I had extremely high expectations for General and I. I'm a long-time fan of Wallace Chung; I've liked him since his role as Nalan Xingde in The Secret History of Kangxi. After I heard that he was going to take up the role of Chu Beijie in General and I, I promptly went to read the entire novel. The novel itself certainly impressed, but I can't say the same for the drama read moreadaptation.
The reason why the novel stood out is because of the balance of power between the male and female leads. They are intellectual equals, quite unlike Kdramas where the male leads tend to be more dominant, and unlike the trend of female-centric Cdramas where the female leads tend to be smarter while the male leads are really just supporting characters who wield huge power to lend a hand in times of emergency (Princess Weiyoung). I think they tried to maintain the same balance in the drama as well, and I'll give them a little bit of credit for that.
From now on, I'll talk about the divergence between the novel and the drama, and my thoughts on whether these are sound/positive modifications:
1. First up, the character conceptualisation. In the book, the Jing An - He family was executed by the Yan king because their achievements are so great that the Yan king finds it unsettling. Chu Beijie did not play a part in inciting the Yan king. He merely pushed the decision by deliberating losing the battle which made the Yan king even more uneasy. There's no talk in the novel too about Chu Beijie wanting to cease battle to protect the civilians. In fact, I remember distinctly that Chu Beijie wanted to expand the territories of Jin; he was battle-hungry. There is clearly a huge difference in the personalities of the character for the drama and the book. I can see why it was changed. It's to make Chu Beijie a more likable character who regards the welfare of the civilians above everything. Personally, I prefer a male lead who isn't this "perfect" and one-dimensional really. I don't like this, but I can see people preferring it. The biggest change in Chu Beijie is how weak he's become in the drama. He was captured and tortured three times! For his love, of course, very "romantic", but I do prefer the book where he was a lot smarter and didn't have to rely on the damsel to save him in times of distress at all. Bai Pingting also didn't need any rescuing in the novel as well. On the other hand, the drama just turned into this cycle of Chu Beijie saving Bai Pingting, then vice-versa, and rinse and repeat again.
2. Next, we have the process of falling in love. Oh god. This is probably the most annoying aspect of the drama. In the book, Bai Pingting was captured by slave traders during her escape (when the Yan king was trying to kill the He family). She was then sold to the Hua family in Jin and became attendant to the
young mistress. She caught the attention of Chu Beijie while playing the zither. Chu Beijie thinks that she is Miss Hua, they fall in love, and Miss Hua makes use of Chu Beijie's affection towards "her" to cancel her previous engagement so that she can marry her beloved. Bai Pingting's servant identity was revealed, and she eventually stayed in Chu Beijie's manor. Even though the two of them are in love, they are wary of each other. Bai Pingting wants to know her young master He Xia's whereabouts whereas Chu Beijie knows that Bai Pingting isn't who she claims to be (Yang Feng). After some mutual scheming and whatnot, they separate. Isn't this a refreshing storyline? But in the drama, they chose to make the leads childhood sweethearts. If I wanted to watch childhood sweethearts, any bloody Kdrama will do. Why add in such a cliched plot device? Damn. Furthermore, Chu Beijie recognised Bai Pingting as the little girl he met, and decided that he must FORCE her to marry him. And somehow she gradually loves him back, for no rhyme or reason at all. What the hell?
3. The addition of a lot of vertices to the love polygon. Jealous, unscrupulous female character who loves the male lead, check. Another female character who falls for the male lead while the leads are separated, check. In the novel, it was just a love square and it was complicated enough already.
These are just some of the more obvious changes. And all adverse ones in my opinion. The drama honestly would've been much better if it was more streamlined and stuck to the novel like gum to the underside of the table. 62 episodes is way too much. I guess they had no choice but to extend the story with such stupid tropes to keep it going.
