"Believe me, this series if given more care in scripting, more capable actors in certain key characters and a better director with an appreciation and an eye for classical dialogue, perhaps there may be a remake worthy of being called better than its predecessors. Now it is just pure messy nonsense."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
For More Info
Check out my detailed page with episodic thoughts, cast list and more. Look for the title with [E] next to it.
A tale of two lovers, a Ming princess and a Han hero often separated and reunited countless of time set in the tumultuous years before the downfall of the Ming Dynasty.
No need lar! I have documented the entire plot in my Episodic Thoughts except for one and a half episode which I have missed. Basically this series is based on the famous legend of Princess Cheung Ping of the Ming Dynasty, her love the gentleman scholar Chow Sai Hin and the downfall of the Ming Dynasty thanks to many many factors, mostly internal. It also spoke of politics, rivalry, hatred, jealousy, love lost .... ok, maybe many issues but this series resembles little of that legend but a whole lot of drama, unnecessary drama if you ask me. Do read my Episodic Thoughts to have a blow by blow of the plot.
I was really looking forward to this smash hit with a very interesting acronym; PITNOL. I read in SPCNET how wonderful this series was, often 4 or even 5 stars, and I was just fresh from my exhilarating experience with Charmaine Sheh's cute and wonderful performance in An Herbalist Affair and her very pretty looking series in The Voyage Of Emperor Chien Lung (another complete dud if you ask me). I thought a series about a doomed dynasty could never go wrong, especially when it is set during such an interesting period of time. I can't forget Duke of Mountdeer's version of the downfall, the many stories about Ng Sam Kwai, Chan Yuen Yuen and even Princess Cheung Ping avenging for her father's untimely death. I remembered Mi Xue's graceful performance of the title character in a series which I believe this present one is and can be considered a remake. I even remembered the dud, Crimson Cabre and remembered enjoying Charmaine's wonderful performance of the soft spoken but intelligent and burdened Princess Cheung Ping. So now to really watch a series about the Princess' early life and her love with Chow Sai Hin amidst the downfall of the dynasty was very tempting.
But from episode 1, to mu utter dismay, I knew this series was going to fail in all my expectations all of which I have documented episode per episode and I feel no urge nor desire to repeat all of them in here. So I'll summarize my thoughts and concentrate more on 3 aspects; The Plot/The Screenplay, The Characters and of course The Performances.
The Plot/The Screenplay
We all know the basic plot, we all know the basic ending. They met, they loved, they died. Yes, the original had them killing themselves. Chow Sai Hin actually died but some said Cheung Ping didn't die and went on a crusade against the Qings in memory of her fallen men. But somehow the writer preferred to add in more stuff. Already the subject matter is a very heavy subject. We have a very burdened King, we have corrupt ministers, war everywhere and two lovebirds who can't be together for various reasons. But here we have more things like a jealous and evil sister, an evil concubine, a weak Queen, a domineering Queen Mother, a weak heir, a demanding official, etc etc etc. I understand the addition. The writer tried very hard to justify the end of the Ming Dynasty, but he needn't do that because from episode 1 the point was made clear; the king was not a wise king and when he tried to be a good king he was stopped by ministers with an agenda of their own. Basically the Qings needn't do anything, all they had to do was to sit and wait for a moment where they can enter the city and conquer China. That opportunity came with the rebel Lee Chi Seng and the weakness of Ng Sam Kwai. Unfortunately these two characters became either a mere mention or a caricature, more cartoonish than real.
The entire dynasty, if we were to believe this series was doomed thanks to the temper tantrums of Ng Sam Kwai. Ng Sam Kwai was given the central role for the doom of Ming, and yet Chan Yuen Yuen became the catalyst. This series made it far too easy to blame Ng Sam Kwai or even Chan Yuen Yuen when their roles are so limited, their love affair so unbelievably corny and their reunion were without words, Just a mention and we are supposed to either love them or hate them. I feel nothing for this pair and I often felt disgusted that the King would think the entire dynasty depends on whether Sam Kwai was having a good mood (when he can see Chan Yuen Yuen) or bad mood (when he can't see Chan Yuen Yuen). And the story of how Chan Yuen Yuen entered the palace was far too juvenile for me to repeat. It was as if it was time to doom the dynasty, so let's just add in Chan Yuen Yuen. The Jin Yong version or even the rumoured historical fact was not as simple as this series made it to be.
