Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Legend of the Demigods <搜神傳> - Review

*Warning - Spoilers Ahead*
*Credit to Asianfanatics for the cast profile pictures*

Analysis of Portrayal of Main Characters:

Linda Chung Ka Yan as Gwai Choi Chi / Ho Choi Mui - Optimistic about life, Gwai Choi Chi, known by her friends and family as Ho Choi Mui, is passionate about helping others, especially those who are in need of it. She always looks at the optimistic side of things. Her catch phrase is "siu hao seung hoi, ho choi zhi loi," which basically means that if you face things with optimism and a smile, good luck and fortune will find itself to you. She's the classic good character, who cares and loves for everyone, even the bad guys. Sometimes she would be so nice that I would think how could she even think about doing that?
Overall, it's a pretty simple character for Linda to portray, with not
much complexity. This is Linda's first role as the lead actress, because it was filmed two years ago. The time since then has been used to complete all of the special effects. I would have liked that the role be more complex and challenging, but it's understandable that they created a simple role for Linda's first series as the lead. She did a good job with what was given to her.

Sunny Chan Kam Hung as An Hei - Simple and somewhat naive, An Hei begins the series as a narcoleptic goof, who is shunned for being lazy. His sleepiness is caused by a curse placed on his grandfather by a servant who was ill treated and died in the house. He is given a rusted sword by "Wong Dai Seen" which is revealed to contain a sword spirit (Stephan Au). This spirit, Gon Cheung, helps An Hei gain the confidence that he lacks and has the ability to possess him in times of need. Eventually the two characters develop a deep friendship that is strong enough that An Hei can kill Gon Cheung in order to fulfill his wish of being with Ka Lau Loh.
Sunny is one of my favorite actors in TVB, and I thought that the character of An Hei was really fun. He played some of the comedic relief and his character is just simply likable because he's so naive and he doesn't think of the wrong things. I enjoyed the storyline between him and Linda, though I didn't quite like how it ended with the two basically forgetting that they got married. What's that about? Overall, Sunny played the character well.

Benny Chan Ho Man as Sek Kam Dong - Given increased strength by Wong Dai Seen, Sek Kam Dong uses his newfound power to bully the townspeople into doing whatever he wants. Having been bullied before, he wants to make sure that he doesn't ever have to be in that situation again. He is best friends with Ho Choi Mui, but his bullying ways have led them to come upon disagreement time and time again. When An Hei comes into the picture, Sek Kam Dong picks and bullies him, causing further rifts between him and Ho Choi Mui. Though he seems like a bully, Sek Kam Dong does have a valiant side to him. He comes to discover what friendship really means on his journey with Ho Choi Mui and An Hei.
As the comedic role, I think Benny did an ok job with the character. I think
the writing for Sek Kam Dong was totally over exaggerated, and could have been toned down a bit.. ok a lot. The snorting was unnecessary. I thought it was just kinda kiddish and dumb. I'm not a big fan of comedy where they over act and do stupid things to try to make you laugh. I like more wit behind my comedies, so I wasn't a fan of the comedy aspect of this character (in fact, I'm not a fan of Canto comedies in general). As for character development, I thought that it was nice to see a change in the character from beginning to end, but it wasn't a total 180 degree turn. He still retained some of the selfishness that was there from the beginning. Overall, I didn't really like Benny's acting here, but that's not to say I don't like Benny as an actor.

Halina Tam Siu Wan as Mo Kik Tin Cheun - As the centuries old ruby snake spirit, Mo Kik Tin Cheun was hurt by the man she loved, leading her to go astray on her path to becoming an immortal. From the hatred that the betrayal caused her to have, Mo Kik Tin Cheun creates her source of power. She uses it to seduce and harm innocent people into helping her achieve her ultimate goal - to kill her former lover.
Halina Tam plays the character pretty well, but I would have liked to see more fierceness. Some of the scenes in which she was supposed to be really evil, she didn't pull off well enough, in my opinion. She didn't always really demonstrate the power that Mo Kik Tin Cheun is supposed to have through how she carried herself. It's a bit hard to explain. Anyway, I thought her story with Timothy's character was pretty interesting, and it concluded in a way I didn't expect which was nice. All in all, an interesting character, though I think Halina could have shown a bit more intensity with the evil role.

