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'Legend of Deification': Shaping the Chinese traditional hero

By Zou Fei | | Updated: 2020-10-12 15:58
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Animated hit  Legend of Deification, a retelling of the Chinese mythological figure Jiang Ziya. [Photo provided to]

As a popular movie released on National Day, Legend of Deification has earned more than 1 billion yuan ($148.8 million) at the box office in just one week, making it one of the hottest films at the moment. The domestic animated film, directed by four directors, including Cheng Teng, Li Wei and Wang Xin, was finally released on National Day after the novel coronavirus epidemic delayed its opening. Legend of Deification not only highlights the peak of domestic animation film in terms of production technology, but also gives the film a deeper cultural significance, making the heroic image of Jiang Ziya more attractive in traditional Chinese culture.

The film's nine tales, which took two and a half years to make, and its elfin portrayal of the pet, Si Buxiang, prove once again that domestic animated films finally have production techniques comparable to those of the Disney animation company. The creation of grand and huge scenes, such as Jing Xu Gong and Return Ruins, also is full of oriental charm with oriental characteristics. In addition, the image of the mysterious bird designed in the movie is the icing on the cake. The image of the mysterious bird soothing the soul adds to the color of traditional fairy tales in the film. I think this also is the unique traditional romance of domestic animated films. With a total of 1,300 special effects shots, every frame of Jiang Ziya is exquisite with the painstaking efforts of the creative team, which deserves applause from the audience.

The film tells the story of Jiang Ziya, who climbs the stairway of heaven to confront his master, bravely fights against the injustice of heaven, and finally kills the fox demon to save lives. It is a real and heroic story with the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture, which show that the young generation in China should have the courage to fight against social injustice in real life, maintain a kind mind, and realize self-awakening. In the film, the scene where Shen Gongbao and the fox demon fight is particularly profound.

The Golden Light, which symbolizes the force of justice, is only a wall away from the creature’s evil darkness, and both good and evil are in one mind. In the end, Shen Gongbao chose to sacrifice himself and become his own hero.

In the film, Jiang Ziya once said, "Save one person and save all the people." This also integrates the idea of a peaceful world of traditional Chinese Taoism into the film's characters. The director gives the image of Jiang Ziya, a hero, the meaning of traditional culture. Jiang Ziya's heroic image has a unique Chinese mythological flavor and is distinctive from the heroic image produced by Marvel.

The film portrays Jiang Ziya, who is more like a symbol of Chinese adults. They bear the pressure of life, hold on to their dreams in their hearts, face the sense of powerlessness in their work, keep wandering between their inner ideals and social reality, and finally bravely cut off the entanglement and firmly defend their dreams. Unlike last year's phenomenal Chinese animated film Ne Zha, Jiang Ziya is more like a stoic adult who still maintains his values in the face of life's frustrations and sorrows. In the film, Jiang Ziya faces the truth of faith being revealed little by little, and he has to choose to break the once deeply believed tao of heaven with his own hands, bravely choosing to be his own god.

In addition, Legend of Deification not only successfully created the hero image with Chinese traditional style, but also added many details in the animation production, which made the story more complete. A large number of details' metaphorical designs made every little figure in the film more vivid and full.

Legend of Deification is a work to be appreciated over and over again. From the narrative of each character to the superb production techniques of domestic animated films, the thousands of elaborate frames and realistic characters are the factors that make the film go further.

As an epic animated film, Legend of Deification not only shows the superb production technology of current domestic animated films, but also inspires the audience's confidence and enthusiasm for these films, proving that Chinese animated films can go all over the world. By adapting the classic fairy tale of Jiang Ziya, the film conveys the idea that everyone can be his or her own hero. In real life, each of us struggles and endeavors in ordinary life, fights bravely in the face of the unfair choice of society, and finds the real self. As Jiang Ziya says in the film: "In your own way, become a true god."

The author is from the School of Media, Northwest Normal University.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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