The Legend of the Condor Heroes


Reviewed by: drymonkey

September 16, 2008

Rating: four

Cast
Hu Ge as Guo Jing
Ariel Lin Yi Chen as Huang Rong
Yuan Hong as Yang Kang
Liu Shi Shi as Mu Nian Ci

Plot (3.5/5)
As the saying goes, "if it's not broken, don't fix it". Well, the director decided to take it one step further and performed a makeover, at least on Yang Kang's (YK) character. The result? Well, at least in my eyes, is the same look Guo Jing (GJ) has when he's trying to figure out Wu Mu Yi Shu...HUH?

Before I go on, I must say that Legend of the Condor Heroes (LOCH) is my favorite of all JY's novels so I held each remake with very high expectations. Despite several changes in LOCH 83, I still find the foundation to be squarely intact, something I can't say for this LOCH. As with all remakes and adaptations, there are always pros and cons and even as great as LOCH 83 is, it was not without its flaws. However, I do not view the changes in 83 as drastic as I saw in this one. The director decided to take GJ's childhood and totally dismissed it. It was a mistake cutting out GJ's scene when Jiang Nan Qi Guai finally found GJ after 6 years of searching; doing so removed a lot of character development for GJ. The way Qiu Chu Ji met GJ and YK's parents were badly massacred in horrible flashback sequences. The same can be said for Mei Chao Feng's first encounter with GJ and the 7 Freaks. They also completely jumped any relevant scenes with the young GJ and his interactions with Genghis Khan. Then there's Ou Yang Feng (OYF) and his three captures and releases at the hand of GJ (with the help of Huang Rong). That went out the drain as well.

However, the most important change is the character of YK, and more importantly, how the story decided to shift its focus more towards YK. The shift is unnecessary and painstaking. Changing YK's mindset, relationship with WYHL, and more importantly, his death, led to a big mess in the storyline. If the director was trying to go CSI on YK and OYF's successful plot at killing the 7 Freaks, that went right out the window during the next scene when YK went straight to GJ and tell him, "Oh, by the way, it was I who killed your 7 shi fu". I am pretty sure that while he was at it, he should make that proclamation loud and clear so GJ's lone, remaining shi fu can hear it as well. This completely shattered any relevancy of Huang Rong's (HR) detective work in the temple, her questioning OYF and YK of the Six Freaks' killers. There were other minor annoyances along the way as well but these are the main ones that just made me grimace in pain.

There was one change that was indeed welcoming; the interaction HR had with Li Ping (Guo Jing's mom). I will go into further details on this later on.

Characters

Hu Ge as Guo Jing (4.5/5)
Hu Ge did a very good job as Guo Jing. He had that "good heartedness" look to him to accompany his naivety and dumbness. Hu Ge also did a very good job in portraying his loyalty, affection and care towards both YK and HR (of course it's usually more towards YK than HR). He easily would get a 5 in my book, but I deducted .5 for the script. As mentioned earlier, I almost get a feeling sometimes that he was more in love (brotherly love that is) with YK than anything else. The scene where YK tells him that he was responsible for the deaths of GJ's 7 shi fu, GJ kind of shrugs it off just like that and forgives him anyway. GJ pretty much did a 360 on HR, avoid any communication with her, and went straight to look for her father to seek revenge. Quite a nice way to impressed your future father-in-law don't you think? I still think the 83 LOCH conveys this scene the best as GJ still shows that he cared for HR by asking both Zou Ba Tong and Hong Qi Gong to save her from his eldest shi fu. Overall, however, I must say that the chemistry between Hu Ge and Ariel is top notch and every scene they have together is pretty much a memorable one.

Ariel Lin as Huang Rong (10/5)
WOW! That's all I can say after watching her performance. I must admit I was a little hesitant at first with the casting of Ariel as HR. However, she quickly won me over. Ariel pretty much took the role of HR and ran with it. Barbara Yung's HR was always one of my favorites. However, I always thought she made HR to be a bit too cruel at time. Athena Chu's HR was smart but lacking in emotion, innocence, and chemistry with GJ. Zhou Xun's HR had the chemistry and intelligence but also suffered from a lack of innocence and emotions. Ariel Lin's HR is by far the closest to the novel as I could have imagined. I have never watch any of her other series previously but she completely sold me as HR. She conveyed both the cuteness, wittiness, as well as the innocence in HR. When it comes to emotion, Ariel delivered big time. She is very flexible in all the scenes; easily able to transcend herself from happiness to sadness, in just a blink of an eye. Furthermore, her chemistry with Hu Ge was flawless. Their scenes together were very cute and heartfelt. She completely mopped the floor with Hua Zhen during their interaction with one another. The interaction with her and GJ's mom was definitely one of the highlights of the series. Not only that, I felt that Ariel is a natural crier, which makes all her emotional scenes very touching and believable. Overall, I think Ariel not only stole the show, but became the show. I can honestly say that without her as HR, LOCH 08 would indeed be a complete disaster and nowhere near as good as it is.

