|LOCH 2008 poster, from Crunchyroll|
"A mixed bag" is what I'd call LOCH 2008. Another way would be "good in small details, bad in big pictures". I originally wanted to write part 2 of the review after part 1, but then I didn't have time (and now I lean towards the don’t care attitude, sadly). Hence, this is a compilation of thoughts while watching eps 16-50. I will also comment on some characters that attracted my attention. I've only watched the 1983 ver so far (not planning to watch other versions, thank you), so inevitably I will compare it with the 1983 ver. Spoilers below.
I find that the pacing is better in this series than the 1983 version. If you read my episode recaps of 83, you'll know that I complained about the almost two episodes devoted solely for the Dali story. This pacing wastage didn't happen in 08. They only spent about 15 min to explain the whole story between Southern Emperor, Yinggu and Zhou Botong. Which is great, cos I cannot relate to this ZBT at all. I find him annoying instead of endearing the way I feel for the 83 ZBT.
However, the compact storyline also sacrificed some aspects of the series, some of them major. As some past reviewers have commented, Guo Jing's childhood was skipped entirely. I'm not a fan of the 83 ver of having the eight first episodes dedicated to GJ's life in Mongolian; two episodes would do, I think. But I don't advocate wiping it out altogether either. Also, some crucial elements about Huang Yaoshi wasn't shown here, e.g. we didn't see the adorable Huang Yaoshi (Anthony Wong) looking for HR after she left the island after the contest between GJ and Ouyang Ke. Hopefully in 2017, we will be treated with that scene, for we have a photo of Michael Miu's HYS on the lookout for HR onboard of a boat, just like in 1983.
The largest major change in this series is definitely Yang Kang. I originally was okay with what they did with YK, making him leaving the Jurchens and returning to Niu Village. I was okay with this idea at the first viewings. When in Ep 18 or 19 he decided to return to the Jins as a double agent to take revenge for his parents, I was still okay with it. But then, he decided to truly side with the Jins and betrayed the Song and his family and friends. The motive was a mix of revenge, jealously towards GJ, and yearn for more power and wealth. Okay, fine, for it steers it towards the direction of the novel. But then the director etc decided to make YK still alive until well after the Battle of Samarkand, and I find it weird. What he finally did to Wanyan Honglie was also a big deviation from the novel, not well-executed IMO, and led me to throw my hands in the air in desperation. The decision to delete the last bit of the fight between the Song and the Mongols (when HR disguised herself as a man and visited the Mongolian camp) was also a bad decision for me.
OSTs, costumes, logistics, fighting scenes
If anything, wuxia series made in the last decade will always win against their 80s/90s counterparts in their logistical department. Heng Dian is an amazing studio, and the outback China does have a lot to offer (but not large cities, unless you count pollution as an offering). As I said in the first part, the OSTs of this series are enjoyable, particularly the end theme by Hu Ge. Still not impressed with the opening OST, though it borrowed some tunes from the 1983 Iron Blood, Loyal Heart. Considering all OSTs, the 1983 ver is still a winner (despite some of its Star Wars rip-off).
The 1983 version also wins for, as you can guess, the fighting scenes. Yes, 83 failed miserably in the Yang Finger style whatever, but the pure adolescent joy i got from watching the 1983 Quanzhen Seven, Huang Yaoshi, North Beggar etc fighting was 10/10. Watch this video to see Yeung Hong vs Wong Yung if you're not yet convinced, and tell me that the CGI-loaded fights between GJ, HYS and HQG at Mount Hua was better!
"Bitter Enemies" - Wong Yung vs Yeung Hong LOCH 1983 from Icha74 on Vimeo.
"Bitter Enemies" - Wong Yung vs Yeung Hong LOCH 1983 from Icha74 on Vimeo.
Costume-wise, the 08 wins for battle costumes. TVB's sorry budget gave us plastic-lookalike costumes, while the battle costumes of 2008 felt more authentic. Yang Kang also got lovely coats and tunics, which made me wish that my Michael wore those tunics (I still love Michael's orange Jin costume and his lavender Han/Song costume though). However, Barbara Yung's tunics win against Ariel Lin's tunics. I don't care if the 2008 HR costume reflects more of the novel (I don't recall HR as always wearing yellow there in the novel, will check later); I want aesthetic-looking costumes, and TVB gave me that through Barbara's costumes.
Also, here's my list of characters i love, like and dislike in the series. Surprisingly, the first character that I love here is someone I didn't expect at all.
