This Review is written by Funn Lim.
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Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre 2000 VS Heaven Sword And Dragon Sabre 1994
First of all, this was a Jin Yong adaption of his rather famous work. Both versions had the same set of colourful characters, both talked about the undying love that Yan So So and Cheong Chui San and how Cheung Chui San killed himself for guilt of what his wife Yan So So did and how Cheong Mo Kei was made an orphan in a matter of seconds. We also get to see the friendship between the rather tragic character Che Soon, his relationship with Seng Kwan, how Cheong Mo Kei was badly hurt by two bad guys whom we later know worked for the Mongolian government, how his sifu took him to the SHaolin temple to seek helped only to be rebuffed and how Cheong Mo Kei met the sweet and innocent Chow Chi Yuek. And that was when the differences began.
Basically, the rest like how he met his god father Che Soon again, how he became Ming Sect leader, how he went against the Mongolian armies, ALL THE SAME except for some minor points.
Why Chiu Man Betrayed Her
Why I say juvenile is because of this.
In Version 1994, we get to see a more sophisticated reason as to why.Chiu Man was always arrogant and a proud Mongolian who loved her people and her family. She was a princess and I believe in Version 1994 she was the Emperor's daughter whilst in version 2000 Chiu Man was the daughter of a relative to the King. If I am not mistaken. Anyway, in version 1994, she was repeatedly told how cruel her people was towards the Han people but she couldn't believe them. But once she walked out of the palace and travelled alone, having betrayed her people for her love for Cheong, she saw how oppressive the Mongolian army were and suddenly she felt ashamed of her own heritage and for once her proud resolve melted and she was an ordinary girl crying for help. And of course Cheong came and shielded all insults with his body. You see people were throwing fruits at her. Anyway, how she left her Mongolian Princess life is even more realistic. Her father forced her to choose and she couldn't and she was asked to drink a poisonous drink. She drank it and Cheong came to see her dead. The father told Cheong to take her away, since she was dead but it turns out that daddy didn't give her poison. It was a test of faith and she passed. She rather die than to betray her father or kill her lover. And so they were both free to live happily ever after, and Cheong didn't even care about politics. He felt happy and lived in seclusion with Chiu Man.
In Version 2000, the story was a bit less sophisticated. We know Chiu Man loved Cheong but could love be the only reason she would so gladly lead an army against her own people? In Version 1994, she did it because she felt her people wasn't honourable and the land should belong to the Hans, good people and all. In version 2000, she did what she did because of love and nothing more. I find that rather shallow. The only moment of weakness that I saw in Chiu Man in version 2000 was when she was in jail, about to be beheaded for being a traitor in the Mongolian's eyes. And there weren't much of emotions involved. But version 1994 had a rather emotional scene, where we see Chiu man from someone proud and egoistical to someone broken, someone feeling absolutely hopeless. I find the characterisation in Version 1994 for the character of Chiu Man much more sophisticated and satisfying.
The Character Of
Chow Chi Yuek
In an attempt to make us forgive Chow and to redeem her nice qualities and to justify how nice she actually was, Version 2000 gave us a crappy ending, luckily I was spared from such an ending since I missed the ending. I was told due to depression she lost all her memory and kung fu, became her nice good self again and was happily married to Sung Cheng Shue, a man who truly loved her.
But TVB forgot one thing. In one scene, where we get to see Chow suddenly took her hairpin in an attempt to cause serious hurt to the Vampire, and Chu Yee said something quite true that however nice and innocent Chow Chi Yuek may be, she was actually quite a evil hearted person, perhaps small minded because only a person who has such qualities could be so innately cruel, however nice she projected herself to be. So the ending of her being nice again is illogical, because Chow is innately evil, capable of evil things, thanks to the miseducation of her sifu, Mit Chuet, a person equally as cunning, stubborn and small minded. We get to see the wedding scene that was stopped by Chiu Man and how angry she was. We also know she wanted both Cheong and the secret to the Dragon Sabre and Heaven Sword. Why she would do so is still unclear. Perhaps she was using Cheong to realise her sifu's death wish or perhaps she really thought she could get away with murder and still be married to the man she loved. Interesting character but spoilt by the sugar filled ending. Illogical.
