Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (Yi Tian Tu Long Ji), the 2009 Version’s Rant





Amongst the Condor Trilogy by Jin Yong his last the Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre is my favourite. No matter how many Wu Xia series I watch I think I would still love Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre the most. I love almost everything about it. Almost.

The one and only thing that I don’t like about this great series is its male lead. Zhang Wu Ji. He has everything a hero should have: the looks, the lineage, the superior fighting skills, the big heart and the die-hard followers. His one and only weakness is women.

Despite being a great hero and all as a man I don’t consider him as an admirable one. I mean if he could be considerate yet decisive in his dealing with other people – should be read as men – all those admirable traits should also be applied when he is dealing with women. Unless he considers women less important than men hence not worthy of the same courtesies.

As I already mentioned above, Zhang Wu Ji’s interpersonal skills with other men are excellent but I hate the way he behaves around and deals with the five, okay, not five but four women in his life. And it is only four because Yang Bu Hui whom he’s saved and taken care of along their journey to find her father decides early in the game that she wants to marry his sixth uncle instead of him. Otherwise I could just imagine the kind of fights that we’ll see. The fights of five women over one wussy man.

I’m not blaming him for the fact that they all love him, at least not 100%, what turns me off is that knowing they all love him he chooses to do nothing about it. I mean if you know someone loves you –in his case it’s four women – and they declare their intentions to spend the rest of their lives with you, if you’re not freaking out or thanking God for his blessings what would you do?

Well, whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll have at least something to say.

But our hero Zhang Wu Ji doesn’t feel the slightest alarm or inclination to clarify things when he hears declaration of love and devotion from his servant Xiao Zhao. When she says she wants to spend the rest of her life serving him and asks him to take her along with him wherever he goes, he is happily accepting that ‘forever’ request.

Is he stupid or what? Does he think it’s fine to have this incredibly beautiful girl with him for the rest of her life and his for that matter without her ever marrying anybody else and just be his faithful servant? And if he marries won’t he consider how his wife would feel about this girl who is obviously in love with her husband? Let’s not forget that he’s already declaring himself as Yin Li/Zhu Er’s husband. With her temperament does he think she’ll let this out of this world beauty to stick to her husband and her ugly self?

Even Guo Jing the stupidest hero in Jin Yong’s trilogy from The Legend of Condor Heroes knows how to make the hard decision when it comes to the women in his life!

*Taking a deep breath to calm self*

I would like Zhang Wu Ji much better if he could be honest and straight forward with those girls and himself to prevent the heartaches and him looking like either a player or a man without honor.

No matter what time you’re in – Zhang Wu Ji was centuries behind this permissive age – or what culture you’re from –he’s from old China that was very strict in its rule of conducts between men and women – it’s wrong for a man to treat women as nicely and familiarly as he treats the women around him, and not expecting them to fall head over heels in love with him.

I know his character is written that way – so perhaps I should blame Jin Yong instead and agree with those who accuse him of being sexist – but I still long to hear him saying things like the simple ’I love you too ’or ‘Thank you for loving me but there are three other women who love me too. So how about the five of us live together happily ever after.’ Or ‘What? Sorry honey. I like you a lot. Don’t mind hugging and kissing you. But I already got myself a wife.’ Or ‘Er..…I need a little bit more time. If the other girls die, leave, or turn evil, I’ll marry you!’

A friend asks me why do I watch all the remakes of Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre and whatever version that will come later when I already know its story by heart. Good question. With the way the male lead’s character irritates the hell out of me I shouldn’t bother.

为什么? Why? I guess the answer is because I’m desperately looking for a version where I could at least hate Zhang Wu Ji less. Too bad that instead of finding Zhang Wu Ji’s redeeming quality I keep seeing new scenes which drive me even madder.

The 2009 Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre remake is extremely successful in intensifying all my hate for Zhang Wu Ji. In this version Deng Chao’s Zhang Wu Ji becomes extremely free and open with his affections. He touches, hugs, and kisses. No, I’m not exaggerating. This Zhang Wu Ji kisses girls!

Apparently coming from the 21st century the script writers of the 2009 Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre has completely forgotten that Zhang Wu Ji lives in the 14th century where the briefest look and merest touch are more than enough to convey one’s hidden feelings.