Kara Hui Ying Hong as Cho Mong Yao / Ho Choi Ma - Dropped from the sky as an immortal plant, Cho Mong Yao fell in love with a doctor who helped to heal her wounds after she descended from the Heavens. Together, they have Ho Choi Mui, who they raise to become a very optimistic young woman. When Ho Choi Mui is taken to the Underworld, she sacrifices half of her immortal pearl to save her, giving Ho Choi Mui partial immortality and some powers. She is captured by Mo Kik Tin Cheun so that she can use her immortal tears to heal Tin Cheun's scarred and snaky face. She remains there until near the end of the series when Ho Choi Mui, An Hei, and Sek Kam Dong go to save her.
As an actress, I like Kara Hui because she is able to really put emotion into the characters. I think Ho Choi Ma's character is a bit on the bland side, and it was much more fun with Ho Choi Ma's immortal sister, who was more of an airhead. Kara didn't really have much of a chance to display her array of acting abilities due to the fact that she was captured for much of the series, but she did a good job.

Stephan Au Kam Tong as Gon Cheung - Released from the sword which he and his wife made in lives past, Gon Cheung is given to An Hei by Wong Dai Sin as an indirect way to help him. When An Hei is in possession of the sword, Gon Cheung is able to possess him and help him in battles. An Hei comes to rely on Gon Cheung more and more as the series progresses, and Gon Cheung tries to build An Hei's self-confidence. Toward the end, he is taken by Mo Kik Tin Cheun and made into her evil warlord. The only way to save him is to kill him, which is the final step in An Hei's journey to becoming a real fighter who believes in himself.
Going into this series, it was a bit difficult to take Gon Cheung seriously at first since I've seen him in 200+ episodes of Best Selling Secrets haha It took a few episodes, but I was finally able to separate Gon Cheung from Mo Gei Yung. That being said, I enjoyed this character, and I think Stephan did a great job with him. The quirkiness and the seriousness were all handled nicely. It was especially funny in the beginning when Gon Cheung wouldn't let An Hei do anything that was disrespectful (in Gon Cheung's eyes) to the sword, like let Linda hold it, or take it to the bathroom haha As I will explain, Gon Cheung and Gah Lau Loh's story is my favorite relationship in this series.

Nancy Wu Ding Yan as Gah Lau Loh - Loyal servant to Mo Kik Tin Cheun, Gah Lau Loh does not question her master, and seems to follow her in a zombie like fashion. She holds one of the swords that Gon Cheung and his wife, Mok Chie, made in the previous life, causing Gon Chueng to take an interest in how she obtained it. As Gon Cheung investigates this, Gah Lau Loh cannot help but feel a connection between the two. She realizes that she is Mok Chie and that she has had her personality and heart stolen from her by Mo Kik Tin Cheun. When she is able to retrieve it, Gon Cheung has already turned evil, but she stays with him to try to snap him out of the spell. Ultimately, she and Gon Cheung die together again, with the help of An Hei, and their two blades are melded into a sphere, symbolizing their endless love for each other through their lives.
I really do think Nancy Wu is one of the most underrated actresses of TVB. She's given many of the more complex roles, in which she is neither completely good nor entirely evil. This is the same case with Gah Lau Loh, though I think the acting was a bit dull and monotonous, though not Nancy's fault. She had to speak in an almost monotone voice, which gave the effect that she was like a zombie slave to Mo Ki Tin Cheun, but I thought it made the character a bit bland. But, Nancy didn't disappoint, especially after she got her spirit back. She effectively showed how pained and sorry she was that she and Gon Cheung were in such an ironic situation. It's a pity she really didn't get to play with that aspect more, since she died shortly after, though her and Gon Cheung's deaths were nicely done. I think Nancy did wonderfully with the character, and hope TVB gives her more of these complex and unique roles that they fear to give to their main leads.

