The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 Movie Review | by tiffanyyong.com
Recommended Audience: Fans of Fan Bingbing, Huang Xiaoming, Vincent Zhao, Yan Kuan, Leslie Cheung and Action/Fantasy movie fans
The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 Movie Synopsis
In the twilight of the Ming Dynasty, the Imperial court is plagued by corruption as tyrants rule over the land. With the Manchurians preying on a weakened empire, war is imminent. The situation is even worse near the northwest border, where widespread famine is rapidly claiming lives.
To save the victims from further suffering, sorceress Jade Raksha fights the soldiers that oppress people for their own gain. As payback, local government officials decide to pin the murder of Governor Zhuo Zhonglian on Jade, turning her and the members of her cult into wanted fugitives for a crime they didnt commit.
Meanwhile, Wudang sects Master Ziyang intends to nominate disciple Zhuo Yihang to become the next sect leader, sending him to the capital to present the Red Bolus to the Emperor as royal tribute. However, the emperor dies after consuming the Red Bolus, and the Imperial Guards are quickly dispatched to capture Yihang.
The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 Viewer Rating: 3.5/5 ***
The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 Movie Review:
I should be around 5 or 6 years old when I first watch the 1993 version “The Bride with White Hair” (白发魔女传) starring Brigitte Lin (林青霞) and Leslie Cheung (张国荣). I tried to find this film to re-watch when I got to know about this remake, however, I couldn’t find them any where. (Someone tell me if you can find it!)
The box office for the film was very good in China, but so-so in other countries. Besides the fact that the female lead’s hair will turn white (duh), otherwise, it is very different from the 1993 version in terms of content. Here, it took place near the end of Ming Dynasty (perhaps the start of Qing Dynasty), something that Ronny Yu’s 1993 adaptation had left out. If you don’t know much about China history, reading this might help you appreciate the film a little bit more.
With the historical and political context now reintroduced into the film, The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom is now more about choosing sides during one of the most tumultuous times in Chinese history. It included the infamous “Case of the Red Pills” (红丸案), the famous eunuch Wei Zhongxian (魏忠贤), bringing out the patriotism amongst the citizens back in those days.
Instead of misunderstanding leading to hatred, “trust” is an element heavily played between the two lovers. Sadly, this element was good in a bad way. It’s a element most audience will hope the character will have (ya know, screaming “Why don’t you believe her, idiot!” during the show) especially for the 1993 version.
However, that “trust” also lessen down the pain of the betrayal, making the “White Hair Turning Moment” a bit forced. Why so? The “trust” between Zhuo Yihang and Nie Nishang felt like “You-Are-My-New-Girl-Friend-so-I-Give-You-Benefit-of-Doubt” rather than the true love kind of trust. Perhaps with the R-rated kind of love scenes in the 1993 adaptation, the artistic and beautiful version in the new one paled in comparison, making the relationship between the main leads unimportant and thinly-sketched.
The seniors from Wudang was disappointing too. There were many loopholes and it seemed that many scenes were cut off, making their sudden re-entrance to say that they have (suddenly) realised that they were wrong and how Zhuo Yihang is right look ridiculous. Talk about weird!
Vincent Chao was my favourite Huang Fei Hong, so him as the antagonist Jin Duyi in this film was a surprise for me. I like how his character gave the audience a gradual realization of his motives as well as his “double agent” identity. His martial arts background gave him an advantage over the rest when he was carrying out the action choreography.
Wang Xue Bing played Murong Chong, the chief cop in the Capital. He was in charge of arresting Jade Raksha (Fan Bing Bing aka White Hair Witch) for robbing the rich. Compared to previous drama adaptation where he was competing with Zhuo Yihang for Jade Raksha’s love, here he had a short “fatherly” relationship with a little orphan which somehow managed to touched the hearts of the audience. Despite so, the little sub-plot did not really blend in well with the whole story, and him as the top martial expert in capital did not really have much fighting scenes to justify his title.
I was surprised when I saw Yan Kuan, who is one of my idol Ruby Lin’s (林心如) co-actor in a few films. He acted as Huang TaiJi (皇太极), commonly known as the first or second emperor of the Qing Dynasty (His father Nurhaci passed away and did not assume imperial dignity while alive but was posthumously awarded the imperial title). As he was not shown in the trailer, I felt that the interesting character was a little under-developed. His heavily made-up appearance also made him almost unrecognizable and it was easy to overlook his character.
All in all, I would say this is a film which had to live up to the high standard of the previous film. It will be a decent movie for those who did not watch the 1993 version (and loved their chemistry), but audience who have watched, will bound to criticise it! But, I find the ticket worth when I heard the theme song sang by Leslie Cheung at the very last part of the film!
Do You Know?
Huang Xiaoming and Fan Bingbing requested for more love scenes to be filmed, suggesting in the water or on a horse. There were more than 100 crew people on the set the day they did they love scenes, but neither of the leads asked for the set to be cleared.
Huang Xiaoming filmed a fighting scenes which took 33 retakes. He fell from three metres above ground while filming a fighting scene for the movie and suffered a com-minuted fracture (in which the bone breaks into a number of pieces) in two toes on his left foot. The operation was done to insert intramedullary nails (also known as IM nail that is used to treat fractures) into his fractured toes. The filming was delayed by 2 month.
This is the second time Vincent Chao worked with the author Liang Yu Sheng (梁羽生)’s work. First time was in 2005 when he acted as a semi-evil Chu Zhao Nan (楚昭南) in Seven Swords (七剑). Similar to his character Jin Duyi (金独异) in this film, the character was also mysterious and domineering. Vincent Chao enjoyed acting as the villain but was worried about his children’s opinion about him when the movie is out.
The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom《白发魔女传之明月天国》released the film’s theme song and music video on April 1st, as a tribute to Leslie Cheung (张国荣) who passed away 11 years ago on the same date. The theme song – ‘Red Face with White Hair’《红颜白发》performed by Leslie, was the theme for the 1993 movie and won Best Original Film Song at the 30th Golden Horse Awards.
Behind The Scenes and Interviews
Check out The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 (2014)Official Weibo!
The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom 白发魔女传之明月天国 (2014) is out in cinemas on 31 July 2014.