Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms reinterprets Investiture of the Gods for modern audiences by focusing on the real winner of the saga.
Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms (封神第一部：朝歌风云) Synopsis
Based on the first story arc of the classic Chinese fantasy saga Investiture of the Gods¸ Kingdom of Storms narrates the brutal events that led to supernatural civil war between the Shang Dynasty and the Western Zhou forces. Unlike previous interpretations of the saga, however, the story is told from the viewpoint of Ji Fa, the future founding emperor of the Zhou Dynasty. The first in a trilogy of Fengshen live-action movies, Kingdom of Storms begins with a young Ji Fa participating in a military assault on the city of the rebellious Su Hu. What happens during the slaying of the rebel duke sets in motion the downfall of the all-powerful Shang Dynasty.
Just as Hollywood will always be a new Batman, Joker, or Clark Kent, in Chinese pop entertainment, there will always be another Sun Wukong or another movie adaptation of Investiture of the Gods.
Many cinematic Investiture adaptations had fans of the literary classic in tears too; way too many Chinese companies have tried to milk the enduring popularity of the saga without any genuine love for the source material. That being said, when a producer, when a director gets it right, a fan like me will still be in tears. Because there is nothing quite like the joy of watching your favourite mythological classic come alive on the big screen.
I … exaggerate; I wasn’t exactly weeping in joy throughout yesterday’s viewing. But believe me, my eyes did get wet several times because Kingdom of Storms is easily the best Investiture adaptation I’ve ever watched. The most faithful and respectful too, in its own way.
There’s seriously a lot that I love about this latest adaptation, the first in a trilogy with the next two episodes scheduled for the summers of 2024 and 2025. Other than extravagant costumes and expansive sets that involved hundreds of extras, there is a diligent, marked effort to honour the essence of Xu Zhonglin’s * enduring novel. Whether by meticulously recreating the defining moments of the story or by exploring the unexamined relationships of the original text.
The latter is particularly refreshing. Way too many adaptations kept to the storytelling direction of the novel by focusing on elderly Jiang Ziya. To “liven” things up, some adaptations even went to the ludicrous extent of rewriting Jiang as an ageless immortal in aged disguise.
By opting to focus on Ji Fa, the real winner of the Shang-Zhou conflict, and by making it an oriental Bildungsroman, director Wuershan effectively injected an attractive, youthful freshness into his production. One that makes his trilogy not just another retelling but also a delightful, logical expansion.
Coming to thumbs-downs, well, I’ll be honest. Other than overcooked CGIs during the climax, I have no complaints.
But I acknowledge my viewpoints are shaded by my lifelong love of the source material, and so in the spirit of objectivity, I’ll address some of the complaints shared by other reviewers. (Generally, western reviewers)
Very obviously, Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is an enthusiastic mainland Chinese attempt at a LOTR-ish saga. The total rewriting of the Fengshan Bang into a coveted plot vehicle with detrimental side effects is clear evidence. As such, many moments could come across as excessive.
As modernised as this adaptation is, it retains a classic flaw of medieval Chinese popular fiction. There are simply too many characters for the movie to properly depict, let alone explore. Apart from Ji Fa, Yin Jiao, and King Shou (Di Xin), all characters including Nezha, Jiang Ziya, and Yangjian operate on a touch-and-go basis. Even the true intentions of Narana Erdyneeva’s deliciously foxy Da Ji are enigmatic right to the end.
In other words, how much you’d enjoy this adaptation heavily hinges on your familiarity/love for the source material. How much you yearn to see your favourite Fengshen characters depicted in live-action too. The good news, though. Even if you’re completely new, I believe you’d still find Kingdom of Storms entertaining, thanks to superior production values.
As a fanboy of the saga, I’m certainly looking forward to Episodes II and III too. To share a little, Wuershan revealed that the highlight of Part II is the Shijue Zhen (十绝阵 | 10 deadly arrays). That’s one of the most fascinating arcs of the story, with magic and supernatural artifacts galore. I wonder whether I’d be cheering in the cinema when watching that next year.
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