Where the Legend Begins


Reviewed by: spcnet

October 12, 2003

Rating: two-point-five

Starring:
Ada Choi Siu Fun - Yun Fok
Steven Ma Chun Wai - Cao Zhi (Cao Zi Kin)
Moses Chan - Cao Pi (Cao Zi Wun)
Lau Don - Cao Cao
Sonjia Kwok Sin Lei- Kwok Huen (Huen Huen)
Cheng Chi Seng - Sima Yi
Gilbert Lam Wai Sun - Yang Suo

Warning! Spoilers!
"Where the Legend Begins" is a side story adaptation from the characters of the Three Kingdoms story. Ada Choi Siu Fun stars as Yun Fok, who later becomes the Empress of the Wei kingdom. Surprisingly, despite obvious differences between the actual story and TVB's adaptation, this series did manage to capture the essence of the overall story and told its story in a consistent manner. The story is a tragic one and is already foreshadowed at the very beginning with the tale of Lok Sun (Luo Shen, mandarin), the River Lok Goddess or otherwise known as the Goddess of the Luo River. "Where" begins with a dream where Lok Sun was punished into the mortal world for being the cause of rift between her husband and another god. It is not hard to guess that Yun Fok is the reincarnation of Lok Sun and will have a similar fate.

Yun Fok was betrothed to Yuan Shao's son, Yuan Xi, but after their city was overtaken by Cao Cao's forces, she and her family were taken into Cao Cao's household. Yuan Xi is noted to have been killed. Cao Zhi (Steven Ma) is already smitten with her after confirming her famed beauty and wisdom in person prior. Cao Pi (Moses Chan), his older brother, scorns that women will only bring the downfall of men but after seeing Yun Fok himself, he too, falls in love with her. Cao Cao (Lau Don) respects Yun Fok's intelligence and beauty greatly and treats her quite well, which causes his wife to be very jealous.

The battle for Yun Fok's heart and for the throne turns Cao Zhi and Cao Pi against each other. With the help of Sima Yi (Cheng Chi Seng), Cao Pi is named heir and Cao Cao marries Yun Fok to him, despite the fact that she and Cao Zhi are in love. Meanwhile, Kwok Huen (Sonjia Kwok), who is the sworn sister of Yun Fok, is secretly very envious of Yun Fok and after many plots (and a one night stand with Cao Pi), she also marries Cao Pi as second wife. Cao Pi is corrupted by the advising of Sima Yi, who is in fact using him for his own future ambitions. He begins to doubt Yun Fok's faithfulness with the constant pouring of slanderings into his ears from Kwok Huen. When he suspects that their son, Cao Rui, is born from Yun Fok and Cao Zhi, he orders the death of Yun Fok by poison. He finds out too late though that she has been faithful to him all along. At the end, under Sima Yi's advice, Cao Pi returns an embroidered pillow to Cao Zhi to ensure that he would remember his sorrow and never again have the ambition to fight for the throne further. Years later, Cao Rui has become king, he learns the truth of his mother's death and cruel treatment to her corpse ordered by Kwok Huen and promises Kwok that she will meet the same outcome in her due time. Cao Zhi advises Cao Rui one last time of the danger of Sima Yi which went unheeded. Leaving, he walks by a beach and sees a vision of Yun Fok/Lok Sun at sea and walks right into the sea to meet her in death. Sima Yi, of course, does succeed at the end.

If there had to be a fault, it would be that the character of Yun Fok was too perfect. She was beautiful, intelligent, kind, and compassionate. That was perhaps also her fatal flaw too since so many men loved her and fought over her but she all she wanted was to marry Cao Zhi and live a quiet life with him. It did get a bit annoying when "Where" repeats that "Kangnam has two Qiao, Hebai has beautiful Yun Fok" line to describe Yun Fok's beauty. "Two Qiao" refers to two great beauties of the south (one of whom is married to Zhou Yu) while Yun Fok is hailed as the beauty of the north. We get the point that Yun Fok is supposed to be very beautiful and such, but the series reminds us again and again, and then again.

Another quaint factor was that "Where" turned Cao Cao into almost a good guy at the beginning. Of course, I don't believe in true definitions of good and evil since everything is based on who's perspective one is looking at the story from. It was interesting that while Cao Cao is notoriously the villain with his philosophy of "Rather we let down the world than the world let us down" in Three Kingdoms, "Where" tells the story right at the household of Cao Cao so that he is portrayed as a father admired as honorable by his sons.

I think Ada gave a good performance as Yun Fok. Though her face pointy thin, she is still very beautiful and really did outshine all the other women in this series. Sonjia Kwok, however, is another story. She was decent enough in "A Step into the Past" but here, whether it is the costumes or makeup or just her vicious role, I thought she looked very old and haggard. Boiling down, I think she just can not really act yet which is why in scenes where she is supposed to be wicked and evil, she managed to make herself look very awful and amateur. None of that evil, yet coldly beautiful quality in her performance or composure.

Steven Ma as Cao Zhi was also well done, he played the pining lover and poet well. However, I think based on outer appearances, he and Ada do not match and they did not have much on-screen chemistry. Cao Pi played by Moses Chan is average. I think Moses Chan has a very evil look, if one is to judge a book by its cover, I thought his outer appearance fitted the arrogant and rash personality of Cao Pi.

Lau Don as Cao Cao was a very good choice. Lau Don has played the ruthless type roles before and Cao Cao was a nice fit for him. As to Gilbert Lam's Yang Suo, as I kept watching, I just kept thinking that he was given such a small and almost insignificant role--nothing that could really show his acting range.

"Where" focuses solely on Cao Cao's household, so while mention is made to Liu Bei and Sun Quan, they do not appear in the series at all. I did like the part where Cao Zhi is forced by Cao Pi to make a poem within seven steps he takes else meet his death. "Where" qualifies their brotherly love so this scene was particularly emotional. Overall, I think this series is not bad and watchable, though the language and references used and made might be a little confusing for the newbie to the Three Kingdoms story.

Three Kingdoms English Translations site

Screenshots (TVB's "Where the Legend Begins").


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