I know it can be terribly frustrating when people assume others know a story and don't bother explaining what its about, so I'll give a short summary.
Basically, China is being invaded, and there are two men who are sworn brothers and Chinese patriots. A Daoist priest assasinates a corrupt official and the priest and these two men become friends. It happens that these two men are about to both become fathers, as both their wives are pregnant. The Daoist names one Guo Jing and the other Yang Kang and leaves. A great tragedy occurs and Guo Jing's father is killed, and Yang Kang's father is presumed dead. Guo Jing's mother is kidnapped and ends up in Mongolia. Yang Kang's mother is deceived and ends up as the wife of a prince of the invading country. 18 years later, Guo Jing and Yang Kang are fated to meet back in their homeland...
Guo Jing (Character)
He stays true to his character in the novel, though I don't remember him angsting about not knowing his father this much. His learning of the pseudo Guo style of combat was unnecessary and when he finds out it was all fake...sad. I also don't remember Guo Jing dotng on Yang Kang this much. It irks me though, that the scenes where he captures Ou Yang Feng and releases him three times were cut out, because that showed so much of Guo Jing's development.
Hu Ge as Guo Jing 5/5
Honestly, I think Hu Ge does a great job as Guo Jing. He portrays his naive and stupid side very well, using his eyes to convey confusion and sincerity. I'm not sure whether the mature Guo Jing should be so melancholy, though for a while at the end of the novel, Guo Jing is depressed (Hu Ge seems too much so, to me though). Hu Ge is pretty much amazing whenever he has to portray a lot of grief/angst (see: his confrontation with Yang Kang right after the Beggar's Sect meeting, finding his masters' bodies at Peach Blossum Island, end of Mongolia)
Huang Rong (Character)
This Huang Rong is no different than the Huang Rong of the novel. Maybe she's more romantic, though that can be attributed to the director emphasis on character relationships.
Ariel Lin as Huang Rong 5/5
Ariel does the best immature, unpredictable Huang Rong. The only thing Ariel loses to Barbara Yung of the '82 production is her cleverness, probably because this version has some script changes/director decisions that take away opportunities for Huang Rong to shine. Ariel does a great job with the sassy, somewhat evil personality. Her crying scenes are also very moving.
Yang Kang (Character)
Yang Kang was really overdeveloped...so was the whole reconciliation of the Yang family. Honestly, seven+ episodes of a fifty episode series to explore just that part? This particular incarnation of Yang Kang solicits more sympathy from the viewer though. Basically, nobody likes him except his love interest and his kind of-sort of father, and of course, Guo Jing, but Guo Jing's affection for Yang Kang can be suffocating...the "jealous of Guo Jing" aspect of this Yang Kang is somewhat poorly explored (strangely, he's not too proud to ask Guo Jing a dozen times to teach him martial arts...why didn't Guo Jing just teach him 72 Kongming Quan?), but plays such a large part of their relationship. Oh, and the script changes does his novel character a huge disservice IMHO. It gives his son little reason to be. Yang Kang was a villain, should have died as one and there should have been almost no ambiguity to it.
Yuan Hong as Yang Kang 4/5
Yuan Hong can actually play Yang Kang's evil side and the "noble" side pretty well (this Yang Kang also has more noble moments than in the novel). I think, however, Yuan Hong was a little confused because some episodes would indicate that he's really a good guy, while other times he's really, really evil, and since the story deviates from the novel, sometimes substantially, Yuan Hong probably had no idea if he's really good or really evil.
Mu Nian Chi (Character)
What they did to Mu Nian Chi's character pisses me off. She puts up a strong front, one where she values country, honor, and family, and because of Yang Kang, she lets it all go to moot and she's basically incapacitated by being love sick half the series. Give me a break. She should be conflicted, but she shouldn't sacrifice her character.
Liu Shi Shi as Mu Nian Chi 3.5/5
I think given what she was given to work with, Liu Shi Shi did a commendable job as the spineless Mu Nian Chi. She has all the looks/actions of a meek indecisive woman...which is not what I think Mu Nian Chi really is.
Ou Yang Ke (Character)
Wow. What a tragic character. This Ou Yang Ke is definitely more developed than the books, but he's actually more interesting than the conflicted Yang Kang. His relationship with his uncle is somewhat changed, but it is still a sad relationship (well portrayed, though). And his devotion to Mu Nian Chi...gee, if I were Mu Nian Chi I'd take this guy over Yang Kang anyday. Ou Yang Ke is emphasized more as a gentleman than the rapist he is in the books, though this is an intriguing change, one I actually prefer.
Li Jie as Ou Yang Ke 5/5
This man should be the next Chu Liu Xiang. He is smooth, suave, and if I didn't know better, not a villain. In accordance with the character changes, Li Jie played Ou Yang Ke exactly as eloquent, and as tragic he is written to be. And the way his face crumbles when he gets disappointed by his uncle is just terribly sad. Li Jie is successful in giving Ou Yang Ke another dimension.
Wanyan Honglie: Definitely different than the Wanyan Honglie I always pictures...more useful, deeper...but his character is so despicable I don't really want to sympathize for him.
Hong Qi Gong: Liang Jia Ren played Guo Jing in ROCH '83 though he's a better Hong Qi Gong (has the old man crabbiness going on. He's got it in other films too actually, even when he wasn't really that old.)
Huang Yao Shi: Anthony Wong certainly looks the part, but after his first introduction he seems not Huang Yao Shi...as in not ruthless, not weird, not...anything Huang Yao Shi is supposed to be. Except good at fighting.
Yi Deng: I don't know the guy who plays this...and this role is so small I don't really have anything to comment on. He doesn't seem much of a monk. I only have him listed because he's a Great.
Ou Yang Feng: Xu Jin Jiang looks like an Ou Yang Feng but he tries too hard to be menacing. Like many others I can't take him seriously because he tries too hard to be evil (WHAT IS UP WITH HIS EXTREMELY EXAGGERATED HAND MOTIONS? IT DOESN'T MAKE HIM LOOK EVIL, JUST LOOK LIKE A CLOWN) and he's been in too many comedies over the years.
-The music was good, but with only three songs to work with, it got annoying when the love theme came up every 5 minutes.
-I thought CGI technology in China would be better than this. It looks like something any competent US graphics design college student could make.
-Guo Jing's last two duels were terribly anti-climatic.
-Costumes were nice.
-Zhou Botong talked so fast...O.o
-Good production anyway. It had the spirit of LOCH intact.