By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Available on Digital & Home Video (Amazon USA link) Feb 9, 2021
Arriving in time for the upcoming Chinese New Year 2021 is Jiang Ziya (姜子牙)!
This film is reverent for any year because of its themes about renewal. Though delayed from release last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been excited for this film for a long time. It finally screened in the fall of 2020. While it’s hard to say if the post-credits scene was made to update the work so it’d fit for the Autumn season, it certainly worked to keep the story current. My review and examination of the Mandarin language presentation can be found here.
Christopher Sabat‘s vocal performance is on par with Zheng Xi ’s own in the titular role, and the actresses are just as equally notable. The English voice actress (unlisted in the information I’ve obtained) for Daji is sweet, reminiscent of Zach Tyler Eisen‘s Ang from Avatar: The Last Airbender. In contrast, Morgan Garrett gives viewers a very sentai-style performance as Juiwei (Nine Tail). The purpose is no better or worse than in what viewers expect from watching an episode of Power Rangers, for example.
It’s hard to say how the original dialogue and translated version holds as I couldn’t flip between tracks currently available and having a third, namely Cantonese (which I know). Thankfully this home release has both tracks available. The screener I saw only had the English track. I found most of the variation comes from what Ziya said when he was creating magik, and a little with his internal monologue and book-ending the tale.
When considering how fast some segments of this film went, having this dub in a viewer’s native language makes following along easier! The translation used diminishes the impact a little bit, but it’s still an enjoyable action packed kids film to watch!
I saw the original thrice to double check plot points and all the place names identified–at the time written in Chinese. To verbally romanticize the journey about Jiang’s rebirth is not as good as the Chinese dub and the story is very much about whether he returns to Heaven (and follows Revered Master) or makes a new one for himself.
Daji’s search for her missing father, including needing the black flower from Mount Yodou, is still there, but its significance is nearly lost in the translation. The reasons aren’t as important. But this problem has always been around since the early days of bringing foreign language films to another country. Translators have a hard choice of rewriting or honouring the material because “it must follow the movement of the lips in the animation.” There was probably more balance between these two plots with the original, but this presentation favoured one over the other.
The dubbed version gives this movie a mark of familiarity which fondly recalls 1997s A Chinese Ghost Story, A Tsui Hark Animation. Cute animals are a must in this modern generation of kids entertainment. The Resurrection Gate I knew from one film has a new face covering in this iteration. As for whether we saw the two characters who previously died in their reincarnated form at the tale’s end, that’s up to viewers to decide.
4 Stars out of 5