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Chinese fantasy blockbuster set for UK release

By Zheng Wanyin in London | | Updated: 2023-09-20 22:47
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The Chinese mythological epic Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is set for its release in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sept 22. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A special premiere of the Chinese fantasy blockbuster Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms was held in Londond on Sunday.

The movie, which is set for release in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Sept 22, is the first installment of a trilogy loosely adapted from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) novel Fengshen Yanyi, or The Investiture of the Gods.

The epic blends history and mythology to portray the overthrow of King Zhou, the last ruler of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), by Ji Fa, who established the Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-256 BC) in its place.

The opening chapter of the film trilogy, Kingdom of Storms, tells how Ji Fa gradually discovers that King Zhou, once a hero to him, is an unscrupulous tyrant beset with corruption and slaughter after being bewitched by Daji, a vixen spirit disguised as a beautiful woman.

"The work encompasses Chinese history, Chinese mythology, and Chinese culture. It was one of the first times that China has attempted to do something on such a scale, especially filming a trilogy," said Chinese American actor Kris Phillip, who is better known domestically by his Chinese name Fei Xiang. Fei plays King Zhou in the movie.

"I am hoping that, through projects like this, we are going to be able to let people all over the world understand China," he said.

The celebrity, who has been working and living in the West for a while, said Creation of the Gods could bring something new to the Western canon, where similar stories have been retold many times. He said core emotions underneath different plots are common across mankind.

"For example, in The Lord of the Rings, the stories revolving around Frodo involve friendship, family affection, sacrifices, all of which are presented in our film as well. Creation of the Gods tells the Western audiences that Chinese people care about the same things as they do, which could break some barriers between cultures," he said.

A contemporary expression

Although Fengshen Yanyi is a well-known novel that has been learned by billions of Chinese people, Wuershan, the film's director, said he aims to retell the stories in a contemporary manner, with modern technologies and modern perspectives.

For example, Daji, the fox demon, is historically considered the main reason for the collapse of the Shang Dynasty, while in the movie, the plots suggest it was King Zhou's sociopathic tendencies that were to blame.

"As we try to tell an ancient epic in a modern age, it is important to have some contemporary understandings, especially when it comes to female characters. I have always wanted to depict women positively," he said.

Ye Jintian, the movie's art director, also shared how he understood and created the Fengshen world in a modern way.

"It is all about how we look. The novel was completed in the Ming Dynasty, but the author talked about Shang Dynasty. When they were writing, they were describing something more close to the time they lived in."

According to Ye, many details, including the imperial palaces, the armor, the settings, and more, should be carefully adjusted, with the aim of inheriting the history and, at the same time, integrating new understanding.

"That's why we created a new world only for the film," said Ye.

Released on July 20 in the Chinese mainland, the movie has earned 2.6 billion yuan ($356 million) as of Sept 18 and remains on show, according to the Chinese entertainment service platform Maoyan.

Guests pose for a group photo at a special preview of Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms in London, England on Sept 17. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Chinese American actor Fei Xiang speaks at the premiere. [Photo provided to China Daily]
The film’s director, Wuershan, joins the event remotely. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Art director Ye Jintian attends the premier on Sunday. Ye won an Oscar for art direction and costume design for his work on the martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Lee. [Photo provided to China Daily]
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