On October 1, 2020, the first day of China’s National Day, the long-anticipated animated feature film Jiang Ziya(aka Legend of Deification) was officially released in cinemas, nearly eight months after its planned releasing date due to the impact of the Covid-19.
Jiang Ziya is adapted from the China’s Ming Dynasty novel Fengshen Yanyi(aka Investiture of the Gods), produced by Enlight Pictures, the company which has also released the popular animated feature films like I am NeZha(imdb) and Monkey King: Hero’s Back(imdb). You may even call this studio the Dreamwork of China.
The film follows the protagonist Jiang Ziya, who was regarded as one of the wisest old men in Chinese legend, gives up his chance to be a god after an apocalyptic war in order to save an innocent girl and find out the truth behind the war.
However, despite in its early promotion, Jiang Ziya claimed to be part of Fengshen Universe like Ne Zha, which previously grossed 5 billion yuan (about 700 million dollars) at the domestic box office, this was not the case.
Although the two films are based on the same novel,their story settings are so different that they seem to come from two parallel universes. Think about the relationship between Nolan’s Batman and the DC Universe, then you may get the point. In addition, the film’s story and the original novel is also very different, there is very few similarity except for the character’s name.
Furthermore, the quality of the film is not good enough. You can see the obvious problem of insufficient budget. The shooting technique is also not proficient, which could not be compared with Ne Zha. Coupled with the defective script, makes the quality of the film be mediocre.
Even so, the box office of Jiang Ziya on its opening day is spectacular. By 9 p.m. Beijing time, Jiang Ziya had grossed 350 million yuan (about 50 million dollars) on its first day, more than double Ne Zha ‘s 144 million yuan (about 20 million dollars) record for a Chinese animated film.
More surprisingly, China’s national box office also reached 700 million yuan (about 100 million dollars) at this point, only 110 million yuan (about 15 million dollars) less than the same day last year, ranking 16th in China’s single-day total box office ranking – and please do remember, the day is not over when I have done this article.
Maybe we can finally say that the impact of COVID-19 has faded in the Chinese film market.
Jiang Ziya reborn in his story, and the Chinese film market reborn in this holiday.
The Investiture of the Gods or The Creation of the Gods, also known by its Chinese name Fengshen Yanyi (封神演义), is an very old Chinese fantasy fiction. You could consider it as the Chinese version of Marvel universe or DC universe, just way much older.
Actually, the existing period of the story is longer than the history of America.
It is a 16th-century Chinese novel and one of the major Oriental fantasy genre work in history. The story was written during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The inspiration for the story came from ancient Chinese mythology, folklore, real history, and other fantastic stories.
Interestingly, the history of Fengshen Yanyi is vague. The book consisted 100 chapters, and it might be first published between 1567 and 1619, yet the exact time had lost for a long time. As for the author of the story has become a mystery in the history, and Xu Zhonglin is believed as the editor of the book.
The story happened in an era of turbulence – the destruction of the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and the establishment of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). Ji Fa, the young king of Zhou, led his army to overthrow the decayed Shang Dynasty, end the rule of the tyrant and his nonhuman concubine, and finally restore the order and peace.
It can be said that Fengshen Yanyi is an Oriental epic. You could find the changing of dynasties, the war between mortals, the fight between gods, the artifacts that born at the beginning of the creation, the sorcery that can reforge the world, the strife between denominations of Taoism.
Fengshen Yanyi has crucial impact on Chinese folk belief – as a novel, it even transformed the indigenous belief of later generations, just as The Divine Comedy did. The folk gods that many Chinese still worship today, are actually characters in this fiction.
Such a grand epic clearly has great commercial potential. In fact, it was animated by a Hong Kong film studio in 1975. Up to now, Fengshen Yanyi has been adapted into eight TV series, two movies and several animations in China. And just like the Romance of The Three Kingdoms, there is also a Japanese version of Fengshen Yanyi, only it is far less popular than the Romance of The Three Kingdoms.
Unfortunately, most of these works have poor quality. In particular, the Legend of God, a film released in 2016, has an extremely poor quality, with a box office of only 283 million yuan (about 40 million dollars).
However, due to the booming of Chinese film market, studios are turning their attention back to this very valuable IP. Ne Zha and Jiang Ziya are both very successful attempts, nevertheless, the really big-budget production has not come yet.
Directed by Wu Ershan, the trilogy of Fengshen is about to be released. The series brings together many Chinese superstars with an estimated investment of 3 billion yuan. The film has even asked the producers of the Lord of the Rings series, Barrie M. Osborne, to be the advisers. Apparently, the series has the ambition of creating a Lord of the Rings of China..
It’s just that big-budget, low-quality films are not uncommon in China, where the quality of films is often erratic due to a lack of industrial capacity, and it’s too early to say the trilogy of Fengshen will be the monument of the Chinese film industry.