And in the centre of it all, this entire series talks about and specifically caters for one pair, that is Cheung Ping and Sai Hin. We need not know how they began to love one another because from episode 1 we are told they're in love, even as youngsters. We see them laugh, we see them cry, we even see them flirting with each other and I was thinking "Ok, perhaps when she grows up there might be something interesting to watch". The only interesting plot was Concubine Tin and her attempt to get rid of the nice Queen. In fact the whole Chu household was like a family and yet we all know we are talking about kings and eunuchs, princesses and concubines. Nothing is ever simple and the series' narrow perception of the king's family life is to me a farce and a joke.
Not long later we had to endure the Queen and children being ousted from the palace, a few episodes of their hardship before the reunion and more hardship. This series works on a repetition basis; together, hardship, separate, hardship, etc etc etc. There was no end to it all and after a while even with all the drama going on, none of it looked remotely real or even realistic. Of course I didn't expect realism since I don't even know whether there was a Chow Sai Hin or Cheung Ping or not and I believe Kings and Queens are human too but they're no ordinary people and to put them in a familial setting with ordinary problems is rather illogical.
After much of their love affair and betrayals again and again and again by her sister, at last they got to be together, happily ever after. All these are affront to the very basis of this series; imagine you're a princess and saw your dynasty's doom, can you honestly live on happily and say; "It doesn't matter as long as the people are well fed and happy". Maybe I say, maybe but not in this circumstances for someone so attached to the very idea of the rule of China must be in the Hans and have been since a long time ago except for some break in the middle. But then Cheung Ping shouldn't be faulted for feeling less than excited for her dynasty because after all a good portion of her life was spent amongst ordinary poor citizens, and poor ordinary citizens don't care who governs them as long as they have jobs and are well fed. But I expect more from Cheung Ping and everybody else. The plot in the end is so juvenile and so basic without much flair to it, I felt like watching a series written by an amateur writer or even a little kid. There is no substance to the plot nor is there a consistency, all of which I have highlighted in my episodic thoughts. The emotions are aplenty but none of which can tug your heart because you feel like a spectator, not even involved, because everytime you feel for the plight of the King and his kingdom, we are stuffed with scenes of crying Cheung Ping, love sick Sai Hin, jealous Chiu Yan and useless Queen and more, all of which are personal and pointless when I wanted bigger issues. In the end I couldn't feel anything for anyone because much time was devoted to one single pair to the point of maximum exposure and the rest having little or no exposure at all to develop their characters. Even that one single pair having so much developed little in their characters because of their single-mindedness that is love and nothing else. In a way I felt cheated; I wanted more and what I had was superficial stuff.
All these wouldn't be too bad if there was some intelligent dialogue but the dialogue in this series has modern context. I doubt there is a practice wedding ceremony since just a few episodes later we are told Ming Dynasty places emphasis on custom and one of which is marrying royalties cannot see one another a few days before the wedding. This series created its own inconsistencies, creating so much plots, sub plot and a variety of truths that in the end the writer himself can't remember which was real and which was fictional. I could because I have been paying attention. Whoever wrote this series and directed it didn't pay attention so this series feels like a complete work of an amateur.
What I really didn't like was the twist in the plot. If there is a twist, do make sure it is a consistent and intelligent twist. The ending where Cheung Ping and Sai Hin actually lived is created to
a. be different from the real history/legend/other series; and
b. to please the fans
As a fan of TVB I was far from pleased because I didn't know how they escaped and all. Am I supposed to work it all out by myself or TVB didn't bother to explain, just expecting us to clap, cry, cheer and move on to the next series without question?
The worst twist was the change in real historical fact. There is a subtle difference between:
1. expecting us to believe Shih Huang Ti buried the scholars and burn the books to eliminate all trace of our hero in A Step Into The Past instead of the real historical fact; and
2. showing the Ming King being executed rather than really killing himself.
Why is that necessary at all to change the plot? To show perhaps the King regained hope and wanted to run to reform his government only to be caught and then hanged so that we can go "Aiyah! How can?!"? Probably true but I'd rather the real facts were used instead of this version because it will then justify whatever happened earlier. The King had to kill himself because he blamed himself for the downfall of the Ming Kingdom. And yet this series tried to do justice to this one character by showing us he tried his best but he inherited a bad kingdom and the downfall was because of Ng Sam Kwai. I don't believe that and I shall discuss more of this below. I just feel the change was totally unnecessary. The scary aspect was I read in some forum that some fans declaring this version to be the true version. It's not and it's not even the logical fiction.
