Animated adventure

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-8-11 18:03:01

Movie based on popular TV series is a hit

The Chinese movie market has seen a surge in young filmmakers debuting on domestic screens in recent years. Among them are writers Han Han (director of The Continent) and Guo Jingming (Tiny Times); popular actor Deng Chao (The Breakup Guru); acting duo the Chopsticks Brothers (Old Boys: The Way of the Dragon); and most recently TV screenwriter and director Shen Leping, who has extended the growing impetus into animation.

Shen's 3D animated film The Legend of Qin (Qinshi Mingyue) opened across China last Friday, taking a remarkable 12.78 million yuan ($2.08 million) at the box office on its first day, according to data released Saturday by its production company, Sparkly Key Animation Studio.

Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP


(From top)Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP


(From top)Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP


(From top)Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP


(From top)Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP


(From top)Posters for The Legend of Qin Photos: CFP

The film is based on animated TV series The Legend of Qin, which itself was inspired by the unfinished namesake series of novels by Taiwanese entrepreneur and writer Sayling Wen, who wrote drafts of two of the planned eight novels in the series before he passed away in 2003.

Starting to air in 2007, the ongoing TV series has run for five seasons so far. The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Jing Tianming and how he becomes a heroic swordsman during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). The TV series has more than 60 characters, including historical figures such as the first emperor of Qin and Xiang Yu, a warlord that overthrew the regime of Qin, as well as fictional figures such as ascetics and swordsmen.

A simple story

However, in order to make the film more understandable for those unfamiliar with the TV series, only a fraction of the characters are featured, and it tells a different story.

In the film, Tianming is accidentally involved in a plot by the Qin Emperor, who dispatches swordsman Wei Zhuang to snatch a holy item known as the "soul of the dragon" from a place named Loulan. The item will activate a gigantic robot monster Warrior Demon that can help the emperor secure his hegemony. Tianming meets with Xiang Yu - called Xiang Shaoyu in the film - and Lord Ge Nie and a mysterious girl named Xiao Li, who together try to thwart the emperor's plan.

Loulan was a historical place in what is now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and much of the film takes place in the surrounding desert, with Wei Zhuang and his attendants navigating a ship that moves across the sand as if it's water.

The combat scenes are a highlight of the film. The changes in scale between the wide landscapes and the close-ups of battle work well, with the grand setting creating a heroic ambience while reinforcing the fierce confrontation of the two sides.

Although the director claims that the film, like the TV series, is not only for kids but also for adults, the plot of the film is simpler than that of the TV series, and the rapid buildup of camaraderie between Tianming and his friends at times seems to lack depth.

Peppered with Chinese culture

Promoting Chinese culture has been a consistent feature of The Legend of Qin. In the film, an array of cultural sayings and images are deployed.

A small cute creature named Pixiu, which is an auspicious animal of ancient Chinese mythology, is featured. When the sand in the desert takes shape and attacks Tianming and Xiang Shaoyu, it becomes a dragon and a phoenix, which are also signature creatures of Chinese culture.

Significant acts in the film are marked by a female voice chanting encouraging four-character phrases, which are hallmarks of formal occasions in ancient and modern times and create a serious, majestic tone. However, while such aspects of traditional Chinese culture are sprinkled liberally throughout the film, they are never gone into in depth. The film has even come in for criticism for lacking cultural heft and its loose approach to historical accuracy. But such criticisms miss the mark in what is, after all, a fictional work of entertainment.

Everyone's a critic

Cao Yulin

21, student

"It must have been raeally challenging for the director to create this theatrical version, as he not only needs to satisfy fans of the cartoon series, but also needs to attract new viewers. I think the director did a good job, and I look forward to seeing his future works."

Song Jie

25, office worker

"I find the plot of the film kind of old-fashioned in that it follows a smart and lucky party of good guys that defeats the evil party of somewhat witless members. The 3D effects are amazing, but the movements of the characters look stiff, and not so vivid as Hollywood blockbuster animations."

Song Yiping

14, student

"I like the TV version better than the film. The story of the film seems to develop too fast and sometimes I feel the motivations of the characters are very strange. It seems that the director wants to persuade the audience with some witty lines, but he does it in an unconvincing way."


Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Culture

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