In version 1994, we see an almost the same Chow Chi Yuek, sweet kind, but forced to doing evil stuff thanks to her sifu's death wish. She was torn between her respect for her sifu, and her love for Cheong. When Cheong ditched her, she knew she had nothing more to lose and so did all the evil stuff to realise her sifu's dream by creating a web of deception and killing people. We know how evil she could be when Chiu Man showed to us her body, scarred by what Chiu Man said was Chow's undoing. We know she became like her sifu at the end, stubborn, evil, small minded and unreasonable. She loved Cheong and yet the more she loved him the more she hated him the more she wanted Chiu Man dead. The last scene between Cheong and Chow was one of the highlights. Cheong told her he still remembered her when she was young and he was grateful for what she had done for him but if she ever hurt Chiu Man, he will kill her. And so she went away and what happened to her thereafter was of not much importance. They became enemies for life but Cheong didn't really want to. I find this characterisation of Chow Chi Yuek in the Version 1994 more satisfying and much more logical. By the way, in Version 1994, she never once looked at Sung Cheng Shue and if I remembered correctly, she never married him.
The Character Of
Cheong Mo Kei
The Character Of
Yeung But Fui
The Character Of Chu
Version 1994 had some good scenes. One that I particularly liked was when Cheong Sam Foong took Mo Kei everywhere looking for a cure. Such closeness and very poignant. And every time Chow Chi Yuek appeared.
The best male performance was definitely the rather manly and suave Coco Shuen Hing as the debonair Yeung Siu. He was perfectly cast and though Yeung Siu is actually a nice guy, but you really wouldn't want to cross his path when he is angry.
The best supporting performance for a female actress had to be both Joy Pan who played both Gei Hiu Fu and Yeung But Fui and also Jin Ming who played the younger Chow Chi Yuek. Joy Pan as Gei Hiu Fu was much older, much more serious and looked sad but as Yeung But Fui she was playful, energetic and sometimes a bit too childlike. We see a great contrast between these two characters by the same actress but not too much. You have to see the mannerisms and you would agree, Joy Pan gave a fine performance.
Jin Ming though had a minor role she did the role like she did all her roles; with great precision. I just wish she never grew up!
Ma Jing Tao was surprisingly tolerable. After seeing his worst in so many series I think this actor is capable of restrained acting and he is at his best when he simply whispers instead of shouting. He was the first Cheong Mo Kei I have seen and I feel he did quite a good job as the nice, naive, innocent and yet honourable Cheong Mo Kei. He is admittedly rather dashing and good looking in here and he is very believable when he starts doing the kung fu fighting. His best scenes were always with Cathy Chow, how his Cheong couldn't believe Chow Chi Yuek was ever capable of evil deeds, how he tried to reason that perhaps everybody was wrong about her.
The worst performance had to be Cecilia Yip Tung. Many said she was a fine actress, because she won awards and all but frankly, I always thought she overact to the hilt and the worst scenes had to be when she was crying. I have never seen an actress who did so badly when it comes to crying scene and I saw one in her and I feel Yip Tung was and still is an overrated actress. She was simply inadequate in here though looks wise, she looks believable as the more plain Chiu Man compared to the ravishing Chow Chi Yuek.
Damien Lau would be quite ok as Cheong Chui San. I mean he knows great kung fu and we all know it takes years to learn kung fu so his age might be logical. So no comment but frankly, when he died, I did shed a tear. I find it very funny that he killed himself not because of pressure by the so called honourable good sects but because he felt guilty for what his wife did and he couldn't believe he married the woman who caused his own "brother's" misfortune (paralysed) . So out of guilt, and to give an answer to the people and to stop them from asking questions about Che Soon's whereabouts, he killed himself. That was the only scene that I thought was well done and very sad.
Mi Xue was ok as Yan So So. She did well when she was confronted about what she did years before, her rather cruel naughty self who killed without mercy. But frankly, everytime I saw Mi Xue who was very pretty even in her 40's or 50's, I mean she really looked good, in this series she was simply too old to be Yan So So. I kept seeing her neck and her wrinkles. I can't help it. No matter how good she may have been, I cringe everytime I saw her acting childish because she is too old. But she was quite ok as the much matured Yan So So later on.
Gigi Lai was ok as Chiu Man. I thought she was effective, very pretty but if you notice carefully, her performance was adequate but not groundbreaking. Reasons? One, she had a poorly reasoned role in the first place and secondly, her acting was rather stiff. She seemed too smart most of the time, that even in the times of crisis she stood like she owned the world. Perhaps Chiu Man was like that but I feel she could have done more with her facial expressions rather than her "I am arrogant" looks.
Eddie Cheong is a fine actor but miscast as Yeung Siu. I can't see the debonair part. I was thinking.."Kong Wah..Kong Wah..Kong Wah" because his hairstyle looked so much like Kong Wah's Ha Suet Yee in Crimson Sabre.