What I love
Ouyang Ke (Li Jie)
I learned from Wina that many fans in Kaypang Gallery liked this 2008 Ouyang Ke, and now I can see why. I think some fans over at SPCnet also liked him. OYK basically took over the role of the main villain here. His cunningness was closing in to Michael Miu's Yeung Hong in 1983. Not quite there yet, but that's already quite a praise, coming from me. Actor Li Jie played him very well. He reminded me of Victor Huang who played as Prince Yu in Langya Bang. Too bad Li Jie don't have many films/series these days, he's a good actor.
|OYK and HR at the deserted island|
I like Li Jie's OYK more as he found himself caring and loving MNC. Things are getting more interested when we focus more on OYK in the late part of ep 23. So ironic that I think that OYK should be the YK here, but that's what i feel. Unlike the 1983 version, this OYK had a bit of soul-searching there upon realising that his dad West Venom was dead. I feel for Li Jie's OYK, and I really like him here. Even though he got smug several times around HR on the deserted island (ep 29), he also caught her a fowl to eat and gave her the whole bird after it was cooked.
Speaking of cooking, Ep 31 was touchy with West Venom cooked a rabbit for the injured OHK, but it tasted so awful. Yet, because OYF had acknowledged their father-son relationship, OYK didn't mind, and he actually said it tasted delicious. Later when YK arrived to bring them back to Mainland, OYK said that he wished Little Prince didn't rescue them, for the days on the deserted island were his happiest days. And when he protected MNC in Ep 33 by preventing her from having her scarf taken off (she was serving food in the Niu Village for WYHL et al), while YK (who also realised that the scarved woman was NC) did nothing, I totally joined team OYK right then. When the crippled OYK later said that WYHL shouldn't bother anymore with his recovery, for – as the Jin Prince said – the value of a man is not on his legs, but on his achievements and courage, it hurts me, for this repenting OYK will still die later...
|My poor Ouyang Ke...|
When OYK confessed his love to MNC in ep 38 and was blatantly rejected by her, I feel heartbroken to see his puppy eyes dimmed to realise he confessed for nothing. Seriously. I think MNC is stupid. She should consider OYK, or at least befriend him, poor guy...he was so sincere...
When OYK later died in the hand of YK and MNC, the series dimmed to me. Good thing we still have Ariel Lin, Hu Ge, Anthony Wong and Bryan Leung to keep me interested.
|Kong Wei's pitiful Mei Chaofeng (Rielbox)|
Yes, I know, it’s weird that I put MCF as the one I love here, but her little contribution was so imprinted in me that I do love her. I’ve loved MCF (despite her evil deeds) since I watched Bonnie Wong playing her in the 83 version. Back then, I love Bonnie’s interactions with Michael, and that Johnnie To et al. made MCF the elder during Yeung Hong’s and Mok Nim Chi’s wedding.
Unlike the 1983 version, the 2008 Mei Chaofeng (Kong Wei) was pretty, but still pitiful. I’m actually fine with a not-so-pretty Chaofeng, actually, though the novel did mention her to be pretty (but not a striking beauty). I mean, I’m sure Bonnie is pretty, but the make-up really made her looked scary; to the point that the townsfolks backed off when they took Yeung Hong to her place for the wedding with Nim Chi). Kong Wei’s 2008 MCF was pretty and tragic at the same time. When her lover died, she cried so pitifully that I really felt for her. Then she eventually died in the process of kowtowing to Huang Yaoshi, and – like in the 1983 ver – I wish she didn’t die.
However, they didn’t give enough interactions between MCF and YK, hence the shifu-student relationship wasn’t as nearly impressive as the 1983 version.
What I like
|Taiwanese Ariel Lin as Huang Rong|
I know, I know, I should have put Ariel Lin’s HR under “what I love”, but I still cannot replace Barbara in my heart, and the truth is, Ariel Lin’s HR is not my Huang Rong. She can very well be your HR, and that’s totally fine; she’s just not mine.
Ariel Lin getting more and more cute every episode. It was touchy when HR regretted her tantrums about Huazheng. Love her smug victory after she defeated YK during the Kaypang Conference (though i palm/faced big time due to the CGI overdose). Love her scenes with Li Ping, and that LP finally acknowledged HR as the daughter in law, though the Song girl couldn't marry GJ due to GJ's prior commitment with Huazheng.
However, despite HR having gained my heart by being merry, bouncy and smart, she got brownie points again when she burned Huazheng's letter to GJ. I mean, c'mon, you're selfish I know, but reading a letter for your fiancée is bad enough, let alone burning it. It was also too easy to resolve that burnt letter case; GJ was annoyed for a nanosecond before he forgot about it. Man, talking about loving someone too much...
