Original Title (by the book):
The Eagle-Shooting Heroes
Genre: Typical Jin Yong Martial Arts Novel
Julian Cheung as Guo Jing
Athena Chu as Huang Rong
This is the first story of the Condor Trilogy written by Jin Yong. I've written a review on the second story, which is The Return of the Condor Heroes (ROCH) 95. This serial seems to be the shadow of its 1982 version. Comparisons are always thrown and Legend of the Condor Heroes (LOCH) '94 had always been at the disadvantage. As a result, I think that TVB failed to make a mark in this remake of such a popular novel.
ON THE NOVEL:
The Eagle-Shooting Heroes is a well-known and popular story. I'm sure all of Jin Yong's fans have read this before and for those who haven't, I sincerely recommend this to you.
This is a traditional martial arts novel where the hero is a kind and helpful person. He will never do anything bad even though it means risking his own life. The story begins with the Guo and Yang families being oppressed by a Kam royalty. Both men died but their wives survived and gave birth to two boys, Guo Jing and Yang Kang. Now, it's up to them to avenge their fathers? death after learning the truth.
Jin Yong has characterized Guo Jing (GJ) as a humble, diligent and kind person. However, he is somewhat slow and dense. Luckily for him, he met Huang Rong (HR), who is a very brainy and witty girl. Together, they went to look for the Kam royalty, Wan Yan Hong Lie. Along their journey, they met quite a number of martial art masters and learnt a lot of skills from them. Not to mention, most of their kung fu came from this Jiu Ying Zhen Jing.
GJ and HR also had some problems in their relationship due to the engagement between GJ and Genghis Khan's daughter, Hua Zheng. In the end, of course they got together and had children. Or else, Yang Guo would not lose his arm in ROCH!
ON THE SERIES:
As a faithful reader of Jin Yong, I could not help but compare the serial with its original story. And luckily, it did not disappoint me as it is 90% accurate. I'm sure all die-hard Jin Yong fans will love this as it is respectful to the author's hard work. Then, where did the 10% go? As usual, sometimes what is written is different from what can be done. I can tolerate the slight inaccuracies as long as the backbone of the plot remains faithful to the original story.
I can't say that the serial produced is bad but I don't think of it as a quality product either. The reputation of the novel proves to be the selling point and TVB set aside a low budget for this.
The initial part where GJ's mother escaped to the desert in the North (Mongolia) and how GJ was brought up were only briefly mentioned. For me, I didn't really enjoy this part so I was glad that the story developed so quickly. But for those who had never read this story before, they will not understand the true nature of the relationship between Genghis Khan, his sons and GJ.
As clever as the scriptwriter could be, he managed to grab hold of the psychology of most readers, where the most enjoyable part is when GJ and HR are on their journey together. Their encounters were elaborated and shot beautifully. Thanks to the production team who kept the boring parts concise and spend more time on the interesting parts. Even though some parts were summarized, the flow of the story is still good and not really noticeable.
Nevertheless, for those who have read the novel, you'll notice that some parts are missing. For instance, GJ's little red horse was never mentioned here.
The ?82 version is broken down into 3 parts, and consists of around 60 episodes (I've forgotten the exact number) whereas the LOCH94 only has 35 episodes. See the difference? That's why I say LOCH94 failed to make the grade as LOCH82 is definitely more talked about!
ON THE CAST:
Speaking of the cast, it can never run away from being compared with LOCH82 as it shot Felix Wong and Barbara Yung to stardom. Felix has since been labeled as a 'Da Xia' (hero) and Barbara was just perfect as HR.
Julian Cheung as Guo Jing
Personally, I don't think that GJ is that handsome thus, using Julian may not be that appropriate. However, Julian did portray GJ's dumbness well and this is enough to cover the drawback mentioned above. There aren't any breakthrough performances by Julian which enable him to surpass Felix. One more thing, Julian doesn't seem to have the aura of a 'Da Xia' when compared to Felix, therefore the GJ in LOCH94 is not that ?GJ? after all!
