After the release of "Chinese Paladin Season 5" in 2016, it has been 8 years since the "Chinese Paladin" IP made its appearance. "Sword and Fairy 4 (Chinese Paladin Season 4)," directed by Yang Xuan, starring Ju Jingyi, Chen Zheyuan, Mao Zijun, and Mao Xiaohui, is currently airing on iQiyi. The story tells of the adventures and challenges that Han Lingsha, Yun Tianhe, Murong Ziying, and Liu Mengli face on their journey to protect the world, as well as the friendships and growth they experience along the way.
The "Chinese Paladin" IP has a strong fan base, and the adaptation satisfies the nostalgia of a generation. "Sword and Fairy 4" premiered with high expectations from the audience, with over 75 million views on the platform within 24 hours, showcasing the popularity of the "Chinese Paladin" series and the influence of the new generation of actors.
However, after a few episodes, many viewers criticized the quality of the series, especially the fans of the original work, who believe that the drama did not fully capture the essence of the original. Additionally, viewers expressed dissatisfaction with the actors' performances. Any work must undergo the scrutiny of the audience, and the reputation of this drama has been polarized. Apart from the critical voices, many viewers have objectively evaluated the drama, appreciating the casting choices that closely resemble the characteristics of the original characters, as well as the youthful and heroic spirit conveyed in the storyline.
In fact, any adaptation should not be limited to faithfully replicating the original, but should be treated as an original production in its own right. The TV series "Sword and Fairy 4" is a secondary creation based on the original work, incorporating the creative thinking of the director, screenwriters, and the entire production team. Therefore, whether the actors' portrayals align with the characters, or if the scenes and plot faithfully replicate the original, should be viewed objectively.
Restore the soul of the original
The most vocal critics of "Sword and Fairy" are the fans of the original work, who flood the internet with complaints about the lack of faithfulness to the original. However, the online game "Chinese Paladin 4" was released in 2007 with a visual style that leans towards two-dimensional paper-like characters, which naturally no longer aligns with the current aesthetic. In terms of production, "Sword and Fairy 4" only retains the original storyline but makes changes to the scenery and character designs to better suit the contemporary aesthetic and the characteristics of the actors.
If we solely compare the character designs, it is true that the TV adaptation of "Sword and Fairy 4" has undergone bold changes. Its advantage lies in better fitting the current aesthetic and appearing more natural. However, its flaw is that it is not extreme enough and does not enhance the personality of the characters.
For example, the character Yun Tianhe is depicted as a wild man who lived in the mountains before adulthood, thus lacking understanding of social conventions. His clothing style is similar to Sun Wukong and made of animal skins. However, in the TV series, there are only some forest-like elements, with fabric as the main material. In terms of hairstyle, Yun Tianhe's wild and untamed hairstyle in the game has been changed to a traditional hairstyle for male leads in period dramas, which naturally makes him more handsome, but fails to highlight Yun Tianhe's individuality.
However, in terms of the storyline, the drama almost perfectly replicates the original work. Firstly, in terms of character development, the classic setting of Yun Tianhe wielding a longbow and sword is preserved, Han Lingsha, born into a family of tomb raiders, is skilled in deciphering tomb mechanisms and understands feng shui, while Liu Mengli is a noble lady, well-versed in music, chess, calligraphy, and painting, and has some knowledge of spells. These classic character traits are accurately portrayed in the drama, and fans of the original work should look beyond the superficial aspects of character designs and appreciate the effort put into the production of the series itself.
The most challenging aspect of adaptation lies in the so-called faithfulness, but what truly needs to be faithfully replicated is the soul, the essence that the drama truly wants to convey. The series retains the core plot of the original work, perfectly blending main quests and side quests. Yun Tianhe's accidental discovery of a wanted poster that closely resembles Han Lingsha and his encounter with the faceless woman in the tomb of the Southern King are worth reminiscing about.
It is said that many of the side quests in the game version of "Chinese Paladin Season 4" were unfinished, but these unfinished side stories have become a source of nostalgia for netizens, regarded as imperfect perfection. Later, Guan Pingchao adapted them into a novel based on the game, supplementing and completing these unfinished storylines and details.