Yuan Hong as Yang Kang (3/5)
Well I think this YK is way over hyped and overrated. If the director was trying to make this YK the most annoying, obnoxious, and hated YK of all time, then I can honestly say he succeeded. The director's fascination with YK is kind of awkward. They may as well changed LOCH to Yang Kang E's True Hollywood Story: The Deceiving, Conniving Son You Wish You Never Had. I found this YK to be way too whiny. It doesn't help that the director keep emphasizing his jealousy towards GJ and how he tries to blame GJ for all his misfortunes. YK become wretched not because of jealousy, but more because of his unquenchable thirst for wealth and power. In my eyes, Miu Kiu Wai (MKW) is the very essence of YK and there probably won't be a second. I actually do feel a sense of remorse for MKW's YK when he died in the abandoned temple. With Yuan Hong's YK, I was kind of hoping OYF just put him out of his misery already. There were few and very far scenes in between that I found his character likable (actually, more like 3); the scene where he recognized GJ as his "da ge", the scenes where he spent with his dad learning the Yang's kung fu, and the ending scene where he finally come to term, accepted his role as YG's father and more importantly, a decent human being...and then OYF killed him (IT'S ABOUT TIME). Overall I say Yuan Hong acting is not bad, probably a 4, however the script change is what hurt him. It completely changed his character, even that fatherly bond he had with WYHL, is now replaced with ill-content and distrust. I must admit though, due to the director's immense infatuation with the character of YK, he benefited the most by lasting the longest, till the very end you may say (He was the only YK that actually get to enjoy good quality time with his son).

Liu Shi Shi as Mu Nian Ci (2/5)
I feel pretty bad for Liu Shi Shi because this could have been her break-out role but the script completely eliminated any chances of that from happening. This is by far the weakest and most gullible MNC of all MNC in past adaptations. The changes in the script for her character were ludicrous. She pretty much flaunted herself at YK like a desperate housewife, ignoring any sense of loyalty to her country or self-respect for that matter. Then of course there is the most talked about "love scene" MNC has with YK, right after OYK's death. This was disgusting and tasteless, no matter how you look at it. Overall, Liu Shi Shi's acting is ok, once you get pass the wooden, "deer in the headlights" look. However, due to the script change, her character was stripped off its due credibility and likableness.

Li Jie as Ou Yang Ke (5/5)
I did watch his Ling Ping Zhi in Xiao Au Jiang Hu 2001 and was a little bit unsure at first of what to expect. However, as the story progressed, I found his OYK quite good, easily the best OYK of all past OYK. I actually do feel some remorse for him, his longing for acceptance from OYF and constant rejection from OYF and HR, especially after he mustered up the courage to tell them that he never had the love and acceptance of his father, OYF, when he was a child, and that all he wanted was someone to love and understand him. The script change with the animosity and mistrust between him and YK was frustrating. Once again it seemed the director is trying to make the point that YK loves and trusts no one but himself.

Guo Liang as Wan Yan Hong Lie (4.5/5)
He did a good job at being WYHL. The actor gets a 5, but -.5 for the script. The constant distrust and backstabbing with YK is really annoying. Furthermore, making this WYHL into a "Great" is definitely on the outlandish side. There is no way in a million years that WYHL can beat QCJ in any battle period (I don't care if it's spear, sword, saber...etc). He did portray his undying love for Bao Xi Ruo (BXR) as well as his loyalty toward his country very well, especially at the end with his death.

Yang Kang and Guo Jing's Parents (4.5 out 5)
I thought both couples did a great job in portraying the parents of YK and GJ. I thought Kathy Chow was a great BXR even though I like the 2003 version a bit more (this probably has to do more with the script though). YTX's character was also very well done, especially the part where he invented a kung fu specifically for GJ (and told him it was from GJ’s dad) when he saw how left out GJ felt at the sight of YK learning the Yang’s kung fu from his own dad. I also want to mention the actress who played GJ’s mom. I thought she did an excellent job conveying both the strict, moral tone, as well as the caring and loving mother figure. Her interaction with HR was excellent and you do get the feeling that she genuinely accept HR as her daughter-in-law.