The saving grace of this series is a few gems of a character that were no given their due screen time and their end much too simple and much too detached. They didn't matter, so why waste time showing how they died?
Chow Sai Hin
Also my favourite as he grew tp be a hero towards the end of this series when he stopped talking about loving Cheung Ping. I can understand why Chiu Yan wanted him.
Steven Ma (adult Sai Hin)
Disliked his casting but had to admit, he did well. Certainly not as wimpy and useless as in Where The Legend Begins (similar role, but more useful Maggie in PITNOL).
Shing Jin Kuen (teenaged Sai Hin)
Good looking boy, about to break voice (like relieving Harry Potter first two movies!) and good acting. His character though is much too young to talk about devoted and undying love. May I dare add, plenty of flirting between the two youngsters?
Chow Yuk Fung
Useless character, sad end but who cares? She is so weak against her own useless daughter and yet we are all supposed to believe she can actually run a country when she can't even tell her daughter Chiu Yan to shut up? I don't think so.
Beautiful graceful Maggie Siu, much too young to be Charmaine and Sonija's mother but could possibly be old enough to be the mother of a real 20 year old. Anyway, her performance was quite ok except the fact that her character is pretty useless, pointless and not much role. Of course we see her governing the country and all but believe me, her character lacks that credibility in running a country. The fault lies in the conception of her character, not Maggie Siu.
Tin Siu Tip
Stupid character but interesting, at least more interesting than the bland Cheung Ping. But I do feel her character very short sighted. Whilst the country was going to be doomed, she was so preoccupied in stealing money and yet hoped to be crowned a Queen. I don't get her.
Another wonderful performance, Jan looked particularly malicious in her steely stares and lazy toneless voice. She looked pretty in here, though a bit old. But definitely better than The Family Man.
Love this character, and the character which highlights the givingness and the friendliness of the Qings as opposed to the greed of the Hans. Wonder what happened to him at last?
As usual, excellent performance and the only character that delivers his lines with a punch that is really funny when it should be funny.
Chor Sing Hing
I am speechless when it comes to this character. I like his perpetual optimism and his kindness. But I dislike his squealing like a high pitched voiced woman when he panicked during the war.
Nothing exceptional from a very ordinary and unnecessary character. At times overbearing and noisy, sometimes I didn't even notice he was there. Definitely a very bland performance with little charisma that Sing Hing should have.
Useless heir, no wonder the dynasty doomed TWICE.
Excellent performance, especially with his wet lips, big eyes, sullen face, I thought he really looked like a useless heir. In actual fact I believe Ellesmere Choi is a very intelligent and well traveled man! Definitely an improvement in his acting capabilities but too old to be the young inexperienced Chi Chiu. In fact too old to be little brother of Charmaine and Sonija though both Sonija and Charmained looked too old for their roles. You know, everybody looks too old for his or her role in this series.
It is very difficult for me to define this character into just a few words. Many viewers hated this character for the many despicable things she did. Some (like die hard fans of Sonija Kwok and the members of Association of Ordinary People Turned Bad People) may pity her, because as she said, many things she did was forced by circumstances thrown upon her without her consent. Which means she is an automaton doing things that she had no control over, only that she had to do it. Quite a good defence, if in modern context. A small minority like me may not give a moment's notice to this insignificant insecure character, which I believe that is what Chiu Yan is. Let me explain because Chiu Yan is probably one of these few characters that are fascinating to study and talk about BUT FOR the actress who played her who was indeed an automaton. I'll explain this later.
