The hottest film of the summer season is undoubtedly the fantasy epic "Creation of The Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms", which director Wuer Shan has meticulously crafted over a decade. Before watching this film, it may be necessary for you to acquaint with some background knowledge.
The theme of "patricide"
Based on existing materials, news reports, and premiere reviews, it can be observed that "Creation of The Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms" embodies the classic theme of patricide.
In the movie, all four princes from different states who have no inheritance rights are sent to Zhao Ge (capital of the Shang dynasty) as Zhi Zi (质子, refers to the hostages sent to the enemy or other countries in ancient times, mostly princes or sons, and other people of noble birth. For example, Yan Bingyun in Joy of Life 1 played the role of a Zhi Zi), and raised by King Zhou of Shang as his own sons.
Faced with two forms of paternal authority, King Zhou's and their biological fathers', the Zhi Zi must make a choice between them. This presents a timeless conflict between one's birth father and nurturing father figure.
Whether in Eastern or Western cultures, traditional or modern contexts, relationships between fathers and sons either evolve from opposition and conflict towards reconciliation or become steps towards patricide. The legion of Zhi Zi in this film represents both heirs to small fiefdoms yet also puppets under someone else's control, they are everything but themselves.
Ji Chang profoundly states to the Zhi Zi: "Who your father is does not matter; who you are matters." These words resonate deeply and provoke contemplation. Furthermore, they advocate for individualism, a sentiment that aligns with Hollywood's hero narratives, as seen in this year’s Oscar-winning film "Everything Everywhere All at Once," where Evelyn Wang shares a similar character design. She believes she alone can save her family's happiness while simultaneously defining its standards herself.
In the original work "Investiture of the Gods," the downfall of the Shang Dynasty is portrayed as a result of divine decree. However, in this modern retelling, we see the search for a Supreme Ruler who can bring harmony to all under heaven, a contemporary interpretation of the "Investiture of the Gods" story.
The film also innovatively explores the growth story of young Ji Fa through his relationships with his father and his ministers. In particular, Yin Shou (King Zhou) serves as a catalyst for both father-son dynamics and ruler-minister relationships.
As a great hero in Zhao Ge City, he imparts skills to the Zhi Zi while also manipulating their minds, inciting them to sever ties with their biological families. Publicly, Yin Shou is their ruler and they are his subjects; privately, Yin Shou is their father and they are his children. In the film, father commands his son to kill someone, and despite reluctance, the son has no choice but to obey. A ruler demands that his minister commit patricide, leaving no option but compliance.
Such conflicts create divisions among these Zhi Zi. Some fall into traps without hesitation and embark on violent sprees, becoming not only new generation nobles but also pawns controlled by Yin Shou himself.
Others gradually awaken from this manipulation and refuse to serve an oppressive tyrant who revels in bloodshed, like Ji Fa does. His feelings towards Yin Shou transform from respect and love to disgust and hatred before he sets out on a journey back home, to rediscover his initial aspirations.
Visual representation in Creation of The Gods
The official social media account for the film once released a version of "Creation of The Gods Knowledge Lesson," which mentioned that white was highly valued during the Shang Dynasty; hence it became the dominant color tone throughout its attire system.
King Shang's formal robe featured white fabric overlaid with intricately crafted leatherwork, a combination that showcased both refinement and wildness. Empress Jiang's attire blended the white with the green-blue, complemented by motifs of Taotie, Panchi, and Fengniao, a portrayal that exuded both gracefulness and gentleness.
The royal guards also wore attires consisting of a white inner robe as the base color, adorned with leather collars, cloaks, and armor. The armor patterns were meticulously handcrafted using Taotie motifs, while leatherwork incorporated various carvings and jade inlays, an intricate craftsmanship that made these royal guard costumes stand out among others in the film.
In comparison, Daji's attire has undergone distinct transformations, radiating the brilliance of hanfu. Initially possessed by the Nine-Tailed Fox, Daji's concept of human clothing was incomplete and thus manifested as a partially wrapped ensemble. Intrigued by the resplendent robes worn by King Shang during his reign, she was deeply captivated by the smooth silk and shimmering adornments of gold, jade, copper, and stone. This triggered her desire for human garments.
Her wardrobe evolved from simple combinations of cloth pieces to interconnected robes. The color palette gradually deepened from flesh pink to jujube red, reflecting both Daji's initial innocence intertwined with wildness and the eventual dissolution of her pure nature.
Some viewers expressed differing opinions regarding the expression through costumes. They believed that although information about Shang Dynasty is limited, they have a better understanding of Qin Dynasty.
In their view, the film's costumes were more exquisite and modern than those seen in Qin-era productions. Some internet users even consulted experts on Shang Dynasty attire at Yinxu (the ruins), but these experts confessed their lack of certainty regarding its true appearance: "Whatever way it is depicted seems unsatisfactory to everyone."
"Creation of The Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms" merely serves as an overture. Overall reception towards its special effects has been mostly positive despite some unrealistic expectations. By approaching this film with equanimity rather than excessive comparisons or demands for perfectionism, perhaps a better viewing experience can be attained.
The film adaptation of "Investiture of Gods"
The film is adapted from a classical Chinese mythological novel called "Investiture of Gods," which narrates stories during the conflict between Shang and Zhou Dynasties. This work was written during Ming Dynasty, it consists hundred chapters, with a concentration of conflicts in the story while characters' background stories and relationships are intricate.
Given the vastness of the original work and its multiple perspectives, film adaptations have taken different directions. Among them, the 1990 television series "The Investiture of the Gods" left a profound impression on viewers.
By focusing on figures like King Wen of Zhou, King Wu of Zhou, and Jiang Ziya, it aimed to critique the decadent lives led by the upper class and oppressive governance marked by cruel laws. This approach was well-received.
Entering into the new century, adaptations of "Investiture of Gods" in television dramas have shifted towards larger scales and longer episodes. The values portrayed in these adaptations have also become more modernized and diverse.
The 40-episode version titled "Gods of Honour" broadcasted by TVB in 2001 was particularly popular among young viewers. This drama focuses on characters such as Nezha, Yang Jian, and Lei Zhenzi, telling the story of a group of imperfect youths growing up to become courageous warriors.
In contrast, Chinese animated movie have sparked the formation of the "Investiture of Gods Universe," such as "Ne Zha", and also including "Jiang Ziya".
In summary, attempting to encompass all aspects of the original story from "Investiture of Gods" proves to be quite challenging without yielding satisfying results. On the other hand, adaptations that concentrate on simplifying character relationships and clarifying themes are more well-received by audiences.