Favorite Scenes:
The marriage scene at the end between Sunny and Linda was very touching. Seeing Sunny holding an old and withered Linda was very heart-wrenching. And when Linda wouldn't let Sunny leave the room because she wanted her last moments to be with him was a tear jerker.
2. The entire storyline between Stephan and Nancy. Their story was one of the more interesting ones in the series, because it told of love that did not die even when the people themselves died. Nancy was taken by Halina and displaced from body to body until she had no more feelings and could not love any more, while Stephan could not bear the death of his wife so much that he would rather be contained in a sword for hundreds of years than go into the next life. Their ending was also very bitter sweet, as it was up to Sunny to use their two swords to eternally piece them together, even though it effectively killed them.

The Ending:
The ending of this series was pretty good. I liked how they wrapped up the story in a simple and clean way, and didn't leave us hanging about what happened. The ending with Halina Tam and Timothy Cheng was nice, and something I did not expect. It's been a while since I was actually surprised by something in a TVB series! I thought that one or the other of them would die, since they destroyed one of the snake's essence. But the idea that they became a two headed snake took me by full surprise. It was a neat idea, seeing as how the two characters were still in love with each other, but there were too many misunderstandings between the two, causing them to separate and be apart. So now, once each of their true feelings for each other came out, and with the sacrifice that Timothy made for Halina, the two can be together forever.

As for the ending for the three main characters, I think it was appropriate for them to become gods who protect the world from demons. The whole build up for them was that they would use their powers to help the people of the world defend against evil spirits and demons, so it was apt when they ended up becoming gods in this way. Also, it was cool that they were gods together, because it was stressed throughout the series that the three of them must have a single heart in order for them to succeed in their arduous mission. However, there was one thing that I did not like about the ending. Linda and Sunny had gotten married and it was evident that they were greatly in love with each other, but their ending lacked closure. All of a sudden, Linda doesn't want to be with him? That just doesn't make sense to me. It could be because generally, gods are not supposed to have love because it's simply against the rules. I don't know, but I definitely would have liked that Linda and Sunny be together in the end after all the build up in their relationship.

Overall, Legend of the Demigods was an entertaining series. It got a bit boring toward the middle, with the repetition in the journey of the three main characters, but I didn't feel the need to stop watching. I personally love the fantasy genre and am particularly interested in the history behind Chinese mythology and the intricacies that are involved. The story was decent, but definitely not up to par with some of the other mythologically based TVB series, like Gods of Honour.

One thing that distracted me a bit in this series was the computer generated effects. For the first few episodes, they were horribly fake looking and not at all convincing. I know that TVB doesn't have the budget to keep up with the CGI standards of Hollywood, but they've done way better than this in the past. If my memory is correct, I think the effects for Gods of Honour were better looking than in here. I do have to say that it gets better as the series progresses. Either that, or I just got used to seeing them. This is just a minor distraction for me, and it didn't take away from the story. It did make me laugh a few times when it wasn't supposed to though haha

If you have time, and enjoy mythological stories, I would recommend this series to you. The story is decent and the acting is good for the most part. If you don't have time and must decide on what series to watch, you could skip this one and go for something else. If you're a Linda or Sunny fan then you may want to watch. Overall, it's a fairly average series. It's the first ancient period series that TVB has released in a while so it is a nice refreshment from the moderns series.

Overall Rating - 84/100


Anonymous said...

You gave a really good review for this drama. I could not even take in the first episode of the series. Too exaggerated and not even funny. Gods of honor was far better.

Huy Tran said...

i liked your review! :) and hey! there's ancient drama coming out this year starring Bosco and Rico. i'd love to read a review for that too. and yeah, Gods of Honour was the best. Benny's character was so much cooler in that.