"I Hate Chiu Yan" Club
It is very easy to hate her, even from the first scene. I simply loath her from first scene because she is played by Sonija Kwok who can't dance, can't act, can't cry, can't do anything except maybe playing a beautiful corpse. Granted, she improved quite a bit towards the end but frankly I hate Chiu Yan because of the actress. Now take away the actress, look at Chiu Yan as a person, a real person. Can you hate her? Of course! She is despicable. Her entire motto in life is to survive. She is the ultimate survivor, doing things to ensure she is still here tomorrow to reap the profits. Problem is she may be a good planner, but she is a horrible executioner of her plans. None of her plans to get rich, to nab the guy, get into the good books of her dad, step mom, grandma, divorce her husband, steal money, etc ever ever work. Not because TVB writers doomed her but because her plans are all flawed. She is a pretty shallow woman, living in her own fantasies that with money, she can buy popularity and respect, with diligent love and climbing over other dead bodies (literally and figuratively) she can earn the love of the man she wants (that is Sai Hin, the only man fortunate enough to have the attention of 2 lead actresses in this series). She just doesn't realise getting the respect she wants isn't by cheating, lying, deceiving and killing. She never realised until the end. Her character is quite similar to Sonija Kwok's other despicable character in Lok Sun whose name I forgot (which shows how memorable her character and her acting was), except that woman had an ultimate purpose. She lied and deceived for bigger purpose, that is to be Empress. This Chiu Yan, half the time I was wondering why she had to do all that when her sister adored her, her mom is too weak to say no to her and her father, well he is an Emperor so he is often busy. Of course her jealousy stems from Cheung Ping being the more popular one. In the end all this boils down to her jealousy of:-
1. Cheung Ping being smarter than she is;
2. Cheung Ping being the apple in the eye of everybody rather than herself;
3. Cheung Ping being the object of almost insane devotion of Sai Hin, the ultimate bachelor to nab in this series;
4. Cheung Ping wasn't forced to marry Tong Po Lun and being made perhaps a sex slave for a day whilst she had to;
5. Cheung Ping had more budget in clothing that looked more younger and innocent;
6. Cheung Ping always so lucky in everything and got everything she ever wanted whilst Chiu Yan couldn't get what she wanted.
Actually it's all a matter of thought, that is the jealousy stems from Chiu Yan's own inner demons, though I must say Cheung Ping was indeed the apple in everybody's eye. Can't blame Chiu Yan for stabbing Cheung Ping but really she needn't do that. After all she can be the second best princess, but still a princess. But she went on to do so many things, became so annoying that even if she could be princess no. 1 she would be the most crude princess no. 1 who deserved her ending. Worse is she never even got to be princess no. 1 or even no. 2. In the Ming Dynasty, irrespective of how I feel about Cheung Ping and how undeserving she is of her popularity amongst friends and people, I do feel Chiu Yan was a nobody from episode 1 until the end. The best part was when she became Qing princess, boasting with arrogant vigour of her new position of power, money and nice costume to Sai Hin and Cheung Ping, and yet she was so easily discarded when she became again part of the deal of peace. By then she should realise all the things she had done, all the sacrifices she made to her humanity in the pursuit of popularity and wealth ended with her being in prison for the very reason that made her so despicable and hated; she killed her own mom. For me she could push Cheung Ping down the hill (I myself will be tempted to do so if I stood before this whiny little skeletal princess) all she wants but killing her mom, betraying her people, selling out on the eunuchs and princesses and acting like she owned the world when she was nothing but the dirt people stepped on, that was the last straw!
So I don't pity her.
"I Pity Chiu Yan" Club
What is there to pity? Ok, maybe ...
1. As a child, Cheung Ping had all the attention whilst she was never to be seen anywhere, as she said, she must have spent her childhood in cold palaces or something;
2. She though Tong Po Lun was the good man and ended up as rotten as she was so Cheung Ping got Sai Hin, the high class Kampung Durian and she got a rotten mixed breed durian that is Tong Po Lun;
3. She was literally forced to marry Tong Po Lun without any proper ceremony when her sister has got the while ceremony and more;
4. She was raped by Tong Po Lun and then discarded and her mom and dad said nothing, in fact dad glorified it and her mom said it was the ultimate sacrifice; and
5. Sister is always so darn sweet and nice whilst if she had a bit of a tantrum, everybody will probably say "Cheung Ping would not have done that!".
So 5 very valid points. But are they a justification for her to do all the things she did and more? I don't think so. Between 2 siblings, one had to get the attention and the love, because Cheung Ping was always the smart, pretty, gentle one. What is there to be jealous about? Sai Hin had always had eyes only for Cheung Ping. Tong Po Lun was a mistake and she lived at a time when what was done to her was the norm. Whilst I disagree how her father glorified her sacrifice without a tinge of pity to her or a word of comfort, I do think the writer tried to inject too many modern concepts into an ancient times. Let's face it; many princesses were often offered as peace object in pursuance to a peace treaty to far away land, killed also nobody knows. So when Chiu Yan took advantage of her sad plight to shut her mom up, I was rather immune to her cries of "Look at me, you turned me into a camp whore!".
My point is, she has nothing to be pitied.
