the top jokes. It was his own portrayal. However, I felt the script failed when he said that they might as well give the manual to Wanyan Honglie. Even that was a ridiculous comment no matter who said it, because although Zhou Bo Tong loved jokes and all, he was patriotic in his own way, knowing what was important and serious. He wouldn’t insist they hand the manual over.
- Zhang Kai Yi (张楷依) as Ying Gu (瑛姑). She was so beautiful and fitted the role so well. I actually really enjoyed watching her. Yeah, I know she went overboard with some stuff, but honestly, try to lose a kid and no one was on your side regarding situations, you would go psycho too. I seriously was floored that Huang Rong (regardless of versions) wasn’t on her side regarding what happened. Just because Yi Dang repented didn’t make things better (and possibly because he was her father’s friend). But seriously, Huang Rong was one of those characters that went against the general public’s opinions. Sure, it wasn’t Yi Dang’s fault technically because he didn’t attack the kid (and he indeed was in a hard situation, knowing possibly the enemy created a trap for him) BUT he didn’t save an innocent child when it called for it. He put his pride above all else. (So yeah, he was lost in my book anyway–regardless of version.) Anyway, back to Ying Gu, I felt she was once again blamed (just like Xi Ruo) because she was a beautiful woman. Sure, she committed infedility BUT it wasn’t like she could leave the royal palace and divorce the king and get out the relationship. (It was all right that the king had lots of wives though, let’s overlook that bit. Yeah, sarcasm here. I don’t care if they didn’t show every one of the king’s wives in here, you have to be crazy to think he was one loyal king to have only one wife.) You must be like, “But two wrongs don’t make a right.” If there weren’t so many double standards going on, I would have reconsider. But this? Also, Zhou Bo Tong was a coward and I hated him even more in this version than ever. He ran away and left her just like that because he couldn’t deal with his own problems. (Sure, it was fun watching him at times but to think about it more seriously, he wasn’t that likable either if considering all angles.)
- Xia Zi Tong (夏梓桐) as Sha Gu (傻姑). The actress was convincing in her role. She was kind of adorable too.
- Tay Ping Hui is Temujin (鐵木真) aka Genghis Khan (成吉思汗). No one could beat Paul Chun in the role, but Tay Ping Hui came to a close second with his portrayal.
- Dai Wen Wen (代文雯) as Hua Zheng (華箏). It was really hard to like her, regardless. I did consider all that they’d been through. But seriously, not much difference. Technically, she was the legit wife and Huang Rong was the third-party. However, the fact that Guo Jing never liked her and treated her like his sister and only reconsidered because of his supposed duties and gratitude toward her father said it for me. Sure, it wasn’t her fault she liked him, but the advantage was in her court when her father was so powerful.
- Fu Tian Jiao (傅天骄) as Jebe (哲別). Guo Jing’s archery master.
- Shao Bing as Guo Xiao Tian. Guo Jing’s father. Not much to say really except he sure was unlucky, lol. Shao Bing portrayed him well as an honest and patriotic character though.
- Zeng Li as Li Ping. Guo Jing’s mother. I like Zeng Li, really like her as actress and thought she did quite well in this role. However, character-wise? NOT really. Am I being petty because of how the plot favored her and paved her out to be an enduring mother, bringing up her son without needing to remarry? No, I just never liked her because of how hypocritcal her character turned out to be. Yes, I said it. I actually wrote the character analysis for Xi Ruo first before circling back to this one. Given the situation, do you think she wouldn’t choose the same thing as Xi Ruo? I swear! You’re all like, “But you don’t like what ifs and thought it was unfair if the plot picked on Xi Ruo.” Yes, I do. But there was a pattern to based it on. She didn’t have a problem with pushing her son to marry Hua Zheng. It was all right that she liked Hua Zheng as a person, but wanting to push her son just because she liked Hua Zheng? Was it to repay all those gratitude? But seriously, if given a chance and if Genghis Khan had picked her, would she turn him down? She might not love him, but she could have done it out of gratitude, just like how she pushed her son to do so. (Of course, things change later, but seriously.) Stop making it like the hero’s mom was all superior to the villain’s mom just because. AND I’m not trying to pit the two women (Li Ping and Xi Ruo) against one another by doing the comparison or getting into this ridiculous debate that probably no ones cares about (because it is all fictional), but the plot did that.
