I know that after this post, you are all are going to lose respect for me but I have to confess: I am hooked on Yumama’s Swordsman. On so many levels, it’s one giant mess of Epic Fail (umbrella parachutes, Kong Ming lanterns as levitating devices, a female DFBB and CGI effects that are considered bad 10 years ago). On the other hand, we have decent acting. I think if you manage your expectations (ie don’t even think of it as a Jin Yong adaptation, but rather as an alternate reality fanfiction), you might actually find yourself enjoying the ride.
Wallace Huo actually makes me want to continue watching this f-ed up version of Jin Yong’s The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. I mean, he is making me like Linghu Chong. The only other version I’ve watched is the 1996 TVB version. That one left me with the impression that LHC is just a wishy washy guy that plays a really awful reluctant hero. But in this version, LHC is actually consistent. He doesn’t really see himself as a hero; he’s just doing what he’s been taught is right. You can see that he’s smart (in the 1996 ver, I feel that LHC is a bit derpy), resourceful and ethical. He is a sharp one when judging people, which creates conflict when his judgment (often right) departs from that of his peers. His playful nature and rather unconventional ideas do not help either.
For the first time, I get the title xiao ao jiang hu: LHC isn’t interested in being anybody’s boss or anybody’s hero – all he wants is to be free to do as he please. As long as his actions don’t hurt anybody, he doesn’t really see why it’s anyone’s business but his and other than those he cares about, he really doesn’t give two hoots about what others think about him. His character screams: “Yeah, I might not be able to escape the entanglements of jiang hu, but hell, I’m sure going to do things my way.” And because of this, I do feel that LHC’s greatest unhappiness stems from him trying to live up to his Master’s and peers expectations. It is like trying to fit square pegs into square holes. He does it because he cares about them, and thus values their opinion. So when they misunderstand, doubt and mistrust him, he feels the pain all the more acutely. Its only when he learns to let all of that go, he achieves the state of xiao ao jiang hu.
Han Dong is SO smarmy funny here. I love him. I mean, I’ve seen him in a lot of stuff recently – he’s the poisonous Ninth in BBJX, angsty Prince Dorgon in In Love with Power, the gentlemanly second brother in Cuo Dian Yin Yang – but I think this is the first time he has attacked a comedic role with such vigor. I mean, its rather over the top at times, but he commits to the role of the Pervert, Tian Bou Guang, complete with the crazy smarmy facial expressions. Totally uncool but that’s what the role really calls for.
On the other hand, you a whacked out alternate universe fanfiction-like storyline going on. DFBB is a woman. And when Chen Qiao En goes uber ebil on us, I roll my eyes so hard they sometimes get lost in their sockets (which is okay, because some of her wardrobe choices are really quite…. interesting). She’s cute, but I’m not buying her evil dictator looking for love. I mean – in some scenes, she’s cackling like a maniac while twirling around in a red dress and give us expressions that I feel even prostitutes would hesitate to wear (actually, in some scenes, she does pretend to be a prostitute) – and in others, she’s a lovesick crybaby replete with cheesy “why do you make me love you” lines. So much potential wasted – I mean, you’re going the way of a FEMALE DFBB (who must be at least 5 years older than LHC in this story) and you’re making her a weeping willow that reaches out to give backhugs whenever she can. CQE does have incredible chemistry with WH though – its just that I’m not buying her as a ruthless evil overlord.
Verdict: This has given me new perspective into LHC’s character and I get to see a different side of Wally. I mean, in most other shows he NEVER smiles because he’s the angsty tragic character, but here he does even when the odds are against him and you see a different side to him.