Jiang Ziya re-examines the original ending of Investiture of the Gods, in a way markedly meant to please modern and international tastes.
Jiang Ziya (姜子牙) Synopsis
After the defeat of the Shang Dynasty, Jiang Ziya is ordered to execute the villainous Nine-Tailed Vixen. However, he hesitates at the last moment and as punishment, he is exiled to the Bei Hai, i.e., the Northern Sea. One day, a teenage girl with fox ears turns up at Bei Hai, overtly on a quest to find her father. Who could she be? Could she possibly be the daughter of Shang Dynasty Emperor Zhou and the Nine-Tailed Vixen, the vile couple that previously inflicted great hardship throughout China?
First off, this sleek animated film by Beijing Enlight Pictures is part of the, ahh, Fengshen Cinematic Universe, and is a sequel of sorts to 2019’s Ne Zha.
Originally scheduled for release during Chinese New Year 2020, the movie was indefinitely delayed because of, you know, the pandemic. Having much enjoyed the first movie, I was disheartened by this announcement and so when I saw posters put up at GV cinemas earlier in the week, I immediately bought my ticket. For the rest of the week, I greatly looked forward to the viewing.
It turned out to be a mixed experience. On the positive side of things, I was pleasantly surprised that the story isn’t the usual retelling of Jiang Tai Gong’s adventures in Investiture of the Gods. Instead, the movie explores one of the greatest contradictions, or should I say injustice *, of Xu Zhonglin’s Ming Dynasty fantasy novel. One that I personally felt to have been ignored for too long.
On the flip side, the action scenes sorely disappointed. Not only were they messy and dim, in general, they lack the sort of drive that enlivened the first movie. As a huge fan of the mythical artefacts featured in the original saga, I was also disappointed by how just one of the artefacts made its way into the show. Why weren’t more featured?
In summary, I think Jiang Ziya is entertaining and insightful in its own way, particularly for viewers who already know the original Feng Shen Yanyi story. It didn’t escape my notice too that the entire movie has a certain Pixar/Disney flavour. You know, cute animal mascot, goofy companion, road-trip, etc.
But as an example of where Chinese animation is heading, well, I think there are more impressive works. Hopefully, the next episode, which features Yang Jian i.e. Erlang Shen, will be a more memorable experience.
* Regarding the contradiction, I should highlight that the full injustice might be lost on viewers unfamiliar with the original saga, though the movie does its best to explain. It doesn’t help too that the finer details of this injustice have also been slightly tweaked.
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