Well GO USA
Coming to Theatres Sept 22
(Please check local listings)
When considering a lot of films have been made based on some part of the epic Chinese novel, Investiture of the Gods, it should not surprise me that one day, someone would attempt to adapt the entire text. Creation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms attempts to tell the entire story and when there’s a total of 100 chapters, to bring it all to screen will require more than one film!
I’m glad director/co-writer Wuershan is attempting this project. I’m rather fond of his work in Mojin: The Lost Legend, and he’s on the right track. Hopefully the advice he got from James Schamus‘ (who gets credit as script consultant) isn’t for naught. He is best known for being one of the co-writers of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Even though I know bits and pieces through the various animated films released in prior years, it’s cool to see how it all comes to head in this magnum opus. There’s Jiang Ziya (Bo Huang) working with two other immortals to stop the Great Curse that’s threatening the Shang dynasty.
Elsewhere, Su Daji (Naran) is a nasty fox spirit who’s causing chaos in the royal court. King Zhou (Kris Phillips) is smitten and is being controlled by her. As a result, his empire is at war with Ji Fa (Yosh Yu). Two generatons of family are involved, and as for who is right, it’s easy to tell who is manipulating whom. Also, somewhere in this complex web of a story is in how Ne Zha (Yafan Wu) gets involved.
In the book, the Primeval Lord of Heaven gives Ziya the Fengshen Bang to help him convince the other gods in heaven to join in this fight. A more literal translation gives the work its book title, “Investiture of the Gods.” Much of the story is about recruiting various groups, including supernatural ones indigenous to the Kunlun region, to join in this holy fight. In some ways, this story reminds me of Ragnarök. It’s about the destruction of the old world and the creation of a new one. In the latter, certain survivors become the new spiritual order to keep the peace.
I’m glad I know some aspects of this story before tackling this film, otherwise I’d get lost in Wuershan’s presentation. It’s sometimes confusing since there are lots of characters to keep track of. Thankfully, the text introductions make following along easy. Still, I felt overwhelmed and needed another viewing of Creation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms to recognise all the narrative beats.
Also, adapting the complete book is a gargantuan task. This filmmaker doesn’t break it up very well. When this film clocks in at two and a half hours, that means watching it again every other night. I have to thank Well Go USA for early access, and the notes I took may well be a book in itself.
Part of the reason is that some of the CGI work distracted from the fantasy. Unlike the image used here, there’s other moments where there was not enough effort to blend the background pixel creations or flowing bits of fabric into the cinematic tapestry. Thankfully, landscapes are hard to get wrong, and the winter moments are the best. But when it came time to show us the enormous palace or depicting Heaven, the not so well blended quality is noticeable.
But as for the story, I would have preferred a serialised streaming series rather than one big film. Despite this nitpick, I’ll still want to see this trilogy in full since the next films are guaranteed. Although I’m still waiting for a finale to the animated Fengshen Cinematic Universe, this one still manages to excite and satisfy. Also, please stay for the post credit scenes. It shows why we should all stay invested for this take to the end. It promises to be epic!
4 Stars out of 5