Three hundred years ago, Bai Qian stood on the Zhu Xian Terrace, turned around and jumped off without regret. Ye Hua stood by the bronze mirror to witness with his own eyes her death.
Three hundred years later, in the East Sea Dragon Palace, the two meet unexpectedly. Another lifetime another world, after suffering betrayal Bai Qian no longer feels anything, yet she can't seem to comprehend Ye Hua's actions. Three lives three worlds, her and him, are they fated to love again?
Based on the novel by Táng Qī Gōngzǐ
Cast & Credits
As a stand-alone movie, the way the story was told was choppy and incoherent - there was often little connection from one scene to the next, and from one character's actions to the next - so the viewer is often left confused and disoriented with what is happening and why the characters are behaving the way they do. Therefore, in terms of story-telling, this movie falls down pretty hard. For those who don't know the story behind the movie beforehand, the film would come across not making much sense, which, I can imagine, would be a pretty disturbing and disappointing watch.
Those who do know the story beforehand are generally able to fill in the blanks and insert all the backstory in between scenes, but even speaking as someone who knew the backstory beforehand, I still found myself trying to figure out what was happening on screen and where the scene fitted in within the whole. It was terrible because your mind is having to adjust and place the characters and circumstances in the right place as each scene flashed by, so you're always playing catch-up and whatever emotional connection you had with the characters ends up getting lost. You're no longer feeling the story or the characters any longer, you're playing catch up to what's going on.
It is worth noting that as the movie attempts to condense and reduce a very lengthy story into a 2-hour telling, the production team naturally had to make some changes to some characters and events which will inevitably differ from the original source material. While this is entirely understandable, it can also hamper the watch experience because in addition to the 'playing catch-up' process, the viewer is then also having to make sense of the changes within the movie-context in itself.
I personally found some changed plot-lines and new scenes baffling and bizarre, and to this day, still have no real idea why certain things happened, or what the director was trying to tell. A good example was the way the movie ended - haphazard, chaotic, baffling and bizarre.
In terms of pacing, the film was rather inconsistent. Some scenes were given plenty of space and air-time while other scenes flashed by so quickly that just before the viewer had time to absorb who was on screen and what was happening (especially for those having to read subtitles), it has ended and you're confronted with a completely different and new scene and your mind is having to adjust from the whiplash.
It made for a very scattered and disconnected viewing experience and I can't help but think that if the director or editor had spent less time dwelling on certain scenes (the long pan and introduction into Qing Qiu being one of them), there might have been more time to allow other scenes to breathe better.
I also found myself wondering why the director chose to use or dwell on certain scenes which do not really add value in advancing an already fast-moving plot e.g. there was an extended sequence of Ye Hua cooking for Bai Qian (let's not even go into how that scene was depicted). Precious minutes spent on a cooking class when there is still so much ground to cover.
The choppy incoherent story-telling and inconsistent patchy pacing issues probably did not help (maybe even compounded to) the perception of underwhelming acting from the cast. Characters were not given enough time to establish their roles and personalities, what more for them to show us their evolution throughout the movie. As a result, it made it difficult for the viewer to understand their motives and their actions as the movie progressed. With the lost emotional connection, it is easy to pan the actors/ actresses for bad portrayals of their characters. Perhaps some of it can be put down to lacklustre acting ability, but I do also believe that another part of it was down to poor scripting of the characters, and to poor directing and editing of the movie.
Yang Yang and Crystal Liu were suitable for their roles, looks-wise. I thought Crystal was serviceable as Bai Qian but some key scenes which required her to exercise her haughty authority as the Queen of Qing Qiu did not have as much impact as I would have hoped for. Yang Yang portrayed a rather different Ye Hua from the original source material, in terms of personality and attitude. Some viewers might enjoy this fresh take on Ye Hua's character, while others like myself might have found it off-putting and borderline disturbing.
The rest of the supporting cast had too little airtime to really provide them with proper personalities, therefore a lot of them came across as one-dimensional one-note characters with a very set purpose to fulfil in advancing the plot along. They were there to do this, or do that, or say this, or say that, and their job was essentially done.
As I was too focused on trying to follow the plot and the happenings on-screen, I had very little time to appreciate the music score, except during that long pan of Qing Qiu.
Unfortunately, all things considered, I have to say that it was an unpleasant watch for me. There was very little I enjoyed or liked about this movie, therefore a re-watch is not even a consideration.
First..for the good parts, the special effects are well done and much better than the obviously fake CGI animation in the tv drama. i also prefer the lead actress liu yifei in the movie. For me she looks more endearing than yang mi in the drama. It took a bit of time for me to warm up to TV yang mi. The pacing is fast (sometimes too fast) so you will not get bored watching.
now for the bad parts. whether or not you've seen the TV drama version, this movie has fairly significant shortfalls.
if you've not seen the drama, the plot will be baffling. Special effects cannot make up for lack of cohesive story. The idea to constantly go back and forth from the present to the past was initially ok, but later robbed the impact and I suspect will make it confusing to moviegoers with no background. And while i understand and support the need to cut many characters and side story, there was lack of explanation on important parts. On the positive side, you will likely find the acting passable, though not brilliant.
if you've seen the drama, the story will be understandable (thanks to your pre-knowledge), however the movie itself will be disappointing. Chinese netizens are diligently posting ludicrous parts e.g. the audience actually laughed the first time some of the supporting characters costume came on to the screen - not the reaction you wanted! Thankfully, the lead actors qian qian and ye hwa are (mostly) costumed nicely, however even qian qian elicited another laughter on one supposed to be dramatic scene, again due to over the top costume. But to me costume can be overlooked. What made it unsatisfying ultimately is lack of emotional connection. The actor yang yang is not so bad, but if you've seen the drama, you can't help but compare to mark chao. Whether it is the fault of the story pacing or the deficiency of acting skills, many dramatic scenes felt flat. One of the highlights of the tv drama was when lead actor and actress met again after a period of separation. In the movie, it was more like "boy meets girl for first time" romcom type of vibe.
For fans of the novel/series, don't be discouraged by this review. Do go ahead and watch. Arm yourself with low expectation and you will enjoy the movie more with its beautifully shot scenes and relive the story. Certainly the ~2hrs flew by quickly. For non-fans, I recommend stay away, it will leave you baffled on what the fuss is all about.