To add on, here are some of the flaws in production:
1. A glaring one is the green screens that they used. The first episode had really well cheoreographed fight scenes with pretty natural looking scenery. From then on, it just seemed like a lot of the characters were cut and pasted onto the background. It's so awkward to watch. So much money pumped into the production and this is the result? I can understand that Angelababy was pregnant and perhaps they had to speed up filming, thus leading to this. But I can't help but feel a little cheated. Looking at the trailers alone, I expected a gorgeous-looking drama on or exceeding Princess Weiyoung's level. Nevertheless, the end-product was far from that.
2. Also, the dubbing. Wallace's dubber is just horrible. He has this slightly unorthodox pronunciation, kind of Cantonese-like, which makes him (actually, his voice) sticks out like a sore thumb. Plus, the voice totally doesn't suit the character. You can definitely get used to it, but it took me more than 10 episodes (still don't like it).
3. Styling. I'm pretty sure Princess Yaotian looks great in real life, but her styling in the drama does nothing for her. It looks horrible! The guys' long hairstyles looked like crap on all of them except Ze Yi and Fan Lu as well. I mean, Wallace Chung and Sun Yizhou looked fantastic with the man bun I have no idea why they had to give them the long hair/dreadlocks. I know it's to differentiate between the different territories but really it's so inconsistent that it's useless.
4. Chu Beijie's deliberate act-cool moves *cringe* (dramas need to stop doing this to their male leads). Forcibly trying to make your male leads "cool" tends to achieve the exact opposite effect. Also, why does he need a mask?
Now here comes the positives. Well, the non-negatives. Some of these are not even well done but just good enough:
1. The cute loveline between Fan Lu and Zui Ju. I didn't pay much attention to this subplot in the novel itself. However, the actors portraying the two characters actually brought more appeal to this storyline in the drama compared to the novel. Zui Ju is probably the most likable character in this entire drama, despite the bad acting (so, so bad). I was worried that they were going to alter this storyline when they gave Chu Moran and Zui Ju a lot of interactions during the time Chu Beijie broke away from the Jin court. Thankfully, they didn't change it that much.
2. The acting. Angelababy gets a lot of flak for being unexpressive. I don't actually think that she is that bad. I'm just slightly bothered by her constant smile, which just distracts me a little when the occasion clearly does not call for it. It may also be an after effect of plastic surgery though. Imo, she improved towards the end of the drama. Everyone else were just on par. The duo above (Zui Ju and Fan Lu) were cute but they are obviously very green. I'm not picky about the acting as long as it doesn't come across as unnatural, so in this aspect the drama gets a passing mark in my book.
3. Yaotian's ending. I liked He Xia and Princess Yaotian's romance more in the novel, even though the author didn't really touch on it much. In the drama, the two had very little chemistry (actually, chemistry was virtually non-existent for both pairings). Yaotian's ending is the same, but the way it ended was slightly different. I think they didn't want to make He Xia look too bad. But I actually like how "evil" he is in the book, and how tragic this pairing became. I thought it added more flavour to the story.
4. The OST. I must say, they have some really nice songs. My favourite is the duet by William Wei and Claire Kuo, followed by Tan Jing's song. The opening and ending themes don't appeal to me though.
In summary, I think the drama definitely falls short of expectations. It had good source material, but did not make good use of it. It had a huge budget, but didn't spend enough effort trying to refine the drama. If anything, the production itself just screams unprofessional to me. I do wish that they won't rush the filming so much, and gave more time to post-production as well. It could have been at least a pretty drama to look at, but now it's just... a huge disappointment. I usually write reviews only when I really like a drama, or when I hate it (don't ask me why I watch it all even though I dislike it, it's a childish question). General and I belongs to the latter. I'll give it a personal 4.0, but I'll scale this to a MDL rating of 6.5 .
-- Footnotes --
 The drama has a rating of 3.6 on Douban as of the time this review is written which is far closer to my personal grade but MDL just has biased ratings. You can see it. Candle in the Tomb, a fantastic drama, is rated 8.3 on MDL and 8.2 on Douban. G&I, an awful drama in comparison, is still rated 8.0 on MDL but only 3.6 on Douban. Therefore, if you are a longtime Cdrama watcher, 3.6 is probably fair and what you should take into account when deciding whether to watch or not. (Just revised my rating to 6.5, because 7 sounds average, but the drama is really below average.)