Athena Chu as Huang Rong
I sympathize with Athena as there is nothing she could do to get the better of Barbara. She did show the intelligence and shrewdness of HR well but she sometimes exaggerated due to inexperience in terms of acting skills. Yet, her looks and size fit the character really well. I guess the producer could not find any actresses who resemble HR more, other than Athena. It is not a bad choice though!
Gallen Lo as Yang Kang
Sorry, I have no choice but to mention LOCH82 again! In my opinion, Miu Kiu Wai as Yang Kang is the most suitable casting among all versions. He has that rich man's son looks and charisma, which Gallen doesn't have. Gallen looks more like those evil sidekicks of Wan Yan Hong Lie, than a prince. Seriously, I think that the guy who plays OuYang Ke resembles more like a 'Xiao Wang Ye'.
Emily Kwan as Mu Nian Chi
Of all the four main casting, I shall say that this is the worst and most inappropriate! Mu Nian Chi (MNC), who is Yang Guo's mother, is supposed to be a beauty, although not as pretty as HR. Sorry but no offence, Emily looks more like a vampire to me in that red dress! Why couldn't the producer pick someone else? Is it because of the budget or what? I think Chan PuiSan who played Hua Zheng can be a possible candidate for MNC, definitely more compatible! My best choice of MNC has to go to the 2003 China version, where Jiang QinQin rules! Which part of Emily reminds you of MNC in the original story? Arghh...it's none!!!
ON THE PAIRING:
In terms of appearance, Julian and Athena are really compatible. They do look good as a couple. Nonetheless, I think they lack the chemistry needed to show the affection between GJ and HR. They failed to give me the impression that they are deeply in love and are willing to die for each other. There is one scene when HR revealed her true identity as a girl to GJ. They were on a boat and HR admitted her love towards GJ. Their conversation left my hair standing but I don't feel their devotion in any way.
The coupling of Gallen and Emily is far worse. Boy oh boy, can you imagine that they can give birth to a son with the quality of Yang Guo? Makes no sense!
ON THE SUPPORTING CAST:
Nothing great either as they are almost the same as ROCH 95. Maybe I should note that Hong QiGong performed by Lau Dan as one of the more prominent ones.
ON THE CHOREOGRAPHY:
The Kung Fu skills written by Jin Yong will never be demonstrated properly by TVB. They always utilize the movement of the camera and computer generated special effects to show the 'power' of that particular Kung Fu. Fighting scenes were obviously cut short.
There is a skill called 18 Dragon Palms, which was taught by Hong QiGong to GJ. But how many palms have I seen? I guess it is only 3 palms, maybe I missed out some. Where are the rest?
Near the end of the story, GJ led the Mongolians to attack a city (can't remember the name) which is located near the mountains. They had a hard time as the mountains prove to be the shield of that city. Then, HR thought of a way to get into that city, which is by climbing up the mountains then jumping into the city by using cloths as parachutes. LOCH94 just shot a scene where GJ and HR saw OYF jump off the mountain by using the same way. HR got an idea and told GJ. The next scene, you'll see the troops battling but not how they got into the city! For me, I think they should show how the Mongolian troops jumped into the city because that's an important aspect in showing the application of the idea. Since they've shown how OYF did it, why not put some more effort in choreographing the scenes?!
ON THE SETTINGS:
Another huge disappointment, I can't help but criticize this aspect whenever TVB makes ancient dramas.
Background settings are always the eye-sore of an ancient costume serial. It is so obvious that TVB shoots everything locally in their studios. Except for scenes which consist of sea and desert, they'll try to build all the scenery by themselves in order to cut costs. In LOCH94, they built caves, cliffs, the inner part of Plum Blossom Island and many more. They just looked so FAKE!
I've struggled to decide what rating should be given to LOCH94. In terms of storyline, this is a good one because it stays faithful to the novel. The plot should be able to keep viewers watching. In terms of addictiveness, I don't think there's much. I must admit that I'm addicted to ROCH95 more; maybe it's because of its excellent casting in Yang Guo and Xiao Long Nui.
After weighing all the pros and cons, I'll rate it as 3.5. A recommendation to all Jin Yong fans out there due to its originality!
Official website by TVB:
The Legend of The Condor Heroes '94