I’m perfectly fine if they want to change one or two things from the original story and make cute memorable lines and gestures all they like, in fact please do, but I’m terribly upset when they take liberal liberty in changing the main story and thus turning the already not that sterling male lead into a despicable man!

Hating is not fun. It’s hard to hate the male lead in your favourite series. It’s hard to hate the main guy when you love the main girl to pieces. It’s hard to watch your favourite couple together and make you all bubbly with happiness when in the next instant that very same guy is romancing other girls. Three other girls with the same intensity and smooth romantic lines!

For those who are not familiar with the story I apologize for not giving the necessary background of the characters and the plot in the first place. Yi Tian Tu Long Ji is about the rebellion of the Han Chinese against their rulers who are from Yuan Dynasty (Mongolians).

However, for decades their rebellions are not coordinated, sporadic and done individually until the Ming sect under Zhang Wu Ji’s leadership unites all the sects in the martial world and launches their attacks in the form of military offences.

When they finally succeeds in defeating the Yuan Dynasty Zhang Wu Ji is asked to be the new King but he refuses to be the first King of the Han people’s Dynasty and chooses to leave all the fame and glory behind just to be with the woman he loves.

The 2009 Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre tries to create a new angle in its efforts to foster Zhang Wu Ji – Zhou Zhi Ruo’s pairing but since this particular angle is not consistent with the original storyline it only makes Zhang Wu Ji looks worst than he already does. As for other characters they look like they are being possessed by alien and we could no longer find their original personalities.

The somber Zhou Zhi Ruo turns into Zhao Min wannabe. While Zhao Min turns into a quiet and meek girl. The vengeful Zhu Er who hates Zhou Zhi Ruo's guts after her resurrection suddenly becomes full of mercy and goes batty again when she’s supposed to be cured.

The ending of the 2009 version pisses me off real bad!

Let’s bring on board some of its predecessors to see how they are doing:

1) The original, the 1986 Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre:
It doesn’t have the great special effects or beautiful clothes that the latter versions have but it is perhaps the closest to its original story (the novel). Tony Leung who plays Zhang Wu Ji has tons of screen charms so his Zhang Wu Ji mostly comes off as an adorable naïve fool – not a player – who falls for every pretty face he sees. While Kitty Lai’s Zhao Min is probably my favourite Zhao Min.

2) TVB production, the 2000 Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre:
It features Lawrence Ng as Zhang Wu Ji and Gigi Lai as Zhao Min and if my hazy memory serves me right it doesn’t turn me into a complete hater of Zhang Wu Ji’s character.

3) The 2003 remake:
This Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre gives us a very beautiful couple. Alec Su as Zhang Wu Ji and Allissa Chia as Zhao Min. It has a few scenes that bring forth my dislike for Zhang Wu Ji’s character’s flaws but on the other side it also has many cute and memorable scenes to redeem itself. And I love their Zhang Wu Ji and Zhao Min’s moments so much. Have I mentioned how beautiful Alissa Chia is?

Ady An’s Zhao Min is probably the most beautiful Zhao Min ever however her Zhao Min is the weakest Zhao Min of all. The 2009 version’s Zhao Min has lost her edges. She loses her cunning, wickedness and even pride.

They turn her into a mere puppet of Chen Kun. Someone who just unknowingly falls into his plans while in the previous Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre remakes the down fall of the martial world is brilliantly orchestrated by Zhao Min while Chen Kun just jumps into her band wagon when he sees that it would fit perfectly with his plan to destroy Ming sect.

Princess Min Temur (Zhao Min) is called the Evil Woman and hated by all the leaders of the biggest sects in the land with a good reason. But the 2009 version changes this brilliant, shrewd and prideful Princess into a stalker and submissive girl.

One of my most hated scenes is when Zhao Min follows Zhang Wu Ji and Zhou Zhi Ruo while they have their romantic outing. Argh, how I hate that scene! It’s so not Zhao Min! I won’t forgive the writers for destroying my favourite female character like this. There’s so much more to rant but I’ll stop here.

I desperately need a new version of Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre ASAP to erase all the bad after tastes that refuse to go away after seeing the 2009 version of Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Most guys won't like Zhao Min character. It is so guy like. So tomboy. If a guy has a character like Zhao Min, that's fine, but not a girl. This comment comes from a guy. I have asked some guys. Most guys do not like Zhao Min character. There is no beauty at all in her character. Before turning into evil, Zhi Ruo character was very girly. That's what most guys like.