It’s surreal how much I’ve came to love General & I. Surreal as I don’t tend to fall in love easily for any drama but General & I has been easy to love, too easy and too difficult to let go but that’s the thing with great loves, they mark you the most and are harder to overcome, if ever.
The story is simple and cliché: two very intelligent war mastermind adversaries, read moreone a general, nicknamed the God of War, the other a female strategist. Pitting against one another they’re formidable opponents: mind versus matter, prediction versus adaptability. Together they’re unstoppable. That’s the reason everyone wants to keep them apart. It’s not that they’re weaker separately, but rather unbeatable together. Chu Bei Jie is the general of the kingdom of Jin, related to the king by blood. Bai Ping Ting is a childhood friend of the Prince He Xia, a sworn enemy of Chu Bei Jie. Chu Bei Jie and Bai Ping Ting fall in love but their love is an obstacle to the wishes of the king of Jin, the Royal Consort, the Chancellor and to He Xia. Through tick and conniving plots, Bei Jie and Ping Ting are separated. After years of turmoil in the land, they reunite again for their love towards one another to fight against He Xia and unite the land under one empire, bringing peace to the people and stability to the land they so dearly love. This is the story in a nutshell but the drama is so much more than that, is the sacrifices one makes for the loved ones, the sacrifices one makes for family, for country, for honour, the battles one faces not to conquer to dominate but to conquer to maintain peace and to fight for the ideals of a better world and at opposite ends for everything antagonistic to that. For that reason the story is a 10 out of 10 without another thought.
The main catalyst characters: Chu Bei Jie, Bai Ping Ting & He Xia
Chu Bei Jie performed by veteran Hong Kong actor Wallace Chung and embodies the personification of Mars, the mythological God of War in every sense. He’s strong, determined and wrecks havoc amongst those foolish enough to get in his way. He’s smart and a brilliant strategist, able to adapt to local circumstances like no other. He’s also fiercely loyal to his king and to the woman he loves, never doubting her, never losing faith in her. He’s also not afraid to show his emotions to her, to hold her, to comfort her, to cry in her presence. Wallace Chung performs Chu Bei Jin brilliantly. He is Chu Bei Jin. For a man in his early 40’s to perform Chu Bei Jin, a character that is over 10 years his junior, to perform the stunts that he performs in the drama with the agility of a man half his age is a feat not accomplished by many and Wallace Chung does it effortlessly.
Bai Ping Ting is performed by Chinese A-List Angelababy. She took time to get used to on screen. Initially it was a struggle to see Bai Ping Ting. She appeared to passive when the character is anything but. Every scene seemed to drag with Angelababy’s performance. Is not that she was bad, rather she wasn’t good either. She was just flat and continued to be flat. Her emotions were so utterly standardized it was hard to empathize with Bai Ping Ting, despite liking the character so much on paper. It seemed that she was despondent of life and just existed. It was sad to watch. However as the episodes moved on, her performance grew more convincing, perhaps due Wallace Chung and Sean Sun’s performances who elevated the drama and by consequence perhaps made her elevate her performance as well. Bai Ping Ting is a character with more spunk than what was portrayed but saying that Angelababy’s performance was nice to watch with Wallace Chung and Sean Sun.
He Xia is performed by Sean Sun and what a remarkable performance that was as well. He’s younger than Wallace Chung yet on screen their prowess’s are evenly matched. He Xia is despicable and vindictive and a pain in everyone’s side. He marries for power then when he loses the woman he didn’t know he loved is too late. He could’ve been happy but he chose to pursue vengeance and in the end vengeance took over him and he lost himself. Sean Sun is phenomenal performing He Xia. He’s unreadable. His face demonstrates nothing, his actions demonstrate everything.
