Ok, this version took a long time to finish filming since the main actor was in a car accident halfway through(his assitant passed away too) and took a year to recover. So - dedication people, dedication.
The reason I watched this version was because I love watching Ariel Lin. She is one of my favorite actresses. So, how could I resist? Well, I resisted for quite some time because I knew this would snowball into my usual
obsessive binge non-stop rewatching. After reading some fun books a while back, I felt it was only necessary to touch up on my favorites in an attempt to get out of my slump. It worked and pretty much kicked me back in the mood for some cool stories. I binged watched a lot of shows after this and got back into reading. Nothing like a good story to kick it off.
Let me just say this: Legend of the Condor Heroes was one of my favorite of Jin Yong novels mainly because of the main female protagonist, Huang Rong. For me, the character Huang Rong carried the entire story for me. In this adaption, the fact it was played by one of my favorite actress made is brilliantly more freaking awesome enjoyable.
The story was multi-generational, how the actions of parents forever changed and affected the future. All of it had to do with desire.
A compassionate Han woman (Bao Xiruo) once helped a Jurchen prince (Wanyan Honglie) and his desire to possess her in turn saw him him orchestrate the destruction and death of her husband (Yang Tiexin), her husbands sworn brother (Guo Xiaotian) and the brother's wife (Li Ping). Yeah, that's how it all started...
Li Ping escaped to Mongolia and was allowed to stay, where she raised her son, Guo Jin.
Bao Xiruo was tricked into thinking she was rescued by Wanyan Honglie and married him to raise her son, Yang Kang/Wanyan Kang.
Around the same time, in the world of martial arts (jianghu/wulin), there had been unyielding battles over the ultimate martial arts manual called the Nine Ying Manual. To stop the bloodshed, a battled would take every twenty years. The first one had the five greats: Huang Yaoshi of the East, Hong Qigong of the Begger Sect, Ouyang Feng of the West, Duan Zhixing of Dali (later Reverend Yideng), and Wang Chongyang of the Quanzhen Sect whom was the strongest of them all.
That's just one small side of the story, we haven't even gotten into the politics yet and all the various debts, promises, duels, challenges, and connections. We don't even see my favorite character until a few chapters/episodes in.
There's so history and politics coupled with great complexity. Almost everyone has an in depth background and their choices, decisions and actions all had repercussions that allowed for the stories today to pass. Everyone one was affected one way or another. It's all so beautiful and annoying. Hahaha. It's a very complex storyline and for the most part, this version did pretty well portraying all the intricate details and plots. There were still a lot of changes made to the storylines, more so with the characters, but it made a lot of sense. They included a lot more to try and explain more internal conflict.
One of the few things I really like about the changes here was how they expanded on some of the previous stories and tried to clarify a lot more on each person's internal conflicts and loyalties. I especially like the romance between Mu Nien Tsu and Yang Kang. The expansion made a lot more sense to the overall story, but they did it also to make Yang Kang a more conflicted and sympathetic character. I also liked the fact that Yang Kang's love for his mother, Bao Xi Ruo was more sincere and human. I also love how Mu Nien Tse and Huang Rong had more quality time together.
So there was a nice contrast of sisterhood to the over-powering story of brotherhood, even if it wasn't as strong.
Let me just get one thing off my chest though.
In both the novel and tv series...the part that always get me mad was how Guo Jing can easily forgive the horrible things (including murder) that his blood brother had committed, while easily jumping to the conclusion that Huang Rong's father could've killed his teachers (while treating Huang Rong horribly as a result) even though Huang Rong was so devoted to him and that Huang Rong's father really never hurt anyone. He just jumped to conclusions like everyone else rather than calming down and think. From that point on, I never truly forgave him even if everyone else did... He might be able to be mad at her father, but his treatment of her was completely unwarranted. In essence, he became like everyone else and would blame Huang Rong for whatever wrongs they felt her father committed. His easily manipulated head was a character flaw and make him more human even if
Even though we could all tell that Guo Jing was a favored character, he was not spared with flaws and his own prejudices. It was his sense of always doing the right thing, to never think ill of people until he was easily and stupidly manipulated and how he does everything whole-heartedly that caused the coolest character to fall in love with him. Ah, Huang Rong, you're too cool for this idiot guy.
In all most every aspect, the story would not have moved at all if not for Huang Rong. I might even be so bold as to say most of the endings for our heroes would've been a lot LOT more grim. Example, even though Guo Jing probably would have gotten more skills, I doubt he wouldn't improved that much or that quickly. It was through Huang Rong's observation, cooking skills, and manipulation (plus a lot of sweet talk) to get Hong Qi Gong to teach Guo Jing martial art skills and eventually accept him as a disciple. It was also through her that Guo Jing was able to acquire the Tactical Manual that helped him with the battles, not to mention she had to secretly help him decipher it first. Come to think of it, it was Huang Rong that helped him in almost every situation...Hahaha.
(Ariel Lin as Huang Rong = awesome)
Huang Rong was truly an incredible character and so well-rounded. She had an autobiographical memory of a sort, very intelligent (I really cannot emphasize that enough) and formidable in her own right. What I love most about her though, wasn't her unwavering love, but her strength in herself and that she was a selfish person. Huang Rong didn't martyr herself. She fought and manipulated for those she cared about as well as herself. Even has she made sure Hong Qigong taught Guo Jin skills, she got Hong Qi Gong to teach her new skills as well. When Guo Jin was an ass, she didn't sit around and cried. She went ahead and figured out everything BY HERSELF and plotted to get the upper hand every time. It also helped with Guo Jin continued to waver around, she got up and left his sorry @$$. They didn't show that last part as much in this version though. Lol.
A few more thing about the changes: I was sad they cut out certain romances (one couple, really) to give greater background and screen-time to others. Some of them I could understand and some I even liked. My favorite was actually allowing Huang Rong and Guo Jing's mother meeting and coming to an understanding. The only complains I have about the changes was based on something I have observed in more recent versions of many series...male-washing. Lol. It's my own term of this form of white-washing that was male specific, just made it up too. >_< Basically, there were many instances when certain men (always the guys) were given background to turn villains into misunderstood, tragic, and better than whom they were originally written to be. Ouyan Ke was a good example...they were like boardering between redeeming him and pitying him, but in the original...he was just a terrible person. I believe I mention this phenomenon often enough, just waiting for to figure out the correct terminology.
Overall, it wasn't too bad though. I appreciated the attempts to give every character a background instead of cookie-cutter personalities. It was fun to watch and the entire cast was very good at their characters. I never felt it was off or over the top as I had with some of the other series. Of course, I totally admitted to watching the series after such a long time because both Ariel Lin and Anthony Wong were in it...especially when I found out they played Father-Daughter. I mean, of course I'm going to watch! Honestly, the entire cast was wonderful and quite a few actors and actresses I've now wanted to follow more. Hahaha.
The actions were great to watch. Maybe a little heavy on the CGI at times, but all the actors and actresses were top notch and easily covered some of the cheesier parts (because of CGI). I am happy to announce that they remained fairly true to the storylines (a huge blessing these days) and for once, the expansions with storylines and characters made sense...unlike some other shows. Maybe they were a little heavy handed with their social morals and lessons in this version, but the novel did have that aspect as well. The only problem with the expansions were these new changes and additions wouldn't translate into the sequel well. Too many changes and too self-contained. All the threads had been tied up too well. It's ok, the sequel had many changes as well. Lol.
In and of itself though, it was a delight to watch. Acting, action, and costume, I'd have to give a 9. There were too many great actors and actresses, everything was too good. The storyline would be 8. Total: 8.5. If you haven't watched this series, you're totally missing out.