Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy 2014! 11 days in already!?

...much of it wasted in watching some TV show I downloaded. It's not even new. 2004: that's a mere ten years ago. Ha. And after finishing it...

Come back, bloated Hobbit movie trilogy, all is forgiven!

Or not. But this series sure gives it a run for its money. It takes the 90-minute 1994 Deadful Melody and drags it out into 33 45-minute episodes. 33! It's supposedly based on a book ("六指琴魔"), but based on reading the first two chapters of the book so far, the TV series follows the movie more closely for its plot (shot for shot, scene for scene, it was just the same, except slower paced) but adds in a bunch of characters taken from the novel. Probably it's all about as faithful to the book as the "Swordsman" movies were (i.e. hardly at all!).

Like the old Hobbit movie, the old "Deadful Melody" was rushed and cartoonish (flying body parts! Wire-fu!). (Why am I even comparing them? Well, (if you include the full Lord of the Rings trilogy) they have similar themes with the corruption of power, powerful magic items, and people fighting and betraying each other for power. Except the Chinese one has more REVENGE! and FAMILY OBLIGATIONS! in it. And perhaps more female characters featured. Amusingly, both have women disguised as men.) The newer Deadly Melody series certainly isn't rushed... everything the movie did in thirty seconds the series takes ten minutes to do. If a short sequence was funny in the movie, the series repeats it 3-4 times over with slight variations. One positive effect: it slowed down enough for me to read the subtitles and realize that the "Late-arriving Monk" was not literally named that. His name was actually "Mercy/Compassion" (something along those lines) and the "late" bit was a pun. Well, of course it was. Everything in Chinese is a bloody pun.

Brigitte Lin as Xuemei Brigitte Lin (in the movie version) tries to convince her little brother of their relationship and that she's not completely a revenge-driven murderer. Ning Jing as Xuemei Ning Jing (in the TV series) tries the same thing. Apparently the actress said in an interview she didn't want to be compared to the (legendary!) Brigitte Lin, but I'm doing it anyway. Mwah ha ha ha ha! Part of it is the writing, part of it is the acting, but for me Brigitte Lin wins with her awesomeness (even if this is not the best of her 1990s wuxia flicks). Yuen Biao as Lu LinLu Lin (played by Yuen Biao in the movie) is not convinced at first. This and Zu: the Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) are two movies that I remember that starred him rather than having him as a stunt man or extra. Benny Chan as Lu LinNor is Benny Chan (in the TV series). Here, I call it a tie. I find Benny Chan more charismatic and overall a better actor, but Yuen Biao is a brilliantly acrobatic martial artist, which makes his action scenes much more fun to watch. (ETA: maybe not so much in this movie, which looks a bit cheap, but in others.)

So what's my point? I don't have a point. Just random thoughts:

  • I don't really like love triangles, love rectangles, love pentagons, whatever. The 1994 movie version didn't do all that. But the TV series sprinkled it in everywhere (how else would it make it to 33 episodes?). Gah! The main villain was in it for love as well as power. Blech! There was a designated Sacrificial Love Interest or two. Double blech! This works better if the Sacrificial Love Interest isn't someone the viewer hates and wants to die ever since the first few episodes where he mopes on screen... I did try having a love something-or-other in some of my NaNo novels, but failed miserably. I don't mind as much if it's done for comedy, but I hate the dragged-out emo nonsense.
  • Having a bunch of people follow the heroine (anti-heroine?) around saying things like "she's really a good, kind person in her heart!", "it's not really your fault! don't blame yourself!" (even for things that manifestly are her fault), "she has reason to be that way, you shouldn't be so hard on her", "I know you're a good person", etc. etc. ad nauseum only makes me hate her more. It makes her seem weak, when there's so much of it. In the movie, Brigitte Lin's version had no time for this nonsense! She was what she was, and owned it. No excuses. She and her enemies all did what they did, without needing people to constantly reassure them that they were the good guys. However...
  • In my favorite Brigitte Lin wuxia flick (Fire Dragon), she plays an assassin working for the villain, and at one point we do have the love interest say to her that he believes she's a good person and surely she couldn't really be that evil... but it works for me because she knows it's wishful thinking and she is in fact the ruthless assassin (forced by obligations to work for the villain) and it's bound to end badly. So actually I adore sentimental mush, it's just that I don't want it to feel unearned. In "Fire Dragon", I ended up completely sympathetic to the assassin character, and felt for her when she basically failed herself and her sister, and in the end, even her final achievement was credited to other people. Whereas in the Deadly Melody TV series, I ended up disliking the ruthless killer character, and just went [Nelson] "Haw-haw!" [/Nelson] at her in the end.
  • That said, I did enjoy the irony in the TV series. Xuemei (the ruthless killer) is out for revenge, because all these people destroyed her family in their quest for the One Ring, er, I mean the magic Qin (zither). In the course of her revenge, she destroys an innocent family as a side-effect of her vengeance. The only survivor of this innocent family turns out to be her own little brother. And she's now turned him into another revenge-obsessed fanatic... against her! Like violence, the revenge saga is a guilty pleasure for viewers/readers... the writers seem to feel they have to include moral lessons about the destructiveness of revenge, yet they can't help but admire the single-mindedness and family/filial loyalty involved...
  • And viewing the movie and TV series side by side reminded me of how I miss old school wire-fu martial arts. Nowadays, people turn to CGI for their action scenes. It just doesn't look as real. I don't mean that the old movies were realistic, but rather that I had a sense of physical bodies moving around. Now it's more like actors striking poses while computerized effects are filled in around them, or video game orcs and video game fireballs and such. "Fire Dragon" had spectacular fire effects and amazingly creative fight sequences (ok, some of the speed-up was over the top, but overall it looked great), and that was in 1994. The Hobbit movie I watched last month (20 years later!) was not nearly as fun or engaging. Ah well. That's Progress!
  • So basically, what I'm saying is that I secretly want to write a novel with a main character played by Brigitte Lin. (At least in my own mind.) Clearly. Ah ha ha ha ha. I could still do it for my NaNo2010, 2011, or 2012 novels, actually. Hrmm...