I have been obsessed with Jin Yong’s wuxia (aka martial arts fantasy) novels these days. Although, Mr. Jin Yong’s writing is nothing short of fantastic, I have to agree with my dear father that Mr. Jin Yong’s wuxia novels are one of those things that are much better when translated onto the motion screen (either as a TV drama series or as a movie). Since Jin Yong has wrote a total of fifteen novels under this pen name (of which, the first word of each of the first fourteen novels made up a pair of beautiful couplets), I believe it would take some time to spell out my favourites (as well as doing a bit of character analysis). Therefore, I decided to separate my appreciation for Mr. Jin Yong’s novels into parts (make that many, many parts…but don’t worry, I don’t intend to post my appreciation consecutively).
As for motion picture remake favourites, let’s start with the Condor Trilogy (one of the most epic adventures in the world of wuxia, it’s about the Han Chinese’s struggles and rebellion against the Mongol rulers during the Yuan Dynasty):
1. The Legend of the Condor Heroes
Many Chinese of the earlier generations (okay, middle-age to elderly-age TV fanatics) would say the 1983 version of the TV drama starring Felix Wong and Barbara Yung (who died young and even to this day, there are still rumours of her ghost roaming the earthly realm) is the most iconic. I have to agree, because the cast is perfect and the actors have been able to bring out the characters’ essence rather flawlessly, from Guo Jing’s honesty & loyalty despite being slow-witted to Huang Rong’s bright and clever (almost like a mischievous faerie) personality.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who are afraid that Ms. Barbara Yung would come out of the TV screen and haunt you, then I recommend watching the 2008 version, starring Hu Ge and Ariel Lin, instead. This version’s cast is quite perfect as well, in my humble opinion. A bonus is that the cinematography and general “artwork” are much more pleasing to the eyes. However, for some reasons, I find this version is a bit slow-paced for my liking.
2. The Return of the Condor Heroes
It is kind of weird considering my age, but my favourite version of The Return of the Condor Heroes is the 1995 television remake starring Louis Koo and Carmen Li. The reason that I like this version the best is because Carmen Li has that subtle Eurasian look that works well with her role as the Little Dragon Lady (this character supposed to have a pure and goddess-like beauty that’s unique from all the rest of average beauties). Louis Koo’s features fit the bill for Yang Guo’s role, but his acting seems a little stiff in the earlier days.
Okay, if you never want to read the book or don’t have the time to, then the anime version in 2001 follows the original story the closest. Also, this is the version that got my dear brother totally hooked on the Condor Trilogy in the first place.
However, for those who like a version that’s more pleasing to the eyes and looks a bit more modern cinematography-wise, then I recommend the 2006 version starring Huang Xiaoming and Liu Yifei. Although, I don’t think Liu Yifei will ever be as perfect or beautiful as Carmen Li in this role as the Little Dragon Lady, she still captures the pureness of the character very well (also, I supposed she is more representative of a standard beautiful Han Chinese woman).
There are many things that I don’t particularly like about this story, from the Little Dragon Lady’s extremely introvert and depressing personality to the ruin of Huang Rong’s character (she turns from being lovable in the first instalment of the trilogy to being quite a prejudiced character).
3. The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber
The 2003 version is, hands down, the best version for me because of the perfect casting (the actors look the part & play the part, very well).
Alec Su depicts the wishy-washy trait of the main character, Zhang Wuji, perfectly – enough to make me want to slap this guy’s face at times for being so frustrating. Zhang Wuji is my most disliked Jin Yong character. Though, being the funny guy that Mr. Jin Yong is, my all-time favourite character, Zhao Min, also happens to be in this very same story. As I watched this series, I realized that Zhao Min was really the one carrying the story, even though she showed up mid-way through the story, with her lovable and clever personality. She has the ambition of a great man and is a great schemer. However, she also has her cute and feminine side when it comes to her love, Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji, you don’t deserve her! In my ideal world of wuxia, I would like to see Zhao Min together with Yang Guo.
Again, in my perfect world, I would switch Zhang Wuji with Yang Guo because I bet the story would be more epic with two distinctively strong yet complimenting personalities like Yang Guo and Zhao Min. Although unfortunately, the same cannot be said on the other side of the switching, Zhang Wuji and the Little Dragon Lady; these two would probably just meet once and then go on their separate ways because none of them really have strong will or persistence.