I don’t hate New Kung Fu Cult Master 1 (倚天屠龙记之九阳神功). That’s because I’m a die-hard Louis Cha fan.
New Kung Fu Cult Master 1 (倚天屠龙记之九阳神功)
Adapted from Louis Cha’s Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre, New Kung Fu Cult Master follows the adventure of orphan Zhang Wuji following his return to the mainland as an adult. Armed with the invincible Jiuyang Shengong, Wuji crosses paths with the devious Zhao Min, a Yuan Dynasty princess tasked with suppressing resistance. Before long, Wuji’s skills and chivalry also earns him the supreme seat of the widely reviled Ming Sect.
Some background information about this CNY 2022 Wuxia flick. Helmed by popular Hong Kong actor Raymond Lam, this is the fifth time Louis Cha’s Yitian Tulong Ji has been adapted for the big screen. If you include all the TV series over the years, as well as reimaginations like The Hidden Power of the Dragon Sabre, this makes it the 15th time the beloved Wuxia saga has been adapted for visual entertainment.
The show itself is also a remake of Jet Li’s Kung Fu Cult Master (1993), thus the “new.” Hereby, let me just highlight that Jet’s version ended with much promise of a sequel/conclusion, but that never came to fruition. This time round, a part two has already been filmed and would probably be released later this year. As a Louis Cha fan, I will be watching that too.
Watching, despite finding this latest adaptation pointless.
Nope, I’m not being harsh. Bluntly put, I didn’t yawn during the show simply because I love the Yitian Tulong story since young. To be clear, I also didn’t dislike this new adaptation because of its ugliest controversy. That of 42-year-old Raymond being too old to play the role of an early 20s Zhang Wuji. (The story was tweaked. The Wuji in this version is in his early 30s)
What disappointed me was how the entire show was just “going through the motions,” or should I say, “going through the key moments of the original saga.” Apart from many condensations of the original plot, including character mergers, there were no memorable dialogues or interactions, it’s just a constant rush from one key event to another. For a 2022 Wuxia production, there were far too few noteworthy fights too. Arguably, just two good ones, in my opinion.
And then there’s that pronounced tired feel. Not just during character deliveries but also how so many plot details were barely explained. Or mentioned way too late. Is it a case of the producers believing viewers would already know the story, so let’s not waste precious screen time?
To repeat, I will still watch part two but it will really, really, be a fan obligation thing. I will also have no expectations.
As much as it pains me to say, I think it’s high time to consider whether Louis Cha sagas have been “done-to-death.” I will still watch new adaptations, but I find myself increasingly craving for bolder re-inventions.
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