Legend of Ravaging Dynasties

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Legend of Ravaging Dynasties

Postby mr friendly guy » 2016-10-22 01:17pm

First I am going to say, i will end up spoiling a little bit of this Chinese CGI fantasy film, since its not released in the US or Canada. :D

That being said, if you like the trailer (below), you might not want to read too much of my review because someone has uploaded it on youtube



entire film with subtitles

Now lets get to my review. Firstly Chinese filmography always included some fantasy elements to their films. For examples various rendition of the classic "Journey to the West" and the martial arts Wuxia genre (where the supernatural powers come in the form of martial arts instead of magic). However having speculative fiction which more closely matches the Western bookshops of sci fi and fantasy is a more recent phenomena. K.A. Pital has already posted some reviews in sci fi about Chinese sci fi novels, so heck, lets do the same for fantasy.

Now this film is obviously meant to be part one of a series of films. It does have an ending, but leaves room for more, because the main plot is not finished.

This movie is filmed using motion capture, so if you expect motion capture to deliver Avatar like images, you will be disappointed. If you want nice CGI images like a video game, then I would consider this decent, although the resolution on youtube isn't as great as in the cinema.

Plot

Lets not pull punches. The movie does not hold your hand through it. Compare to a lot of fantasy movies we see in Hollywood, there will usually be a narration which info dumps at the very beginning. This movie has a narration of the main character reflecting back to when he was younger, which tells us nothing about the background of this fantasy world.We do see images showing comets hitting the planet, which clearly tells us this is not an alternate Earth because of the continents on the planet. Its not even clear to me why they showed comets until I rewatched it again. The comets are meant to be the "priests" who arrived on this world. Like I said, the movie doesn't hold your hand.

This is not helped by the fact that there is some changes of scene are disjointed, almost like they had to edit out things for the release. Hopefully any DVD release would fix this, but I will give you an example of what I mean. A character has been instructed by her master to head with him towards a certain location. The next time we see this character she is kneeling on the ground, and its inferred from the scene she had been in a fight with another new character. However there is no indication that this had happened. All it would take is for a quick scene showing her being surprised attack, or at least launching an attack and the movie would seem less jarring. That being said, it shouldn't detract too much from the movie.

I want to further elaborate that the movie has a "reveal" part at the end, sort of like in whodunnits. Just like the detective reveals all the hidden clues in the murder mystery, the characters reveal what they know and we piece together a conspiracy of sorts. This definitely fills in the gaps which makes certain scenes seem disjointed from one another, but I don't think it works that well. Not that the reveal wasn't satisfying (it leaves more mysteries and sets up a sequel), but it shouldn't be using the "reveal" to make the scenes less disjointed. They should have just added a few seconds of scenes to do that. I will give an example of what I mean. There is an early scene where a character is pursuing his prey and catches him. Then the next scene of the pursuing character is he is in another location and is missing his arm. This would imply he lost it in conflict with his prey, but it seems disjointed. The "reveal" at the end shows in flashback sequences his prey is more than he seems and how he takes away that character's arm. This whole plot point would have been better if we show at the very beginning when he confronted the prey, parts of the scene where he ends up losing his arm, or the prey smiling in a sinister way to indicate he is not the helpless boy he seems.

Now according to the internet, the source of all wisdom the novel from which this movie is based tells of the conflicts between 4 kingdoms on this fictional continent. The story is obviously long, so this movie just focuses on one of the countries, which romanisation of the Chinese comes out to be Aslan. Which brings me to another point. Some of the names are romanised in interesting ways. For example a character is phonetically being pronounced as You Hua, but the subtitles keep on saying Yuku, which is a bit jarring. But back to the main point. While its mentioned that there are 4 countries on this continent, its not mentioned in the film that Aslan is supposed to be a "water" empire. Presumably the other 3 countries would represent fire, earth and air like the Avatarverse. I had to get this information from the internet, although I suppose there are clues. Almost all of the magic users can use water magic, and those that haven't used it may have simply chosen not to. I don't really remember them using magic which would fit into the other elements. Its just that the magic users have their own unique abilities (see section on magic and world building below for more details), as well as their water manipulating magic so its not obvious to me.

