Played at Fantasia 2022 July 23, 2022
Demigod The Legend Begins, is a visual treat. Not only do we get to watch Taiwanese glove puppet theatre on the big screen, but also the story is epic! Through the magic of editing, these characters come alive.
However, I must wonder if Bunraku is the appropriate term to use to describe this style of puppetry. The motions of these medium-sized dolls are achieved via hiding the puppeteers with simple tricks of the camera. Instead of watching a stage show, we are watching it though the eyes of the cinemtographer–where we have medium shots and closeups of the characters instead of wide shots to show these action figures in motion. In truth, this technique is the centuries-old tradition of budaixi—Chinese opera using glove puppetry. This movie updates the music with modern day electric guitars, and I’m fairly sure one song is taking cues from Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
When a robe needs to look like it’s rustling, good ol’ fashioned fans are used. When the background needs to come alive, we have CGI replacing those green screen moments. Also, we have some well placed smoke effects and cups of blood to splash around when needed! The presentation is as good as those classic wuxia Hong Kong films from the 80s. But I can’t help but chuckle when they move off camera like a Muppet. That’s okay; Demigod The Legend Begins is not meant to be as perfect as other films using marionation.
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