- Li Zong Han as Yang Tie Xin. Yang Kang’s father. I never really liked him regardless, so not much to say really. It was interesting to see him portraying this character though.
- Crystal Liu Qian Han as Bao Xi Ruo. Yang Kang’s mother. I surprisingly liked her a lot more in this version. I thought it was a matter of perspective and I welcomed it more, actually. Some of the past versions made her out to be the villain straight away, no thought process whatsoever just because she followed another man. Yet, this one allowed us more time to explore her character individually than was just the surface of the plot with laying out the sequence of events unfolding. I thought the scenes of how they gave equal time to both of the widows and to-be-mothers’ struggles and journey after the tragedies made it better. Yes, some of the past adaptations also did that, but they highlighted and elevated Li Ping more because she was the hero’s mother. However, this one showed us how vividly Xi Ruo felt after the tragedy and the hardships she went through. She didn’t ask for all of the tragedies either, how the world was she supposed to know she saved the wrong person and thus unleashed a chain of events unknowingly? They glossed over the fact that she was also a vulnerable, pregnant woman all alone as well, NOT just Li Ping. Just because one was considered stronger physically didn’t mean that the other deserved all the hate because she was less capable. So, she remarried, but her thought process at that point was to protect her child. The safety of the baby was her priority and she might or might not made the best choice by following that dude. But she was in a very vulnerable state. Also, other versions totally hating on her for being beautiful (thus causing tragedies like that stupid old saying I hate). It wasn’t her fault she was beautiful. Besides, her beauty wasn’t forever, she’ll grow old one day too. Oh yeah, anyone felt like they should blame the dude who couldn’t control himself thus causing all these tragedies? Or her husband for knowing she was beautiflu and married her? (If she was so much trouble, why don’t you pick someone you don’t consider “beautiful” then? Then no tragedies. Yes, I’m on a roll, I’m not letting anyone off. Also, I’m sorry you’re so perfect, you know exactly what to do at the exact moment if you were to be thrown into the exact obstacle as hers.) If you’re like, “But they did condemn Wanyan Honglie.” Um, they hated him because he was part of the Jin empire and wanted to take over the Song dynasty. They didn’t focus as much on how he should be blamed for lusting after Xi Ruo, not being able to control himself. Yes, they did acknowledge he caused the deaths of Guo Xiao Tian and Yang Tie Xin (initially), but still acted like Xi Ruo was “the beauty causing the tragedies.”
Relationships – Friendships, romances, etc.
- William Yang/ Guo Jing and Li Yi Tong/ Huang Rong. They were so adorable and I loved them from the start. They were probably my favorite Guo Jing and Huang when focused on and I actually rooted for them throughout. (Once again, loved Felix and Barbara, but I actually loved watching Yang Kang and Nian Ci more in that version, lol. Don’t ask, blame Michael and Sharon.) Everything they went through–although the majority were almost the same because the creators of the series needed to stick with the original story, but some of their additional scenes were so cute. I could watch them forever, which is unrealstic, I know. But they were one of the rare few on screen couples of recent that made me feel excited to ship any pairing–for that matter, lol. Their chemistry were seriously off the charts for me. I looked forward to all their scenes together and hated that they had to be apart at any moment of the plot (didn’t matter if I knew that was how it was supposed to be). What was even more adorable? Not sure who posted it (possibly the production team or the actor/actress themselves), but there was there were several pictures floating around capturing a scene they were getting ready for the shoot. William helped Yi Tong combed her hair and all. It was so cute!
- Chen Xing Xu/ Yang Kang and Zoey Meng/ Mu Nian Ci. I don’t know. I saw some off screen pictures of them at different promotional events and they looked quite compatible, but on screen, not so much. It was possibly because they made her look older or something. NOT saying she’s old, lol. The image for her in there made her much more mature than his image in there. When I brought it up, someone said it was possibly they showed how she had traveled far and wide with her godfather and had endured a lot hence showing her more matured and experinced versus his having been in a royal bubble for all his life. That made sense and gave me something to think about. Anyway, together? Sometimes, I was convinced. I don’t know. (Once again, blame Michael and Sharon, lol. They made a strong impression on me ages ago and even overrode my focus toward Felix and Barbara, so what made you think these two could convince me otherwise?) I thought their acting individually and how they showed they cared about one another was convincing. But together, it seemed only so and so. Maybe it would have nice to see them in a modern background? LOL! Just a thought.
