When it comes to adapting literature, there is a debate about whether it is better to have read the source material or not. Reading it provides insight into characters and context, preventing confusion from any cinematic shortcuts that assume the viewer’s understanding. However, approaching the adaptation without prior knowledge also means not having preconceived images in your mind, allowing you to solely rely on what is presented on screen. “Creation of the Gods: Kingdom of Storms” is the first installment of a trilogy based on the classic novel “Investiture of the Gods” by Xu Zhonglin, written during the Ming Dynasty. Well Go USA is bringing the opening chapter to the Western audience and introducing the story to a mostly unfamiliar audience (including this reviewer).
The movie, Creation of the Gods: Kingdom of Storms, has been released by WellGo USA.
Prince Yin Shou, also known as Fei Xiang, and his group of Hostage-Sons, who were sent by nobility to prevent rebellion, successfully defeat Su Hu’s fortress. Su Hu, the Lord of Jizhou, had defied the Shang Dynasty. As they gather the refugees, they come across Su Daji, Su Hu’s daughter, who chooses to die by suicide rather than be captured. However, she miraculously survives an avalanche. Yin Shou brings her back in triumph. During the celebration, King Yi is killed by Prince Qi, who is later killed by Ji Fa, a hostage son from Xiqi. Yin Shou becomes the new king but on the day of his coronation, a sign appears indicating that his rise to power has brought a great curse upon the land. The only way to lift the curse is for Yin Shou to sacrifice himself on a pyre. The gods are unsure whether to interfere. Jiang Ziya agrees to give up his immortality and return with the Fengshen Bang scroll to remove the curse and restore order. When he meets Yin Shou, he realizes that the new king may not be the savior he had hoped for and that his son, Yin Jiao, may be the one who will prove worthy. The story follows themes of betrayal, honor, and loyalty as they confront Fox Demons and Mysticism in this epic saga.
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It is difficult to summarize this chapter concisely due to the extensive plot that is covered in the 2 hours and 28 minutes of running time. Keeping track of the numerous characters can also be a challenge, as they are introduced rapidly and may initially feel overwhelming. Fortunately, each character is identified with an onscreen title, but it is best to focus on what is happening on screen rather than trying to remember all the names. This is a common occurrence in the Chu Yuan adaptations of Gu Long’s works. As the story progresses and the number of characters decreases, it becomes easier to follow. This is similar to what happens in this chapter. Once the main storyline unfolds, it becomes less important to keep track of every character as the focus shifts to the core characters.
The initial scene at the snowy fortress is reminiscent of the Winter season in “Game of Thrones”. It is a grand battle that captivates the viewer and introduces the main characters. This comparison extends beyond just the opening, as we are also treated to a spectacular ground battle before delving into the intricacies of the plot. This allows those unfamiliar with the fantasy world to ease into the story, gradually immersing themselves in its fantastical elements rather than being bombarded with them from the start. Fans of Hong Kong cinema may notice similarities to the classic film “Zu Warriors” when the gods are introduced. As the fantasy elements take center stage, they do not overpower the very human emotions at play. This serves as a fantastic introduction to the world of Chinese cinema. Fox Demons are a recurring theme, manipulating men for their own desires. Su Daji’s soul is taken over by a Fox Demon, creating a seductive force that even Yin Shou cannot resist. Magic is a normal occurrence and divination, particularly that of Ji Chang, is highly regarded. Fate and destiny are major themes in this first chapter, as Yin Shou desperately tries to avoid his own fate and manipulate others for his own gain.
Fei Xiang, also known as Yin Shou, has a compelling character in this grand tale. As the primary antagonist with Shakespearean qualities, he is initially portrayed as a heroic figure, but his obsession with Su Daji leads him down a tyrannical path. As those around him question Daji’s influence, it is hoped that he will return to his senses upon discovering her true identity as a Fox demon. This is where “Creation of the Gods” truly excels – Yin Shou is a villain driven by relatable human desires, and Daji simply unleashes them. As the story unfolds, his actions become increasingly cruel, with one particularly malicious scene involving Ji Chang. Fei Xiang brilliantly portrays Yin Shou, striking a balance between charm and evil that explains why his followers remain loyal to him. Narana Erdyneeva is captivating as the seductive Daji, convincing the audience that she could manipulate his mind and soul.
Huang Bo’s character, Jiang Ziya, serves as both the driving force of the story and a source of comedic relief. In the midst of a serious epic, his lighthearted moments provide necessary levity as he struggles to readjust to the world he left behind. Li Xuejian delivers an excellent performance as Ji Chang, whose tragic downfall is a highlight of the film. As a story about filial duty and the bond between fathers and sons, Ji Chang’s character stands out. His divination abilities ultimately lead to his downfall, but it is his kindness that ultimately saves him. The younger male characters, played by Yu Shi and Chen Muchi, may at times seem interchangeable due to the way the story unfolds. However, as the saga progresses in future chapters, it is hoped that they will have a more prominent presence.
The special effects in these features are crucial and the CGI is executed skillfully. They do not overpower the story on screen. The effects complement the storyline and are mostly used to enhance the action. This should not be unexpected, as the director Wuershan has experience with literary adaptations and has also directed the visually stunning wuxia film “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”. His skill in combining a strong narrative with impressive visuals is a significant factor in the success of “Creation of the Gods”.
If you enjoy a grand display, then “Creation of the Gods: Kingdom of Storms” is the perfect choice. Its stunning visuals, engaging story, and captivating villain (who literally has the power to kill most of the characters!) make it a must-see on the largest screen available. As an introduction to the series, it sets high expectations for future installments, and if they maintain the same level of quality, they will not disappoint.