The secondary characters: the King, the chancellor, the Queen Consort, the Princess, Lady 13…what is interesting about them is that their role in the drama doesn’t drag. Once their purpose is finished they no longer appear in the drama. Normally secondary characters tend to stay in a drama from beginning to end but here, they don’t which is different but good. Once they no longer contribute to the story, bye bye and another character appears to take their place with the exceptions of the King of Yin and Princess Bai Lan. Acting/Cast, I would give it a 7. Not all characters are convincing but that mishap I gladly overlooked as I really enjoyed the drama.
The OST is nice, it’s not outstanding but it’s nice and it matches the drama well. In a scale of 0 – 10, it’s a 6.
Re-watch value: 10 out of 10. I loved Chu Bei Jie, loved, loved, loved the character and Wallace Chung! Bai Ping Ting matched him in every way possible. They’re a couple made in drama heaven, the Ying and the Yang, complements! Their battles against one another were phenomenal and when they put their heads together to fight their enemies was amazing! The drama remained solid and consistent if, dragging at times but that didn't compromise the story, building up to the reunion which ought to be watched again and again and again!
Overall General and I is as perfect a drama as they get even with its imperfections and flaws. As everything in life is anything but perfect the drama is a pure example of it, a story that is utterly perfect despite how unperfect and challenging it was along the way!
I f you are ready to watch 50+ episodes of historical angsty drama..then don't miss out on Empress Ki. This is another drama that can get you completely addicted..not to mention great acting by Ha Ji Won and Ji Chan Wook..
Angela's acting was pretty bad tbh she was stiff and had the a blank facial expression but the love story line and scenes with Wallace was amazing.
It honestly could have been cut down to 40 eps I felt like every episode had a handful of unnecessary parts
I agree with you about the length of the drama. I had to skip the Bai Lan State scenes with He Xia, Princess Bai and Prime Minister. He Xia started to look very handsome and lean in the last few episodes.
Loved this drama! Both leads are great. I don't understand why people complain about them. The more episodes you watch the better it gets. As in a book sometimes you need to invest in the characters. A pity that the ending is rushed. I would have loved to see some happy scenes of couples reunited and the happy family of the leads. Or an epilogue or something like that.
how i wish this was like Scarlet Heart (original chinese vers.) ;_; the novel is great so lovely yet bittersweet it hurts but i loved every sentence of it<333 but drama didnt even give small parts of these feelings came from novel itself ..
I just did a review on it if you want to check it out. You have to be a little forgiving in the beginning and it gets draggy about 2/3s in but is overall solid. It is romantic but a lot of political and military intrigue as well. The intrigue is done pretty well, but if it is not your cup of tea, I'd skip.
Finished watching this, i couldn't help but to thank the production team to make it almost similar to the novel! though the acting from Angelababy was not perfect, it's good enough. and Wallace Chung! #lovehimalltheway
There are way too many episodes and Angela Baby's acting is not that great. That being said, she does improve and I really like her character. Bai Ping Ting is the perfect counterpart to Chu Bei Jie. I love watching their interactions- especially when they are battling against each other in the beginning and then later when they team up. I wish there were more dramas with intelligent protagonists- especially females. Too often the female characters are naive and foolish in Asian dramas. My only complaint about Bai Ping Ting is that she is a little too eager to die at times which was a bit weird.
If you like watching strong and wise female protagonists, I recommend you to watch Legend of Lu Zhen. I think the main female lead was pretty smart and quite strong in dealing with enemy..The story and romance itself quite compelling imo.. Just I did'nt finish watching it bcoz my hardisk got broken before I could even finish it :P
Well, that was an adventure. Although I skimmed over a lot of the middle 30 or so episodes, the beginning was good and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. Angelababy improved over the course of the drama, and Wallace Chung was wonderful. I feel like He Xia and Yao Tian had a lot more potential, and could have been stronger characters, and I wish we could've seen more of Bai Pingting's friends. Rewatch value is low, but I'd give this a 7/10 for personal enjoyment.