The Great Conspiracy


Reviewed by: PJ

October 27, 2007

Rating: three-point-five

AKA Lian Hua Zheng Ba

25 episodes

A wuxia show that was fairly successful during its air-time, the Great Conspiracy is all but unheard of today. The Chinese title translates into "Lotus Flower Strives for Hegemony." While it isn't a pure novel adaptation, that doesn't mean it is a breath of fresh air. The Great Conspiracy is a show that takes bits from previous popular movies -- more on that after the brief synopsis. Whilst this isn't encouraging news, this is a decent show with some impressive elements, and rest assured there is not one, but two, great conspiracies.

The plot centers around the rivalry between the Nangong family and the Eagle Clan. Master Nangong Jun** puts his trust in his adopted son Bai Yu Chuan, while King Eagle counts on Golden Eagle as his biggest killing machine. Nangong Jun affords Bai Yu Chuan the gorgeous Tang Xiou, but Bai Yu Chuan desires Nangong Jun's daughter Butterfly, and to his dismay, she wants no more than a brother-sister relationship. Similarly, Nangong Jian and Yang Tang both relentlessly pursue the same woman, but her mind is set on only one person. Meanwhile, as the two rival clans continue to duke it out for status of the number one group, a spy rests within the Nangong family. Qiu Xiang Tian, Tang Xiou, and Ren Hai Long are all suspects, but the inhumane spy continues his savage plot to rule the martial world...

The Comet Clan consists of three assassins -- Shen Chong, Gao Xiang, and Ye Qun -- and one boss, Sister Qiu Ruo Lan. The irony is that Gao and Ye both like their sister, but she only fancies Shen Chong, who has other romantic interests. Qiu and Gao finally move on beyond their impossible fantasies, but much has changed by then, and their lives will never be the same...

Deeds done, spy gone; soon a son, but not for long. Painful times are hard to pass for Nangong Jun, who has become the target of a full-scale conspiracy. Extended victims are innocent devotees set up to look guilty, while the schemer earns everyone's trust. Soon a princess from Dali stumbles onto the Mainland looking for military assistance; can Nangong or Eagle resist her seduction? Jianghu (the pugilistic world) is dangerous, but the mind is more dangerous. Conspiracies are inevitable; money and power make the world go around. Watch out for the change of heart.

It's safe to say that this series was made to lack originality. The nicest way to put it would be as a 'remake' of "Comet, Butterfly, Sword" (by Gu Long) with a different name. Same plot, same characters -- only with different names and a few more ripped-off ideas from other sources. Experienced HK moviegoers will easily identify the music, as well as many scenes, ripped off from classics such as the Swordsman Trilogy (which a lot of TV serials steal from) and Dragon Inn. Example rip-offs include the human meat serving restaurant from "Dragon Inn", the expense of practising the Sacred Volumes from "Swordsman 2", and group singing of the theme song from "East is Red" (it even features the same song here). This is not to say that these movies are completely original; who knows where they might have taken the ideas from. Then again, it doesn't matter because it's always a bad thing to replicate from past media. Somehow, Chinese TV producers are really into being unoriginal, and they turn out overdone replicas that are no match for the original. I say if they want to copy, at least make it into a better copy, so as to be acceptable.

The show can be divided into two parts: before and after Bai Yu Chuan's "transformation." The first part is longer, and I personally prefer it to the second part. As soon as you lay eyes on Bai Yu Chuan, you will notice he is played by a female actress and voice-dubbed by a male. This leads you to wonder his identity and future--is he female, impersonating a male, or is he male, but will become a female? One thing is for sure: for now he is male, but will turn into female at some point, as the opening video reveals. ^-^ Without a doubt, I prefer his male presentation, because the acting, costume, and character are much cooler and more enjoyable than the female side. The actress is a natural "girl in a guy's costume" person. Because of this, in my opinion, the latter part of the show suffers from the change. Also, part 2 is mainly about the conspiracies, which are rather difficult to digest. The theme of the wrongfully accused is found in almost every wuxia series, and I always found these scenes both upsetting and painful to watch. I would have preferred to see more hurt and regret from the people who committed sins due to the conspiracy. They can't be blamed a lot, but they should suffer the consequences.

The show comes in a 25-disc set, and each disc contains the opening video as well as preview from the next episode with music. While the opening song stays the same, the ending song alternates between the opening song and two other songs, which are all very good, especially the ones by Roman Tam.

The fight scenes are awesome in this show, for the most part, although they should have integrated more levitation in the fights, which would have pleased me. As of now, this show has the best fight scenes I can remember from any TV series. Unfortunately, during the episodes of the conspiracy, I was so angry at the people falling into the conspiracy that I didn't care about the great fights, but they're still there. Another great aspect is the distinct, though not diverse, filming locations. This show is set mainly in the desert, with beautiful landscape all around. Having seen virtually all TVB wuxia series filmed in the same locations, this is a welcoming change.

The story is generally nice, and the good acting helps. Unfortunately, the story is not particularly engaging and doesn't do well to involve the viewer. A lot of times, we won't care about what's going on. However, most of the story is exciting, with some interesting characters. Of course, it helps the excitement if you aren't familiar with "Comet, Butterfly, Sword." If you are the kind of viewer who wants to know all about the story before watching it, knowing "Comet" helps. The cast is primarily made up of unknown actors, and they are not bad. My opinion on Li Nanxing, who plays Shen Chong, is that he was given the worst hairdo of a swordsman since decades ago. He also wears cheap clothes throughout, but that can be forgiven given the status of the character. Just to let you know, Episode 10, filled with unexpected events and great fights, is my favorite.