The 2008 version also doesn't have the HR joking around with Old Imp till Old Imp got majorly pissed off before they met Shagua (the idiot). Pity; it might enhance their chemistry. Or not. For I still don't get the HR-Old Imp chemistry here. HR had good chemistry with her teacher North Beggar and her father East Heretic though.
Still in relation to HR, I think it was unnecessary for YK to confess his evil deeds at the Peach Blossom Island to GJ, for it totally took away the surprise factor when HR unmasked YK's and Ouyang Feng's scheme. Totally unnecessary. The 83 was stellar in having the Peach Blossom Island massacre executed and unfolded. We knew it was YK and OYF who killed the Six Freaks, but the revelation was step by step, unearthed cleverly by Barbara Yung's Wong Yung. That stellar unmasking didn't happen in 2008, for YK already told the audience himself. Suppose that he didn't confess, or boast, to GJ about it, I actually think that it still couldn't defeat the 83 version, for Ariel's HR didn't peel off the crime the way Barbara's HR did. I don't think it was Ariel's fault, for she was a bright actress. Rather, I place the responsibility on the 2008 writers.
Huang Yaoshi (Anthony Wong)
|Huang Yaoshi (Anthony Wong) and Mrs Huang, from Asiandrama|
Anthony Wong was an impressive Dong Xie (Eastern Heretic). I have to say he's a very interesting East Heretic. He's not as cruel and scary as Kenneth Tsang's HYS, in fact, Anthony's HYS was a bit too adorable. Like a usual father who dislikes his daughter's choice. But that doesn't stop me from liking him. I lit up whenever I see the father-daughter pairing of HYS and HR in 1983, and I’m pleased to know that this 2008 ver also gave me that feeling. However, I do hope Michael Miu will portray an East Heretic that is closer to Kenneth Tsang's interpretation, for that is the HYS that I can relate to best. I do like HYS's wife in 2008, though. She was pretty. She actually almost looked like jumping out of a Japanese painting when we first saw her on a boat with HYS.
Hong Qigong (Bryan Leung)
|North Beggar (Bryan Leung) and his naughty student (Asiandrama)|
I think Bryan Leung played my definitive Guo Jing for ROCH 1983. The very few things that I like from that overdose of romance that is ROCH 1983 was Bryan’s GJ and Susanna Auyeung’s HR (though she was unfair to Yeung Gor in the beginning). I think Bryan was another factor (other than Hu Ge) that made me watch the 2008 version. I’m pleased to see Bryan’s North Beggar, though Lau Dan’s HQG is still the best for me.
Guo Jing (Hu Ge)
|Hu Ge as Guo Jing (Rielbox)|
I know, again, many people would put him in the first list of “love”, but I cannot. I love Hu Ge in Langya Bang, and I admire him for his tenacity in the LOCH 2008 (he had a bad accident that left a permanent scar on his left eye during filming). I think Hu Ge in LYB is a more mature Hu Ge, thus I love his performance. Not to say I don’t like his interpretation of GJ... but when comparing it with Felix Wong, Felix won. Hu Ge did try to portray a borderline insipid yet innocent and kind GJ, and he succeeded in that sense. It’s just, I’ve seen Felix’ before, and I love him more.
The other reason for me not so warming up to GJ is perhaps more because the young GJ is never a favourite of mine. I know Guo Jing is righteous etc., and he’s a role model for jiang hu, but I just couldn’t get warm up to him. Let’s see if William Yang can make me warming up to the 2017 GJ...
I liked Soh Hang-suen as the 1983 Li Ping, and I’m glad to say that I also like Wu Yujuan as the 2008 Li Ping. In particular was her interactions and gradual appreciation to HR, which I found a very nice addition to the novel. Her death was also well-executed, and I love Hu Ge’s performance when Li Ping died.
I couldn’t really tell which one was Jebe, for he wasn’t portrayed as a major Mongolian character, unlike the 1983 version. I like Tolui and Gengkhis Khan, I think they both were grandeur in their appearances. Heh, I even think Hua Zheng was impressive with her arrows, and I like it that she wasn’t a damsel in distress (she rescued her brother several times). Not liking that Huazheng didn’t tell GJ about the Mongolian invasion.
Just in his heroic bits when the Jins were attacked by the Mongols, for the 2008 version didn’t run away the way the 1983 version did. Instead, he led mere 13 elite Jin soldiers against a thousand Mongolian soldiers outside Yanjing. This WYHL deserved the loyalty of his men. Heh, even MNC and Ouyang Ke started to see him in a new light. MNC and OYK then assisted him, defending him against the Mongols, and OYK jumped off from his stupor and fought with his Toad Stance despite his legs being injured.
I feel sorry when WYHL died in the hands of his adopted son. He did bad things in the past, but I don’t think YK should have killed him like that.