The TV series "Sword and Fairy 4" is an adaptation based on the novel, and novels are a form of imaginative art. Therefore, comparing the fidelity of the series to the game inevitably lacks objectivity, as the secondary creation based on the novel can be more imaginative.
Special effects and high scene restoration
"Sword and Fairy 4" is a production of S+ level, with iQiyi investing 312 million to create it and bearing 100% of the investment. Looking through the comments of netizens on the drama, it is rare to find anyone dissatisfied with the special effects and production of the drama, which shows that the audience's recognition of the production level of the drama is quite high.
By comparison, it is easy to see that the drama has a high degree of restoration for key locations such as the Qionghua sect territory and the mysterious mountains, capturing the essence of the game scenes. The filming of important scenes such as the Qionghua Palace was done on location, restoring the scenes presented in the game. However, due to the game's interface being too simple and plain, the drama did not completely restore the simple houses in the game, but instead gave them a more magnificent treatment. In order to highlight the texture of the fairyland, the drama also used CGI animation and created some atmospheric light circles and flower rain.
For example, in the fourth episode, Yun Tianhe and Han Lingsha mistakenly enter a dreamland, and the presentation of the episode is full of fantasy, with pink petals falling, creating a romantic atmosphere. The special effects of the golden light on the fairy rope that binds Yun Tianhe are also quite realistic. Compared to the original game interface, the presentation of the drama is more modern, dreamlike, and three-dimensional. Compared to many xianxia dramas that use green screens throughout, the production of "Sword and Fairy 4" is full of sincerity.
"Sword and Fairy 4" has been in preparation since 2017 and officially started filming in Hengdian in 2022. Many scenes were personally built, aiming to restore the palace scenes in the original game one-to-one. Important scenes such as Qingfeng Gorge, Drunken Flower Shade, and Moon Village were all built on location, making the visual presentation very realistic. In fact, the construction of these scenes is even more realistic and in line with modern aesthetics than the scenes in the original game.
Unchanging spirit of youth
As a popular game, film and drama adaptation, the "Chinese Paladin" series has its core charm in that each work is a new story with different protagonists and storylines. Although the story background and characters are constantly changing, the entire series always maintains a unique spirit of youthful passion. This spirit of inheritance is the key to the "Chinese Paladin" series being able to transcend time and continue to attract new and old fans.
The age of the protagonist in the drama is probably around 18 years old, and at this age, the characters naturally appear childish and immature. Especially for Yun Tianhe, who grew up in the mountains and whose father died when he was young, he was not taught about social norms and the ways of the world, so there are many words he doesn't understand, such as "marriage" and "son-in-law". Therefore, the target audience of the drama is actually in line with the original game, targeting the 11-18 year old teenage audience. The dialogue and plot of the characters naturally have a childishness and cannot be viewed with the perspective of adults.
The "Chinese Paladin" model is fixed, with a group of teenagers embarking on an adventure centered around the "sword". In this process, the values of the teenagers are the core and key that the drama wants to convey. Yun Tianhe is a person who has not been contaminated by worldly affairs, so he believes that all things have spirits and all beings are equal. When he first went down the mountain to see the outside world, despite the villagers' criticisms of his father, the kind-hearted Yun Tianhe still chose to help them, which not only reflects his tolerance but also shows his maturity and wisdom beyond his age.
Yun Tianhe's actions are the best interpretation of the spirit of youth. His courage and determination in the face of difficulties and challenges demonstrate an indomitable spirit. Whether it is respect for all things in nature or maintaining calm and facing danger bravely, it profoundly embodies the power of the youth's will. This spirit is not only a tempering of personal qualities but also a positive influence on the entire social values.
In addition, Yun Tianhe's growth trajectory in the drama is a microcosm of the spirit of youth. From innocence to bravery and maturity, his growth process is full of challenges and difficulties, but it is these experiences that shape his resolute character. In him, we see how a young person grows in adversity and persists in his beliefs in the face of setbacks.
In conclusion, "Sword and Fairy 4" is not only a xianxia drama but also a story about the growth of youth. Yun Tianhe, with his firm will and courageous actions, shows us what true youth spirit is. This is what the "Chinese Paladin" series wants to convey, whether through games, novels, or dramas, it subtly influences the audience and fans, conveying positive values that are beneficial to the growth of teenagers.