The Greats

Anthony Huang Qiu sheng as Huang Yao Shi (4.75/5)
Beside Kenneth Tsang in Loch 83, I felt that Anthony Huang was very accurate in his portrayal of HYS. While in my eyes, the 83 HYS will always be THE HYS (his stare at GJ every time he says something dumb is priceless and irreplaceable); this HYS was able to carry out both elegance as well as arrogance of HYS, in a more tranquil manner of course. He was able to convey the love for his daughter, the acceptance of his disciples and eventually GJ, as well as his disregards for what the pugilistic world think of him.

Liang Jia Ren as Hong Qi Gong (4.5/5)
He made a good HQG, but then again, I was not a bit surprised since he too made a great GJ in ROCH 83. Over 20 years have gone by yet portraying a "da hup" has never seemed easier for Liang Jia Ren. In term of the role, I think the 83 version (which was also the 94 version of H7G) edged him out slightly bit (The 83 one had a slightly better overall interaction with HR).

Xu Jing Jiang as Ou Yang Feng (3/5)
Xu Jing Jiang is a veteran actor and has played in countless of movies and series role. He is quite flexible in his roles, yet he’s mostly well-known for being the "clown" of series or movies he’s in. I think this dramatically hurt him as OYF since you can never take this OYF seriously. It probably wasn’t until he went crazy that his "clowning" persona actually show up. It was fun, but again, nothing memorable. Actually of all the OYF, I still have not found a memorable one or any particular OYF that really stand out as THE OYF.

Zhou Bo Tong (4/5)
He’s a pretty good Zhou Bo Tong, but like other before him, it seemed forced and not natural. Unfortunately, I think this will be the case for all actors who followed in the footsteps of Wong Chun. There is only one ZBT just like there is only one HYS and one YK. Beside the 83 ZBT there won’t be another one that is naturally funny, cute, or charming like him.

Nan Di (4/5)
The actor was solid, conveying both the before and after Nan Di very well. The 03 one looked too intimidating to be a monk. This one has a good aurora to him once he transcend into his monkhood.

Wang Chong Yang (3/5)
Again his character rarely appear as he was always portrayed as god-like in LOCH. Hairstyle and costume-wise, I found that he bared too much resemblance to HYS’s character. Overall, he was ok for his 5 minutes of fame or so.

Other Characters

Ying Gu (4/5)
She was quite pretty as YG, probably the prettiest of all past YG’s adaptation. Other than that, there was not much else to say as she portrayed Ying Gu character as the story described.

Kong Yi Shan as Mei Chao Feng (4.5/5)
I think the actress did a pretty good job with the role of MCF, displaying both the ruthlessness as well as loyalty and respect for her shi fu as well as the care she had for her disciple YK.

Xie Na as Hua Zheng (2/5)
I despised this HZ as much as I despised YK’s character. She is just as annoying, obnoxious, and selfish as YK, probably as much whinny as well.

Jiang Nan Qi Guai (5/5)
This was a solid crew of JNQG. They had great chemistry with one another as well as GJ. This version, like that of its 2003 counterpart, also fit the description of JNQG quite well. Furthermore, I think this probably have the best qi shi fu of all the versions, which makes the eradication of GJ’s childhood the more frustrating. The audience pretty much missed out on all the enormous efforts and will Jiang Nan Qui Guai put into raising GJ, especially his qi shi fu, always standing up for him whenever the other JNQG put him down or scolded him. Qi Shi Fu was the one that love GJ the most, almost as if he was her own son.

Genghis Khan (4.5/5)
The actor here, like that of 03 LOCH version, portrayed the role of GK fairly accurate to the novel. However, with the trimming of GJ’s childhood, the audience will never get to see that interaction with Genghis Khan and the young GJ, as well as the meeting of GJ’s eventual Jebe shi fu (GJ’s shi fu who taught him archery). The irony of that of course would be that Genghis Khan here is actually Jebe in 2003, who also happened to be the Golden Wheel Monk in ROCH 2006.

The 7 Taoist Priests (2/5)
The casting for the 7 Taoist Priests probably one of the worst ever, especially Qiu Chu Ji. They made this GCJ not only arrogant and bad-tempered, but pretty much useless. He at time seemed to be more of a hooligan instead of a priest. His relationship with YK is just as horrible. Past adaptations at least made an attempt with YK pretending to respect or at least recognized his shi fu. This one simply talked to his shi fu like he was his servant.