What I dislike (but still could ignore)
What the heck with this version of ZBT? I couldn’t get Yinggu, why did she fall in love with this guy? In the 1983 version, ZBT was a truly merry person, I can see why Regina Tsang’s Yinggu fell for Chun Wong’s Chow Pak-tung. But the 2008 version? Shrug.
Also, the 2008 Yinggu is like her junior the 2017 version. I.e., very young and sporting a white cosplay wig despite an 18 years of time lag. I get it that they need to make her looking old, but she didn’t even have any wrinkles... and the wig so looked like a wig (give her grey hair instead!). Ho-hum. Gimme the 83 Yinggu anytime.
What I dislike to the point of palm/face
Yang Kang and Mu Nianci
|YK/MNC is not my favourite couple, turns out...|
I didn't expect to fall out of love with this couple, for I love them in the 83 version (and I love Yuan Hong and Liu Shishi in Bu Bu Jing Xin). But unlike Sharon Yeung's resolute MNC who left Michael Miu's Yeung Hong when she realised he'd always be evil, Liu Shishi's MNC actually believed YK's agenda. Not only that, she even helped him killing a repentant person! That's not the MNC I love.
Yuan Hong's YK was wishy-washy with his return-to-the-dark-side mode. His repentance felt weird. What was the motive? Because GJ spared him yet again in Samarkhand? Why didn't YK repent when he miraculously didn't die despite Ouyang Feng's palm strike at the Iron Spear Temple? To me, that was a more potent reason to repent.
I also didn't sympathise with YK when he out of the blue killed Wanyan Honglie in Samarkhand. Just because Jin is going to fall?! I get that he could've killed WYHL many times in the past, but he didn't do that because he still got the chance to be rich and powerful as the Little Prince. BUT! I disagreed with all the evil deeds that the 83 Yeung Hong did, but at least he truly treated Yuen-ngan Hung-lit like a father. Yeung Hong truly loved and cared for his adopted father. In turn, the 83 Hung-lit/Honglie also loved YH as his own son, and he truly grieved when Little Prince died.
And what did the 2008 YK and WYHL did? Testing each other and eventually one actually killed the other. I get it that Yang Tiexin and Bao Xiruo were separated and, later, died because of WYHL, but I still admire Yeung Hong for protecting his adopted father in 1983.
My last straw for the 2008 YK/MNC was them cold-bloodedly murdered the repenting OYK in Ep 42. At that time, I ceased to care about YK/MNC. What was OYK's crime that made YK do that? OYK loved MNC. He loved her, protected her, and unlike his 83 version, he treated MNC with respect. Yes, he held her hands a tad too long cause he drank too much, but then he regretted it and begged her leave. He even let her drug him, just to know why she'd do such a thing. My heart broke for Li Jie's OYK.
The 83 MNC is much better for her being steadfastly true to the truth. Despite her loving YK so much, she didn't hesitate to leave him. This 08 MNC, not only she excused YK many times, she also helped him kill a person who was trying to change for the better. Not my favourite MNC. The 1983 MNC would have at least extended a friendly hand to the repenting OYK, and wouldn’t treat him like he was a rubbish. MNC was known for her compassion, and that’s why she could forgive Yang Kang, at least IMO. Thus, she should have been able to accept at least a friendship from OYK. At the very least, she should compassionately say to him that she loved only YK, but they (MNC and OYK) could still be friends.
As for this YK, he didn't kill OYK because the latter wanted to rape MNC. YK 2008 killed OYK because the latter loved MNC, and that YK would have the chance to be the heir of Mt White Camel if OYK dies. There's a big difference there. By the time YK killed OYK, I don't care if this 2008 YK die due to the snake poison on the Soft Hedgehog Vest. Good riddance I say.
Well, okay, I did tear up a little when the repenting YK eventually died, killed by the deranged Ouyang Feng who suddenly remembered who he was, but i got over my sadness in a few minutes. That's ironic and, in a way, sad... for Yeung Hong's death in the 83 ver really hit me hard. Like, I cried a bucket until i was too tired to cry when Michael Miu's Yeung Hong died!
In conclusion, despite its gorgeous sceneries, the cute Ariel Lin and the remarkable Li Jie, the 2008 version fails to replace the 1983 version for me. And this is coming from me who has complains about the 1983 version. I will still watch YouTube for OYK/HR/MNC stuff, and also might just watch some snippets for Li Jie, but this series isn't something I will rewatch again. Too much of a deviation from the source can be as destructive as staying too faithful to the source (for some novels do need to be plied to match the TV format), and LOCH 2008 is an example for that first case.