I always thought Sonija Kwok has such a beautiful name, Sonija Kwok Sin Lei. Her face is quite pretty if shown in a good light. The problem is her acting capabilities doesn't compliment both her name and her looks.
I said her Chiu Yan could use automaton as a defence to what she did, having no control, being dictated, just do and be done with. Sonija's acting feels like that all the time. She's not getting any better nor is she getting any worse. Towards the end in that final scene where she looked absolutely ugly, I thought she gave her best acting. Sometimes I pity her, because she is always given roles that puts her in a very bad light whilst the more popular ones are given roles that are often innocent and virginal. So far this series really tests her acting skills more than Lok Sun and frankly she failed. Like I said, she was not passionate, she looked like a person programmed to act, very plastic and doesn't affect me at all emotionally. And this is not because I dislike Chiu Yan but because of the actress herself. Sometimes I have this feeling Sonija Kwok has this inner ego, like she is unconsciously smiling to herself. Or is it her lips? Because I saw that in many scenes, even when her character is suffering.
Perhaps it is unfair for me to blame her for her bad acting because this role though petty, shallow and useless, is nevertheless a role that requires a person with good acting capabilities to bring out the full potential of Chiu Yan. I can only imagine what Maggie Cheung can do with this role but she is on the A list now, so she can't have such roles.
I have tried to figure what type of role that Sonija Kwok should try to perhaps havs a breakthrough from her frosty appearance. Ice queen? Not really. Since she doesn't mind being the ugly one, she might consider the role of a :-
1. heartless frosty queen who became frosty and heartless because deceived and denied the love she thought she had with a very virile king (wow!);
2. frosty and inability to emote as a human being in a modern day drama (I heard that's her role in Angels of Mission);
3. A jaded female detective who is unable to show emotions because she has seen too much evil;
You know so far everything is frosty, no emotions! OK what about ...
4. An ugly girl with a good heart but timid persona turned into a beautiful swan and opening herself up emotionally; AND
5. A comatose patient with some scenes where her spirit or the memory of her lingers still on this earth and a role that does not require her to speak.
Unfortunately she is given roles like grieving loving wife, bitchy loving daughter, evil conniving queen full of rage and jealousy ... all of which requires a whole deal of emotions facially, and none of which she could deliver because her face is set, plastic-ish. It all boils down to TWO facts; she can't act and she needs voice lessons.
Ng Sam Kwai
Ermm, at first I had high hopes for this character, to show how he opened the gates to lead the Qings into the city to doom rebel Lee, but what I got was a temperamental man who refuses to fight for his country because he can't get his woman or through some misunderstanding. Too much blame has been given to Ng Sam Kwai. Let me put it in perspective; I see Ng Sam Kwai as a traitor but who was he betraying? Ming was doomed when rebel Lee entered the palace and formed a new dynasty I think for 100 days (so short!). So what has he got to lose when he opened the gates to allow Qings in, if there is really a Chan Yuen Yuen? This series expanded his role from a traitor to a traitor with a heart. He became a traitor because he felt guilt that he betrayed the king, his best friend and he wanted revenge against men he could have found himself and beheaded them. He didn't. He just drank himself silly, cry and then ok, I will open the gates. This series tried to make us all blame him, in a way I do but his actions were so childish and juvenile, and the entire plot was like "Sam Kwai will save us, Sam Kwai will save the dynasty" was all too cliche for me. It's like he is superman, without him the Earth will explode. Well, there's spiderman, X-Men, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Ultraman ... many many more. The dynasty won't fall without him, because it was already falling! What a ridiculous over emphasis on one man towards the fate of one kingdom. It's not Lord of the Rings, like one ring will spell the doom of mankind!
He had little to do except looked hurt, betrayed and in love. So little time, so little personality. I had high hopes for Marco Ngai and the script failed him.
Chan Yuen Yuen
Again too much emphasis is placed on one character on the fate of the kingdom. How she entered the palace as a concubine and why were rather silly and childish scripting. The fact that she stripped and danced in front of Buddha whilst making a wish was disrespectful and obscene. And how the narrator said that who would have thought Chan Yuen Yuen would be the cause of Ming's downfall was rather too late to be said because to me Ming was surviving, but barely. The cause of their downfall was their own weakness, nothing to do with Sam Kwai or Chan Yuen Yuen.
