The Demi Gods and Semi Devils

Reviewed by: Floo..

April 04, 2007

Rating: three-point-five

After being buried with wuxia-adaptations-turned-dramas, it is a breeze for me to watch Demi Gods and Semi Devils (DGSD), one true wuxia serial. Not too many tear-jerking scenes (except ones generated from the novel), not too much plot-expansion (but still, with THREE main characters, there really isn't room for any), everything happens (almost) exactly according to the book. For those who are not familiar with this famous story, Demi Gods and Semi Devils, contains three main characters: Dali Prince Duan Yu/Toan Ki, Beggar Clan leader Qiao Feng/Kiau Hong and Shaolin monk Xu Hsu/Hi Tiok. Each of them have their own stories, which later fused, as they became sworn-brothers. Each of them also have their own love life, which is quite unusual. Duan Yu, for an instance, has a Don-Juan-reincarnated father, which made every girl that Duan Yu falls for turn out to be his half sister. However, the love of his life is actually a statuette that he found in a cave. As he then found a living, breathing girl that looks like the sculpture, he then followed her, literally, everywhere despite the fact that the girl is crazy about someone else.

Next, we came to Qiao Feng, everybody's favorite hero who is often compared with Legend of the Condor Heroes' (LOCH) Guo Jing. Despite the facts that both were played by Felix Wong and Leung Jia Ren and both master the 18 Dragon Palms, well, they have a very different personalities and fates. Qiao Feng is the leader of Beggar Clan who is wrongly accused due to his Cidan blood. He's in love with a girl, but killed her by mistake. Her last request is for him to look after her sister, who turned out to be a very mean, evil girl. To make matters more complicated, that mean sister loves Qiao Feng and would do anything to get him.

Our last hero is Xu Hsu. He's a monk from Shaolin who, through a complicated situation, became the leader of Siau Yau Sect. And oh, he also marries a Xi Xia Princess that he keeps dreaming about after - ummm - some incident in an ice-storage. Now I understand why it is called 'basic instinct'. OK, the plot seems complicated, and it really is. Love, grudge, war, ambition, every element that usually exist in a wuxia story (plus some that usually isn't, like incest , adultery, etc) can be found in this series. It is indeed very complicated. And as they didn't make any major cutting or alteration. I was very shocked to discover that the series is only 24 tapes (at least here)! To say the pace is fast is like saying eagles can fly., I feel that if I blink, I'll miss an important scene. While it's not really a problem for me, as I have watched the 80s version and read the book, the plot might be downright confusing for a novice. And the most regretful fact is that by doing so, TVB missed an opportunity to explore the depth of DGSD's complex characters. Seriously, if TVB did not want to explore it, why should they choose to re-make this heavy, complex story about human behavior then? It's an opportunity wasted.

But still, (maybe due to its neck-breaking speed) this series can maintain its wuxia context that put it in the same genre like its 80s version (unlike Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber, for example, that changed from wuxia to drama on its 2K adaptation), that made it easy to be compared with the predecessor. And that's where this series fall short. Props, music, costumes, and the most important one, casting, are all not as good as the 80s. OK, the props look cheap, the costumes are not beautiful, and the Xena music made me imagining that Qiao Feng would throw a chakram or Murong Fu would do that distinctive Xena salto, but what really stood out are the actors and actresses. Nah, don't get me wrong here, I didn't say that they didn't act well. It's just - well, they lack something that the 80s stars have.

First of all, let's talk about the villains. Yankhing Prince of Dali (aka. The 1st Evil) was portrayed as a plump guy with orange hair. Hello - am I missing something? Orange hair? Plump? I remember that as a child, I shivered every time I saw the Yankhing Prince of 80s, which makes the orange-haired version look like a joke. Besides, isn't the guy supposed to have a grand, authoritative aura? He's a prince, and the greatest fighter, for Pete's sake!

At the risk of sounding like a parrot, Murong Fu on this version also lack of that distinctive aura. If I haven't read the book or watch the 80s version, I'd say that the saying of North Qiao Feng, South Murong Fu is too much exaggerated. This guy looks, well, weak. I couldn't fathom what made Wang Yu Yan madly in love with him, or what made him to be considered comparable to Qiao Feng.

While he is not usually labeled as a villain, Duan Zheng Sun is a very vital character in this series, especially in the development of Duan Yu's story. The 80s Don Juan (Patrick Tse, if I'm not mistaken) looks romantic despite his senior look. Well, at least I can imagine how romantic he is in his younger day. The new version of Dali playboy, on the other hand, looks weak and confused. I don't think he can win the women's hearts, even in his younger days.

On the other hand, Felix Wong's Qiao Feng has a strong personality. Or maybe too strong, that left him seem tense. He always bore that troubled expression, even before the tragic occurrence. It made me feel that he has already known the tragic fate that would come his way. And what's the point of making him wear a turban? To stress the point that he is a Cidanese? At the beginning of the series? I didn't say he's not good. It's just that Leung Cia Ren's Qiao Feng seemed more settled, a true hero with the heart of gold? Xu Hsu - Well, let's say that Terry Fan could not outperform Felix Wong. He looks stupid, he looks very, very stupid, but he didn't have the stupid (cute but stupid) quality that Felix's Xu Hsu had.

Strangely, I like Benny Chan's Duan Yu very much. He's cute, in a naive kind of way. While Kent Tong's Duan Yu made me feel suspicious (OK, OK, I'll admit. I watched DGSD after I watch Return of the Condor Heroes, so his performance as Huo-tu still lingered), this Duan Yu made me want to hug (and sometimes scold) him. He is naive, kind, and as blind as a bat when it comes to his love to Wang Yu Yan. I could go on and on comparing the 80s and 90s casting, which I don't think is necessary or informative in any kind. This series is good, believe me, and a must-see for wuxia-lover, soap-opera-hater. But it also opened my eyes on why TVB (and others) tend to make some major alteration on the wuxia adaptation. With the genre being similar, we the audience, can not help but to compare the actors. And with weak casting, it is something TVB should avoid.

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