Joyce Tang could be said to have done a good job. But frankly, she was too sulky as Gei Hiu Foo and much too playful and noisy as Yeung But Fui. Too wide apart simply to illustrate how different her characters were. I think I enjoyed Joy pan's interpretation more.
Wai Ying Hung was quite ok as Mit Chuet but too young. I feel the 1994 version had a much better Mit Chuet and definitely a much more honourable Cheong Sam Foong.
Ahhhh..Lawrence Ng. How was he? Close your eyes and just listen to him deliver his lines and you would agree with me that he has a rather calm and soothing voice. But you have to open your eyes to watch this series. The moment he appeared I was laughing like a mad hyena. I told Seagull my theory how come Cheong Mo Kei was so old looking. I said since both parents were so old, perhaps there was a genetic defect somewhere that gave Cheong the old look!. His hairstyle was laughable, his dressings nothing spectacular, his worst scenes was when he start doing the Kung Fu (but I really really really like the drum sounds accompanying his kung fu scenes, creates an illusion that his kung fu is great), his best was when his parents were insulted and his eyes looked hurt, angry, pained. But i don't like this Cheong at all. He seems so wishy washy, I mean he seems to undecided. His love affair with Chiu Man was unbelievably illogical, I mean how they started? How he started to love her? My sister commented why he always had that migraine look on his face, like he has so much worries, even when he was smiling. The truth is I believe Lawrence gave his finest performance in this series in his entire career, because he really looks like he is really trying and sometimes I thought he was bearable, if you believe a black man can play a white man. I can't. Whenever I saw his face I laughed. I thought his performance were adequate but still missing the extra oomph and I thought he looked rather silly in his hairdo. No no, he is not my idea of Cheong Mo Kei. But he could be the older, much much much older Cheong Mo Kei. I was actually hoping he plays one of the villains. Yep, he lacks that heroic look.
Ahhhhhhhhhh....Charmaine Sheh. Some said she gave her best in here, some said her worst. No no no, she was THAT bad, in fact I would say she is my idea of Chow Chi Yuek, LOOKS WISE. You see, when she first appeared, I thought she looked simply ravishing. She was glowing and her make up were perfect though her hair could have been less severe. When later she became evil, she had that purple colour tone in her make up and dresses and still she looked ravishing. My idea of Chow Chi Yuek, sweet looking, innocent and almost virginal. BUT the problem starts when she becomes evil Chow Chi Yuek. You could see all her weaknesses. She does not have consistency. One minute she is evil, next she is teary eyed, almost a bit of regret in her eyes and yet, not quite so. I still think she is a scene per scene actress and she has never quite grasp the idea of her character AS A WHOLE. She could definitely stare, and the scene where she was driven to desperation and she had to eat dried leaves to survive was quite ok but yet something was terribly missing. I feel she did a better job in Crimson Sabre than in here though in here she did a far better job than all her earlier works. No no, she was great and she wasn't bad. If I had to choose the worst performance, it had to be a tough fight between the old guy who played Cheong Sam Foong the monotone old man, the dead looking monotone John Tang and the scarred faced guy who delivered his lines like the Monkey King. I can't decide but what I am sure is the worst wasn't Charmaine Sheh but didn't give a good performance either. She gave a bad performance, and now that I think back, she didn't have much role in here! I really enjoyed watching Chow Chi Yuek but if this role had gone to a more accomplished and capable actress, like.....like....like...Xiao Qiang or perhaps....like..like..like..in TVB...like....oh my God, I can't think of one pretty enough!! Wait got one. If this role had gone to the younger Ada Choi it would have been better but Ada Choi is not pretty enough. Oh God, TVB desperately needs new talent. I really can't think of one to play Chow Chi Yuek!! Yes I got one. Cecilia Cheung. But her voice.....
Avoid Version 2000. Too long winded and the costumes, except for Gigi and Charmaine were poorly done. Just look at Joyce Tang. And their hairstyles very very over the top, the Kung Fu bloody boring and the story much too illogical.
Give Version 1994 a try. You could rent the Cantonese version. I liked the dress code in that series, where Ngo Mei would have a certain dress code, though Chiu Man's dressings were a bit plain and ordinary for a princess.You could see some good performances in here, except for the irrittaing Yip Tung. And though the ending will have you screaming, I thought it was quite ok.
The Book's Ending
So Who Wins? There Was
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Copyright (c) 8 Nov 2001 Funn Lim. All Rights Reserved.