Except for the first scene where she looked gorgeous, the rest was like she was suffering from low budget or 2nd hand make up. She often looked like Yeung Gwai Fei from her breakthrough series. Her performance was horrodeous. Was she as bad as Sonija Kwok? If she had more scenes, I would say both of them had an equal chance at Worst Actress In A Supporting Role.
I disliked his wishy-washy ways when it comes to making a decision but toward the end, I pity him. He tried all he could but failed because of many reasons. But one thing I disagreed was when he said he inherited 17 years ago a problematic dynasty. I think everybody can agree that in the first few episodes, he himself magnified the problems by doing nothing, listening to the wrong advice, etc. I think I have stated in my Episodic Thoughts that this was one of those very few characters that I felt grew stronger in characterisation as the story unfolded.
His breakthrough role? Nope. He did his best thought but he was far too young to hold such a weighty heavy and burdened role. At times I got very irritated with his ashmatic way of speaking his lines. But his best moments were when he was sitting alone as his kingdom fell, hopes and dreams fell and he looked absolutely without hope. Overall his performance is not the worst but definitely not one I will say was so darn good that eclipses all those who could have done this role justice. I once mentioned Law Kar Ying. I think he could be a weak king who tried to redeem himself by trying very hard to save his dynasty. The casting should have been around that age, perhaps a bit older.
General Shih Ho Fatt
I must mention this character because other than Kei Loke, he is one of my most favourite character in this series and his screen time is in total less than half an episode, maybe plus a few more minutes. I admire his quiet strength, his unflinching loyalty, his devotion to his work and his zen like appearance, cool and calm. He could be Neo in the Ming dynasty, super cool and super able in what he did best, that is strategise and fight! A pity little respect is given to this character whose ending scene was too abrupt and with little care.
Wong Wai Leung
One word; excellent. The ke-le-fes are the ones who gave this series some shred of decency.
Last but not least, our heroine herself, the entire series based on her legendary love to Sai Hin, her unflinching devotion and patriotism to her father and her countrymen and her supposedly intelligent and elegant disposition. If however this series is to be believed, that the real Cheung Ping is like this as opposed to the Crimson Sabre version, believe me I will not write another line of this shallow twig. Yes, it's time for name calling. Between Chiu Yan and Cheung Ping, I feel Chiu Yan had more personality and the fact that I feel Chiu Yan herself lacked personality, do the maths yourself as to how much personality this Cheung Ping has.
From her childhood scenes to her adult scenes, my opinion of Cheung Ping remained; as child she was a coward and as an adult a person without conviction in all she does except for when it comes to Sai Hin. She seems more concerned for Sai Hin than everything else (and that includes mom, dad, her people, her dynasty) whilst Sai Hin at times put aside love for country. I can't deny the devotion each character has to one another, but I find it extremely annoying that she voices her concern when it comes to Sai Hin but did nothing for everybody else.
Towards the end we had citizens proclaiming she is a great princess who did so much for them so they should respect her. At this point I was still wondering what was Cheung Ping's defined role in this series other than lover of Sai Hin and a princess without public profile. Apparently off camera she must have saved some thousands of people because people love her. Why not put all that within the camera's focus so that I won't be so confused? Or is this the writer's late attempt to justify the love showered onto Cheung Ping who basically did nothing for the entire series but for thet few precious scenes which showed her giving food away and giving some inspiring talks (which can be interpreted as selfish talks since she disallowed people from leaving the city on the pretext the rebels will get them anywhere but in actual fact she was begging women to cook and men to fight). I find her shallow to the extreme because she had never used her intelligence to good use. Did she have any in the first place?
And of course she kept believing and forgiving Chiu Yan but can't blame her, they're sisters. In the end she did make one good decision, that is to use Chiu Yan as a means to a treaty when surrendering to the Qings. Other than that, she was always away from the palace somewhere suffering and thinking about Sai Hin and talking about/to/with/towards God or as she called him, Lou Tin Yeh Yeh. Sai Hin had the same bad habit. It's good to show a person having religious faith but every single episode would be a bit too pretentious because Chiu Yan never prayed to God, the Qings never prayed to God, the rebels never prayed to God so are they trying to show Sai Hin and Cheung Ping are the Harry Potters of their days because they pray to God and the rest are Lord Voldemorts because they never pray to God? That was my impression.