So we got that out the way, lets summarise the main plot without spoiling. The narrator at the beginning tells his story of how he became apprentice to a magic user or Lord or Duke (depending on your translation source). He finds himself caught up in a conspiracy of the highest order in his country, which challenges the very foundation of the Priests who rule. Meanwhile the priests have ordered some of their magic users or dukes/lords to hunt down some of their number who have been accused of treason.

World building
One of the hallmarks of fantasy has always been the world building. I love these alternate histories. So far the movie gives you hints of the structure of one country, without feeling like an info dump. It is fairly interesting. For example the government appears to be a religious theocracy with the Priests ruling. The priests themselves are stated to be other worldly and we do find the reason why they came to this world. They do have a secret, and that's a spoiler so I won't reveal it.

There are magicians, but the highest ranks belong to the dukes (the movie translation, although the wikia uses lord as the translation). There are 7 of them, however its stated that many have come and gone so I think there may be more "houses" than the seven currently, but they have died out. The seven have their own unique magic abilities as well as the abilities to manipulate water which we see a lot of the characters from Aslan do.

Otherwise is an Asian setting with pre gunpowder technology.

Magic

The magic seems to work through "soul loops" which appears to be markings on the body of the practioner. It kind of reminds me of rune magic, which we see in various fantasy. Each Lord have their own unique soul loop which they pass onto their apprentice. Now as I mentioned, almost all the characters demonstrate ability to manipulate water, either levitating it or freezing it into ice. Some of their ice feats are amazing. For example they can create ice bridges reaching to the sky (when they're pursuing a character on a giant flying bird). This is not like Iceman from the 70s Marvel super heroes cartoon or Frosta from She Ra. They don't glide on the ice bridge, they have to run. However the fact that the bridge somehow does not tip over screams a big fuck you to physics (or the part where the bridge is anchored can somehow generate intense force, who knows).

All lords and their apprentice goes through a rite of passage which allows them to gain a unique magical weapon. For example one of them possess the wraith mirror, which can be used to create a doppleganger of the opponent, provided the opponent has "soul power," ie is a magician. But it doesn't stop there. The user used it to create two dopplegangers of himself to better challenge his opponent.

Since each Lord has their own unique soul loop, they also have their own unique powers as well as the water manipulating ones. For example

a. One house has the ability to control "soul beasts"
b. Another can do a time stop and teleport (since space time is one :D )
c. Another has the ability to gain more than one magical weapon
d. Another has an evolutionary ability

The houses are factionised. That is each Lord passes their skills to their apprentice and at the start of the movie no one has learnt the soul loops from two different Lords.

Also Lords gain the ability to bind one soul beast to them. Each soul beast can be summoned and they have their own unique ability. For example Ice Fang the soul beast of our main character can freeze vast amounts of area Killer Frost style and hurl ice chakrams against people.

As well as these, all the Lords have superhuman physical abilities. I am not talking about average Avatar verse humans. I think they go beyond that. Strong enough to smash through rock with their fist (unlike Earthbenders who use their magic to move the rock), one gets slammed into a rock face several metres into the air and then falls down and is not only still alive, able to fight after several minutes etc. They also move faster than normal humans have a right to. Heck, non magical humans in that world seem physically wank compare to real world humans.

Fight scenes


This film has gorgeous action scenes with great combination of super dooper martial arts with magic to create some interesting fighting moves. For example a character spins with swords like a human top to kill monsters.

Some are simplistic but effective. For example one character creates birds out of light and hurls them against an opponent, who simply creates a shield, and then hurls the shield against his opponent.

Recommendation

I would recommend going to the cinema to see this. However since its not released in the US and I have linked to an upload on YT, which I would recommend seeing it. I would personally buy it on blu ray when it comes out, rather than just extracting from youtube, as it won't match the resolution on blu ray.
Never apologise for being a geek, because they won't apologise to you for being an arsehole. John Barrowman - 22 June 2014 Perth Supernova.

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Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, USA.
Always on the lookout for more nice places to visit.

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