Fixy said...

Thanks for the comment.
I have long suspected that your preference might also be the preference of other males at large and that's why most second female lead characters are being written as an angelic, softly spoken, well mannered girl who moves with the grace of a goddess. They are loved by practically everyone (especially the males) ^_^
I admit that my favourite heroines are the complete opposite, the very feminine characters are generally not to my liking they tend to drive me nuts with their helplessness.
Thanks for sharing your point of view. I know some girls who are also fans of (rooting for) Zhi Ruo and not Zhao Min ^-^

Anonymous said...

Hello, actually the scene you were talking about when Zhao Min was stalking Zhang Wu Ji and Zhou Ji Ruo being all romantic and such is not a made up scene by the writers or producer. Instead that scene was an original scene from the book. The 2009 version follows the book a lot.

Fixy said...

Oh. Thanks for the info. I admit I don't read the original novel. What I have read are the translations which might not be accurate and perhaps even differ greatly from the original one.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can read the Chinese novels myself ^_^

Zai said...

You totally should watch the Taiwan 1994 version!! It has the least wishy washy ZhangWuJi. His love for ZhaoMin is firm even from the start. And at some episodes towards th end, he stands for her (when she was accused of being a spy in Ming cult). Yes, maybe i'm the odd few who love 1994 HSDS (many people hate it to the bone, some say it has the least pretty ZhaoMin, which makes me sad bcos Cecilia Yip did amazing job potrayed ZhaoMin).
Honestly, i love all movies and tv adaptations of HSDS, i love the story too much!!
I read the novel too, I can say The most faithful to the novel was HSDS 2009. I hate the ending though, which follows JinYong second revision :(
Anyhow, i'm so happy to find you, fellow indo, who love HSDS too!!
Greetings from Semarang

Fixy said...

Hi Zai, sorry for the late reply. I just return from North Sumatera today and your comment just make my day.

Now, that you mentioned it (that Taiwanese's version), was it the one where Zhao Ming (she was called Tio Beng if I'm not mistaken) kissed and bit Zhang Wu Ji's lip? If that's the version you're talking about then I saw it and just like you totally love that one too!

IMO, that kissing scene was still one of the best scenes in all HSDS's scenes.

Thank you for your comment and for introducing yourself. Very warm greetings from Jakarta ^_^

darthbreakout said...

I never liked Zhang JiZhong's Jin Yong adaptations. I especially hated ROCH 2006. I also have a vague memories of watching a version of HSDS in 2004. But, wow I have to say I really enjoyed HSDS 2009. I really hated the repetitive [CGIed] sceneries and almost abandoned the series at the beginning, but Jin Yong's magic kicked in shortly after.

Having said all of that, Wuxia (and all forms of escapisms for that matter) is supposed to be fantasy that feeds our egos. What fantasy doesn't involve the main hero having a harem of women to choose from, being feely touchy with each of them? In this respect, I'm quite OK with the 2009 version.

Next, I only watched HSDS in its entirety only having watched Yu Zheng's Swordsman (2013), another Jin Yong's adaptation of Xiao Ao Jiang Hu. I also hated the main protagonist there, but really love series overall. I noticed DongFang BuBai (DFBB) in Swordsman 2013 bore a remarkable resemblance to Zhao Min in both dress style and character! Obviously Yu Zheng borrowed from Zhang Jizhong. But DFBB is the most kickass character in Swordsman, and so is Zhao Min in the 2009 adaptation. In swordsman, I only liked the lead female character DFBB, in HSDS 2009, I like both Zhang WuJi and Zhao Min!

Fixy said...

I'm not quite sure that I like the Smiling Proud Wanderer, but, I totally love Ren Ying Ying character (the one played by Anita Yuen in State of Divinity).

Swordman (2013) looks pretty but having loving Anita Yuen's Ren Ying Ying, it's hard for me to imagine myself rooting for DFBB (although I must agree with you that she looks extremely awesome). It's like switching from rooting for Zhao Min to Zhao Ji Rou.

BTW, who is the ultimate couple in Swordman 2013?