The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber

Reviewed by: Floo..

December 08, 2007

Rating: four

"Heavenly Sword Dragon Saber"(HSDS) is a story that is quite different from other Jin Yong (JY) and wuxia stories. While the greatness and heroism of a wandering hero is certainly a common theme, the greatness of a clan is hardly depicted. In my opinion, what sets HSDS apart from other novels is its complex and detailed description of the organizations' structures, especially the Ming Sect / Beng Kauw.

Surely, the story's not all about Ming Sect, (By the way, I understand that this novel has been made into many series and movies. Probably you have known this story by heart, so I'll just skip the synopsis part :D), but about Zhang Wuji /Thio Bu Ki. It's just that we could not help but to admire JY's vivid imagination upon describing the very complex organization, with two advisors, four law abducing kings, and five flags. And with such unique members! All in all, I think Jin Yong did a terrific job on describing and enliven each character, including the supportive casts. HSDS even contains touching sub-stories, such as the Yang Siau - Ki Siau Hu - Yan Lei Ting - Yang Put Hui love story.

So imagine my shock upon watching HSDS 2000. It is nothing like the book. To be fair, HSDS '78 or HSDS '86 were not perfectly derived from the book either, but at least it is still the same heroic story. HSDS 2000 is not even a wuxia story. For me, it is more of a drama, with a bit of wuxia. HSDS should be about vie of power, that is represented by the fighting over the Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. But HSDS 2000 is all about love; romantic love to be more precise, as it does not portray much of the brother/sisterhood love either.

While the first part of the series is good, especially due to Damien Lau's and Michelle Mieh's outstanding performances, the second part of the story is focused purely to the Zhang Wuji/Thio Bu Ki (Lawrence Ng), Zhao Min/Tio Beng (Gigi Lai) and Zhuo Zhiruo/Ciu Ci Jiak (Charmaine Sheh) love story.

By doing so, much of the characters are not sufficiently exposed, especially compared to the three main characters. Even Cu Ji (Wuji's cousin) and Siauw Ciauw (Wuji's maid), Wuji's other women, were only depicted at a glance.

The depiction of the Ming Clan is, well, horrible. Some of them were made dead, unnecessarily. Some of them (Yang Siau, Green Bat) were too gloomy. And I am amazed on how little respect they showed to Wuji. While Wuji is still young and inexperienced, all of the Ming Clan members are very much in respect of him, as he's very kind, good in medicine and martial arts. At least I never saw him being teased that mercilessly in other adaptations.

It is also a pity that some of the supposedly heroic scenes are deleted, while many unnecessary sentimental scenes are added. My favorite part of HSDS is always the latter part, in the Lion Killing Meeting where the Five Flags of the Ming Sect gave some presentation, as well as the last war scene with the Mongols. These scenes are drastically cut to only a few seconds, if not omitted at all. On the other hand, much exposure are given to the love story of Yan Lei Ting - Yang Put Hui. TVB even 'invented' Zhao Min's family problem and exaggerated it heartily.

All said, if we forget that this is supposed to be HSDS and just enjoy the drama, I think this is a very good series. Lawrence played his part well. His acting as a sensitive guy that is loved by many women seems real. He really seems torn apart, knowing that one way or another he will hurt one of the girls' heart. I really like his soothing voice when talking to the sulking Zhao Min. His expression, when two of his girls (usually Zhiruo and Zhao Min) were quarrelling, is just right. I know that he's old, but somehow, he even managed to look quite cute, especially when he seems speechless.

As Zhao Min, Gigi really enliven the image of a smart, strong-willed girl that is madly in love. Her infatuation to Wuji seems real, and she's very pretty! Kudos to whoever designed Zhao Min's pink Mongolian dress. It is cute, and unique!! Alas, as Wuji here seems too decisive (it is obvious that Wuji loves Zhao Min best), Zhao Min's sulking seems a bit illogical.

As Zhiruo, Charmaine seems so sweet and fragile at first, but then hardened at the latter scenes. She even manages to look evil yet I can't help but pity her, as her love for Wuji is still greatly shown. Although here and there Charmaine seems quite expressionless and has that blank look in her face, I think in general she did quite a good job on acting as a broken-hearted girl.

Although very much inflated, I found the love triangle between Yang Siu, Kie Siau Hu and Ya Lei Ting as well as the love story between Yang Put Hui and Yan Lei Ting enjoyable. Even the ridiculously exaggerated Zhao Min's family drama bring another facet to this series. Again, just forget that this supposed to be HSDS and just pretend that it is just a drama.

Maybe TVB carries this drama thing a little bit too far. One scene that really captured my eyes (and makes me laugh uncontrollably) is when Zhiruo cries after being released from the temple, since she remembered her vows to her teacher. Well, the lighting are very much cheesy!!! I think the fighting scenes are not really bad, (especially considering that this is a drama series), even though they use too much graphics for my taste. The soundtrack is good, although certainly could not be compared to that of HSDS 78, but better that that of HSDS 86. I especially like the way TVB introduces a character or a style using the text. And the Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre look really good!!

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