- The friendships between all the four major characters. I thought they had more foundation in here thus making the betrayals of later more heartbreaking. There were some scenes that was extended and showed us how the four of them shared a bond before things got even more serious with all the conflicts and complications that forced them all to pick sides. It was also interesting that they developed a separate friendship for Huang Rong and Nian Ci as well, not just somewhat interacting because their signicant others were sworn brothers. Well, they didn’t have a problem at all in some of the past adaptions. But sometimes the elders made it harder by pitching them against one another. Their genuine friendship in here made me felt their characters were also independent from their significant others as well, allowing them their own space. Like they weren’t mentioned just because of the other two characters. That was also one of the top reasons why I felt it was a joke regarding Nian Ci’s inactiveness in defense of Guo Jing and Huang Rong as said above. Perhaps, the writers gave up near the middle after they were done developing the initial scenes? I don’t know. I know, they had to make it different and gave us something else to think about. Yet it was hard to swallow.
- Shao Bing/ Guo Xiao Tian and Zeng Li/ Li Ping. Despite my criticisms of her character and all, I loved them as a couple. They sure had chemistry and showed their bond well during their brief appearances together.
- Li Zong Han/ Yang Tie Xin and Cyrstal Liu Qian Han/ Bao Xi Ruo. They matched and seemed like a model couple and all.
- Tribute to TVB’s ’83 version? I’m guessing but it seems so. Because they used to the theme song for the other version as a basis. They made it a softer version with music only. It was suitable though and a nice touch. One of the rare remixes that I liked.
- The parents’ stories were brief. Despite some extensions of scenes and exploration of characters added here and there, I felt it was nicely brief. Because TVB’s ’83 version sure dragged it out with the parents later on and the unnecessary back and forth. This being the umpteenth adaptation sort of helped pushing it forward and not dwell too long. But It was nice that they stuck through with making it brief instead of dragging it out on purpose so the actors and actresses had more scenes.
- Guo Jing actually apologized to Huang Yao Shi after the misunderstandings were resolved. I don’t remmeber what happened in the old versions anymore. Possibly he did and Huang Yao Shi just brushed it off as one of those polite stuff that he rather do without. But this one made it tenfold more sincere when Guo Jing tried to apologize for all the terrible stuff he did during the misunderstandings.
- Mu Nian Ci fallen down a cliff and still managed to NOT miscarry. Um, okay, I have to clarfiy, I have nothing against Little Yang Guo, okay? But that was one of the most unbelivable scenes ever. It was really hard to overlook. You know how high that cliff is? So yeah. That one dude fell off to his death while trying to grab onto Huang Rong’s condor. How could Nian Ci survived? You could say she fell where the trees were so she must have been saved by the branches versus the other dude falling down the rocky area. Even if she had fortunately survived, how could she not miscarry?
- Comments. This was one of the sole reasons why it took me forever to watch this. I didn’t finish until two years actually, lol. Because it got locked and then I sort of came back when it was unlocked. When I watched it while it was airing, I couldn’t turn off the comments at all and it was flying across the screen. It was so annoying. But those comments are seriously ridiculous and a good reason as to why I stop searching around for discussions in recent years. Why? Um, an example would be people picking on Guo Jing and Huang Rong for holding hands all the time when they were together. (If it was up to me, I would have cut all scenes without them and have them hold hands all throughout, lol. So, who needs the haters? LOL!) The thing was the people who picked on Guo Jing and Huang Rong for holding hands were the same ones who cheered for Yang Kang to impregnate Nian Ci so Yang Guo could come into existence. NO, I’m not jealous with them for cheering for their favorites. BUT seriously, read the line carefully again. It’s WAY up there and much more intimate than the whole holding hands bit. Seriously. I initially didn’t want to put this in here but had to get that off my chest.
Recommended? I think it’s up to you. Considering how this is the umpteenth adaptation now, I think it’s reasonable to opt-out, lol. It actually rings true for other series as well, lol. It’s all up to preference. I would say there were ups and downs of this version, like others as well. But the most important thing is you have to like the cast to enjoy it. Or you can just skip around, lol.