One thing I enjoyed is that the story never concentrates too much on one character. Most characters stay onscreen for a few minutes, and the focus switches. This was good news to me, because I tend to get tired of watching one person's business for too long. I would have preferred less violence in some scenes, which sometimes gets very extreme. Slicing body parts, splitting people, acid-burned skin, you name it. Yuck!

Now that you have learned about the content, I bet it would help to know how the ending was. Fortunately, it's not too cheesy. Of the three wuxia shows I watched lately, this one easily has the best ending. It actually makes sense and allows enough time to be spent on the most important portion of the show. Just don't expect anything that you haven't seen before.

I'll touch on the characters briefly. First, why doesn't Butterfly like Bai Yu Chuan? By all means, he was a heroic and likable guy (on the outside), but she just won't accept him. I have no idea why. Instead she likes Gao Xiang, whom -- I think we would all have to agree -- is nowhere near as charismatic as Bai Yu Chuan. Ultimately that's the cause of the whole conspiracy. Don't get me wrong; I favor the unique romance between Butterfly and Gao Xiang, but I can't figure out why she would pick him over Bai Yu Chuan. At the same time, I have to say that Bai Yu Chuan didn't do anything to help Butterfly's feelings. He could have redeemed himself by stepping away (for a while) after she expressed herself, but he continued to pursue her, which is unwise; I mean the guy can see that Butterfly is trying to avoid him as much as humanly possible, and I think she wouldn't have bothered so much if he gave her some space. Moving on, when we first see Yang Tang, he is naive and outgoing, but the outcome of his lover (which is unrealistic) completely changes his personality. I still don't know if Tang Xiou is a spy; she doesn't seem harmful. As for the Nangong family, I first thought they are probably evil, but they turned out to be nice people (if easily deceived). Nangong Jian is not a likable character. I watched him on the screen and in some scenes, I just felt like chopping him up. On the other hand, he was just another victim of the great conspiracy. I also hate how people try to turn loyal followers like Ren Hai Long into a savage. And the people from the Eagles Clan? Since only 2 Eagles are really talked about, the rest of the Eagles are portrayed as having no skill whatsoever, and anybody can defeat them. Poor King Eagle, he chose to practise the Lotus Manuscript at the wrong time.

Lastly, I don't believe for a second that people who have been around Bai Yu Chuan for years would not recognize him as a woman, especially with the same the actress and the same look. If they wanted us to believe it, they should have gave the female a more differentiating presentation.

For those who have seen the show, allow me to share my opinions on the characters. Spoilers are present, so skip if you don't want to read spoilers.

* Shen Chong - He is the main character. I think he's all right. In the beginning he didn't have any major problems, but by the end he was a victim of a major trap. The producers probably thought he wouldn't be a good character without some tragedy, although I wouldn't have noticed.

* Bai Yu Chuan - He was the coolest character before the first conspiracy. At the start, he was a calm gentleman, but of course he revealed his vicious side soon. It didn't hurt that his drinking buddy tried to turn him into a woman, because he would eventually become one anyway. He is also the most evil by a long shot; no one else comes close to his merciless mind. His plan really turned innocent people against innocent people and made everyone look like a fool.

* Nangong Jun - Overall he is a righteous leader. He has some extremely loyal followers who will die for him. There's no harmful secret/conspiracy behind his back.

* Nangong Die/Butterfly - What can I say, another typical weepy, vulnerable girl.

* Nangong Jian - A brainless drunk who does some really stupid things. If I were Shen Chong, I probably would have killed him for his lack of understanding.

* Qiu Ruo Lan - I don't like her too much. She will do anything for money, and she doesn't care about Gao Xiang at all. The biggest mistake she made was to help Bai Yu Chuan.

* Ren Hai Long - It took me a while to care about him, but he's a really righteous man in general. His ending was rather cheesy though.

* Lan Lan - I would have to say she shouldn't have married a man that she didn't like at all. We aren't told if she ever really liked him, but then if she didn't, why did she marry him? We do know that she immediately regretted the marriage.

* Ye Qun - A cool assassin who cares about friendship. I really wish he didn't die so disturbingly.

* Gao Xiang - Another assassin who will do some stupid things for money.

* Yang Tang - He was blindly in love and was devastated by his lover's change, even though he didn't show on the outside. He was a hero. Too bad not enough time was spent on him.

* Feng Er Niang - Did she really love Nangong Jian? Probably not, though he would have wasted his life thinking about her if not for Duan Su Su's conspiracy.

* Golden Eagle - his death is unconvincing. I would have preferred the writers extending his on-screen time.

-Most powerful fighters-

1. Duan Su Su

2. King Eagle (after achieving 8th level of Lotus Volumes)

3. Nangong Jun

4. Black Eagle (from 1st episode)

5. Shen Chong

6. Bai Yu Chuan

7. Ren Hai Long

8. Golden Eagle

9. Yang Tang

10. Gao Xiang

(End of Spoilers)

So when does the "lotus" part of the title come in? Keep watching to find out. Sadly, "Lotus Flower" has been forgotten, overshadowed by countless better-known period/ancient dramas of the 80s-90s. In a nutshell, the Great Conspiracy is a familiar wuxia story in which originality is absent, but quality fight choreography and filming locations make it worth a watch.

For a brief summary of each episode in Chinese, go to
http://star.sina.com.cn/fc/lnanxing/news/news84836-2001-8-11.shtml

Scores:

Originality - 1.0

Action - 4.5

Story - 3.5

Music - 4.0

Acting - 4.0

Ending - 4.0

Production Values - 3.5


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