Some of My Memorable Moments:

  • The classic scene of HR disguising as a beggar; this never gets old no matter how many versions I have seen before. This was also where you can see the chemistry click between Ariel and Hu Ge.
  • The scene where YK’s parents finally came to term with one another, as YTX slapped BX and they both laugh and made up just like old time.
  • The scene where GJ was telling YK that he knew that he was not fit to be YK’s older brother, but would work hard to be worthy of being his older brother one day and YK hesitated, and eventually called him "Da Ge." Then they enjoy a true moment of brother hood together. This was the only scene that I enjoy between GJ and YK.
  • The scene where GJ is trying to forget his "marriage dilemma" with HZ by wasting himself away with wine; HR joined him and drank herself away as well. They ended up confessing their love for one another. The scene then continued with one another confessing their love to the other (while drunk and murmuring in their sleep).
  • The scene when HR was playing with the clay figures of herself and GJ; unknown to her was GJ in the background watching. Very heartwarming and similar to what I imagined from the novel.
  • The scene when HR was trying to make GJ laugh, first with stick figures of Pigsy and Monkey King, then with the opera performer, and finally ending up slapping GJ to let his tears out (then she ended up slapping herself for wishing that HZ died). This once again shows Ariel’s versatility switching from a spirited, cheerful mood to that of an empathetic, tear-jerker.
  • The competition between GJ and OYK for HR’s hand in marriage, it was not rushed and felt true to the novel.
  • OYK’s conversation with MNC in which he finally revealed his longing for love as well as his love for her. OYK also had a similar but less meaningful conversation with HR outside the cave. Both of these revealed this OYK’s sense of loneliness and yearning to be loved and understood.
  • The 3 Greats drink down and show off their skills. OYF mentioned the new type of poisonous wine that he had perfected and ask if the other two want to try out. All three drank it up with their own flare. A couple scenes later, you see each using their own technique to excrete the poison wine from their body. This show you that "keeping face" is the most important thing in jiang hu, especially if you are a Great.
  • The meaningful heart to heart confession where in front of HYS and the GJ’s 7 shi fu, HR stated: "If he marries someone else, I’ll marry someone else as well, but in his heart, there will only be me and in my heart there will only be him." This was a very moving scene and you definitely can feel for HR in this scene.
  • WYHL surviving the onslaught with most of his men wipe out. It wasn’t until OYK and MNC intervene that they turned the tide. It was nicely done and portrayed the "hero" inside of WYHL.
  • OYF did a 360 (figuratively of course) and completely nailed YK with the Toad Stance Kung Fu while in the temple. I was actually cheering and hoping that this was it for YK...unfortunately my wish did not come true. The second HMG did it, which was kind of funny because it was one of the very few scenes that YK manage to be likable... and then he get wacked by OYF. Go Figure.
  • WYHL’s death where he proclaimed, "I am loyal to the Jin Empir...the two of you... one sold his soul to the Mongolian, the other is a traitor to all those around him; you want to take my life...the two of you are not worthy."
  • The meeting at HS Mountain; while HQG and OYF was fighting, HR knock GJ’s head and said "In place of your shi fu and their endless effort in transferring their kung fu to you, I will never forgive you if you undermine or demean your kung fu skills". GJ smile, thought for a minute, turn around and give her a light knock back, "In place of your dad, I will never forgive you if you’ll ever sneak off or placed yourself in danger again". This was funny and sweet at the same time. It also shows that this GJ is not your typical water buffalo either.
  • The interaction of HR and Li Ping was definitely by far my favorite addition to the storyline. It has everything one wanted; humor, overflowing estrogen, mutual admiration, and most importantly, heart. It doesn’t start with a kiss, unfortunately, (Yes, I know that was cheesy...just blame it on the special effects) but a good set of dog-beating sticks. That would follow by both parties trying to enforce their dominancy on one another (LP stating she’ll be closely watching HR...HR then stated that even her father cannot control her...of which LP replied...That’s your business...if HR doesn’t listen she has ways to make her listen...HR can try if she’s up to it, but LP has friends in wild horses and cattle she can called on when need be). These two scenes always crack me up. They have another run at it when HR called her son dumb (you would think that by now she knew). After which however, both side show mutual admiration and respect toward one another; LP admiring HR’s intelligence and her uncanny ability to help GJ out of tough spots, while HR admiring LP’s courage, beauty, and of course, her ability to communicate with animals. Finally, there’s the acceptance. First, there was the scarf that LP made for GJ, and then the eventual passing of the torch, her animal telepathic skills which are only passed down to a Guo’s in-law. Both of these scenes are very heartwarming and perfectly executed. However, it was the very end when GJ and HR went to see LP’s grave that just sent shivers down my spine. Whether it was the script, Ariel’s acting, or a combination of both, that scene will completely steal your heart. Her description of how LP is the best and most successful mother in this world for given birth to GJ, her description of GJ’s features and personalities; and the exclamation point where she leaned over and whispered to the LP’s tombstone, "Mom...Please bless GJ to forever be this dumb and kindhearted". I was awestruck watching Ariel’s expressions and attention to details throughout the whole scene; it was beautifully conveyed to its truest essence.
  • Music (4/5)
    I am not a big fan of the opening theme, even though, it eventually grows on me and was somewhat catchy actually. Even though I wasn’t expecting anything legendary or masterful as the 83 opening theme, I was still hoping for something closer to 03 opening of LOCH or even BXJ 06 Opening; both skillfully convey the meaning and tone of the series as well as that "heroic" atmosphere. The series did make an attempt to go the heroic route with a tune during the scene with GJ and his army scaling the wall, but I thought it was too little too late (not to mention it was not that impressive). The "love theme" is very good and was very suitable for each of the characters’ emotional scenes. The same can be said for the instrumentals that were used throughout the 4 parings together.

