During lunch break I spent some time watching League of Gods, a 2016 Hong Kong fantasy movie featuring Jet Li, the ubiquitous Tony Leung Ka-Fai and the absolutely gorgeous Fan Bingbing, among many others. I always liked Hong Kong movies, and it is nice to take a break from Western imagination once in a while.
The movie is – pretty loosely, I guess – based on a 16th century novel called Fangshen Yanyi (variously translated as Investiture of the Gods or The Creation of the Gods).
As you can see from the trailer, the movie is heavy on CGI, and has a strange mix of adult situations and somewhat of juvenile humor that can raise a few eyebrows among the audience.
I know my eyebrows did a little gymnastic while I was watching the film.
The plot – King Zhou of the Shang has been seduced by a fox spirit and is now ruling tyrannically a land over which three suns and two moons shine in the sky. Rebellion brews, and finding the Sword of Light becomes imperative for both the rebels and the evil king.
Throw in a beautiful woman with strange tentacles, a bad guy that rides a black panther, probably the most lavish costumes and a debauched court straight out of a Guillermo Del Toro extravaganza, huge backdrops and an overabundance of the sort of wild camera work that’s only possible with CGI sets, a guy in a golden armor and one sprouting wings… and you get a pallid idea of this blockbuster, that is as visually striking as narratively… so and so.
I admit I was somewhat annoyed by some of the more childish shenanigans – usually involving a CGI infant Nocha (the six-armed maverick heavenly warrior from Chinese tradition), and by a certain hastiness in presenting more eye-candy and more wonderfully-choreographed fighting set-pieces, only to push them aside and make space for more of the same.
The movie lasts 109 minutes and it is absolutely packed with action and beauty – maybe a little too much so. It’s like the director and producers were trying to outdo Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy by piling up more huge vistas, more fantastic cities, more monsters, more strange costumes and mass battles… leaving the viewer a little disoriented.
But all in all it was not too bad while taking a break – and the cliffhanger finale promises a sequel. That I will probably watch, because for all its flaws, this first part was quite a fun ride.