Double World, available on Netflix, is probably too formulaic to Western viewers. But it’s still a promising example of a new Chinese storytelling genre.
Double World (征途) Synopsis
After ten years of an uneasy armistice, the feuding nations of Northern Yan and Southern Zhao are again on the brink of war. To prepare for the confrontation, Southern Zhao Grand Advisor Guan summons representatives from the eight clans of Zhao. A deadly tournament would then determine the warrior fit to be the next grand marshal of Southern Zhao.
Of late, I’ve been checking out a certain newer genre of Chinese pop entertainment. As in, periodic drama series and movies not of the Wuxia, Xianxia, or historical genre.
Not set in Imperial China too.
For example, the Warring States inspired drama series, Sword Dynasty.
Now, such Chinese fantasy movies aren’t exactly new, and truth is, they incorporate heavy elements of the above-mentioned older genres too.
For a middle-aged Asian dude like me, though, as in someone who grew up watching classic Wuxia and historical Chinese dramas, these newer-age stories nonetheless feel odd in various ways. For a start, I keep subconsciously expecting there to be some sort of historical reference, and becomes uncomfortable when there’s none.
I’m mostly over these discomforts, thankfully, and that’s one reason why I enjoyed Double World. The story is obviously inspired by Western and Japanese RPGs, but that aside, the action is intense, the cast superb, and the imaginative backdrops a joy to look at. By the way, this Netflix feature is based on a Chinese MMORPG of the same name.
The individual characters are additionally well-familiar to the gamer and Anime fan in me. The cheery and kind-hearted hero, the jaded older warrior, the snarky but loyal female companion, etc. As a whole, the package would likely feel a shade too derivative to non-Chinese viewers. There is a certain copycat element. The first tournament segment was too Hunger Games eager as well, if you know what I mean.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. With reference to what I was saying above, I think productions like Double World further open up a Chinese storytelling genre that has been sidelined for too long. Just why are there so few notable Chinese fictional worlds that are separate from Wuxia, Xianxia, and historical dynastic intrigues?
I think it’s a great idea to have more Chinese periodic stories set in imaginary worlds, put it that way.
Incidentally, the ending suggests there might be a sequel. I’d certainly be watching, if there’s one.
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