    Fighting Choreography and Special Effects (1/5)
    The special effects in this series remind you of:
    A) Ang Lee’s Hulk (There’s one specific scene if you know where I am going with it).
    B) Legend of the Eight Immortals (The Singaporean One)
    C) 1984 The Smiling Proud Wanderer (YES THE ONE AND ONLY CHOW YUN FAT)
    D) A Cheap knockoff of Mortal Kombat 2: Armageddon (which itself is another travesty)
    E) All of the above

    If you answered E, you are correct. In fact, I think throughout the series, OYF was doing his best Reptile’s imitation while GJ at time was putting on a try-out for Liu Kang. The giant snake and condor look like something straight out of "Liao Zhai Zhi Yi". Heck while they at it, they should throw in a nine-tail fox for entertainment purpose. The Hua Sen scene where HYS made his entrance (he was mountain-hopping, or hopping something that was probably pull straight out of Photoshop) and the eventual test of skills between HYS and GJ, and HQG and GJ also looked like something pull from "Liao Zhai Zhi Yi" or a cheap episode of "Zu Mountain Saga". Next, we have the flute effect. For the last time, the flute thing DOES NOT WORK. It did not work in 2003, and it did not work now. They are just better off starting the test of skills with hand-to-hand combat, as the 83 version did and rightfully so.
    Then there is my worst fear coming true: the massacring of The 18 Dragon Subduing Palms. Yes, this series did it. 2003 was bad, but this one managed to take that throne and run with it. Is it really necessary that GJ have to announce every palm before he released it? I mean it’s not like his "fairy dust"...opps...I mean 18 Dragon Subduing Palms can hurt anybody. It’s funny yet sad at the same time; that the best 18 Dragon Subduing Palms (at least in my eyes) still came from the 80s version. I thought that looked cool 20 years ago when Felix did his palm ritualization, and here 20 years later, it still stood the test of time.

    Costume and Scenery (4/5)
    Being a Mainland series, LOCH 08 has very good sceneries as expected, from the wonderful grasslands and desserts for Mongolia to the always beautiful and exotic Peach Blossom Island. The costume was good, while not as luxurious or stunning as the 83 version, it doesn’t detached away from the time period as much as the 03 version did. I was a bit disappointed with HR’s costumes as she only has two major pair of costumes; mostly the yellow one with occasionally the yellow and pink mix. I must however admit that once she put on the Mongolian costumes, she was extremely elegant and twice as loveable. YK and WYHL benefited the most from their "lines of luxury" as they were able to show off some very nice pieces of imperial outfits.

    Conclusion and Overall Rating (4/5)
    I am still torn with this series. On one side, it has endless possibility and with Ariel’s HR leading the pack, it has no reason not to grasp greatness. Then there is the script change. The detour the director decided to make still left me in awe and at time, in a great deal of frustration. There are a lot of flaws and "what if moments". However, in the end, it came down to whether the glass is half full or half empty. Despite its flaws and deviations, this LOCH has probably given me as many memorable moments as any past LOCH has, including the 83 masterpiece. While no mean itself a masterpiece, I do consider the glass to be more full than empty on this one; in turn, nailing down my overall rating of 4 out of 5 for the series.


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