The fact that she was so docile, zen like when she shouldn't be and never ever once had a tantrum when she should have made her all too perfect. But she's not perfect, because when it comes to owning up to something she did she always hesitated. One perfect scene in her early childhood was the scene where she farted and another person had to be punished severely before .. in fact she never said it was she who did it. Oh come on, just a fart and she had to take forever to come forward and she never did. Another scene was as an adult a servant girl she knew was stabbed before her whilst her brother was brutally attacked outside and what did she do? This time she was fast to act; she pushed the poor girl away without borthering to check for her pulse whether she was alive or not, close the door and hid. If this the actions of an ordinary person? Of course. Is this the actions of a princess in danger? Why not? But is this the actions of compassionate, giving, brave, gentle, intelligent, famous Princess Cheung Ping? If you said yes, then this character is no different from any other character, so why bother adapting a famous story and turning this character into a nobody? Of course 99% of people out there would have acted as she did and this could be the reflection of the truth but frankly, I was longing to see a Cheung Ping who actually did something unexpectedly brave and all I saw was a Cheung Ping who did something that was expectedly normal. In fact this Cheung Ping couldn't do a single thing without crying for Sai Hin or being helped by other MEN. I find that notion offensive.
I feel the entire problem with this series is because this character Cheung Ping. Never adapt a famous story or make a remake from a well acted series if you intend to change some very pivotal characteristics of a very well known character. Imagine Sai Hin is nothing but a lusty bastard? Certainly that wouldn't go down well with fans of this legendary love. I only expect Cheung Ping to be decent and brave, opinionated and useful but what I got was a Cheung Ping that is supposedly perfect but really was flawed to the bone. I don't like this Cheung Ping.
The character was already flawed but the actress who played this role was worse. Charmaine injected neither charm nor elegance into Cheung Ping. What I saw was a deliberate exercise in looking and sounding cute without the real cuteness. I missed the genuineness in Charmaine's soft spoken voice when she first started out. She looked wimpy, yes but she also looked demure and yet could be strong without sticking it into your face and screaming "I AM STRONG!". I remembered her Ah Man in DIF IV (bad acting but she was demure, learned to be less dependent), her best character and acting Ah Bee in An Herbalist Affair where she was everything and more, her Chow Chi Yuek in HSDS (bad series but she was beautiful and believably evil and demure at the same time) and her Princess Cheung Ping in Crimson Sabre whom I feel is my ideal Princess Cheung Ping.
Not many actresses can get a second chance in playing a well known character in two different versions. I don't expect same characters and feelings but I certainly didn't expect for her to do it almost right the first time and a complete mess the second time. The fault lies in the script and the direction and the focus but many more lies in the actor who can't inhabit the character. Or perhaps I am seeing shades of the real Charmaine in this Cheung Ping? Believe me, it's not a pretty sight.
Her voice was horrible. I missed the demure chicken voice. In this series filled with modern dialogue, the way she talked was lazy and unrefined. What is going on with Charmaine?
You must have noticed I didn't comment about Annie Man. Why bother? Her character amounts to absolutely nothing in this series. Her performance was quite ok and she was very pretty if you must know.
Too much emphasis on the love story, pushing everything else aside, and when the story goes back to everything else, it was much too late. The ending was God awful, no explanation whatsoever, it was like "Nah! You want happy ending? Here's your happy ending!". I won't be treated like a complete fool into accepting a second rate ending. I also hated the fact the writers changed why the King died because I thought the real history itself was more dramatic and purposeful. This series tried to give a new twist to a timeless tale of love, betrayals, falling kingdom and eternal devotion. I see plenty of devotion between two main characters when I wanted to see devotion in a bigger scale; the relationships between the characters and more. What I had was a glimsp of the surface of what could have been. Believe me, this series if given more care in scripting, more capable actors in certain key characters and a better director with an appreciation for classical dialogue, perhaps there may be a remake worthy of being called better than its predecessors. Now it is just pure messy nonsense. The Damien Lau- Mi Xue version may be blamed for ending it much too late, but the performances were flawless. This series has none of that but all the flaws one would expect could have been eradicated with better technology. Can't they just put in more money and make it into an animated series? Perhaps it could be better than this. It just shows the actors and the writers aren't getting any better. In fact they're getting worse.
This series is only for those who can stomach the complete disregard for the real history or how many have perceived it before and strictly for fans of the actors. Fans of Maggie Siu best avoid this series. You will vomit blood at what this beautiful capable actress is made to do just because her age (as in numbers, never her looks which looked even better than when she was younger) is getting higher.