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The Return of the Condor Heroes 95
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The Return of the Condor Heroes 95
* reviewed by Tan Y.E.

Louis Koo as Yang Guo
Carman Lee as Xiao Long Nu

Once again, TVB remade this famous wuxia novel since its 1984 version. Strangely, it was not very popular when it was first broadcast in Hong Kong. However, it became a huge success when viewers of other countries (Taiwan, China, South East Asia etc.)watched this series. Both the lead actor & actress gained a huge leap in their career and became more well known.

I've never read any wuxia novels before wacthing this series, but became an avid fan of Jin Yong after that. Why? I can't give you an exact answer, but the ROCH '95 surely influenced me! The moment I noticed that it would be broadcast on television, I hurriedly borrowed the books from my friend and read in in parallel with the series.

This novel is not a very traditional wuxia story as it focused more on love stories. It is an extreme act, in that period (Song Dynasty), for a disciple to fall in love with the master. However, Jin Yong penned a rebellious, extreme and bold young man in Yang Guo, the main character of the novel. The innocence of Xiao Long Nu moulded her character into a person who does not care about anything outside her world. In the process of trying to go against the tradition, YG and XLN faced a lot of obstacles and were separated for a few times. Of course in the end they got together!

Credit to TVB for producing a good serial. This series is still appealing even though it had been remade several times (different versions and countries). The overall success is due to the originality of the novel. I can assume that this series is 90% accurate according to the novel and this proved to be the main attraction to die-hard Jin Yong fans. I did not miss a single episode and was even eager to watch the repeat episodes shown in the middle of the night.

Sadly, i don't think that 32 episodes were enough to accommodate the whole story, thus limiting the characters' and the storyline's development. Logically, I thought it should be at least 40 episodes since the novel has 40 chapters. Many scenes were happening in a rush. Some minor and in-depth details were not shown. It's quite easy for me as I managed to finish the novel before watching this show. But for novices of wuxia novels? I doubt...

In my opinion the best part of the casting was on its two leading actor & actress. Kudos to the producer who chose them!

Carman Lee was exactly the XLN written in the novel. Not only was she beautiful, she had the charisma. She also did a great job bringing XLN from the novel to life. Cool, emotionless (except when she's with YG), beautiful... What else can I say? I've read some reviews before and some people thought that Carman was stiff in her acting. I guess they did not really understand the novel as that's the character of XLN. XLN had lived in the Ancient Tomb for almost 20 years before going to the outside world and she knew nothing about the world beyond her tomb. What do you expect? Beautiful clothes, jewellery on her head? The white dress she wore was perfect as it reflected her beauty and charisma even better. I liked the character very much and Carman made me like her even more. Even Jin Yong himself praised Carman for her acting!

As for Louis Koo, the initial part was not convincing because he never looked like a 14-year-old teenager to me. Wouldn't it be better if TVB had a child actor to do this part? It seemed awkward as Louis is certainly taller than Carman! Louis has also portrayed the character of YG well, as being mischievous, brave, handsome and of course, loved by many girls. Nevertheless, I must admit that his acting is somewhat wooden. When compared to the movies and series he makes now, he certainly has improved a lot. I liked YG and I think this role is really suitable for him.

Plus point, Louis and Carman are so compatible! They really looked like a couple and shared great chemistry in ROCH 95. I enjoyed every scene they appeared together.

Then again, I was very dissapointed with the casting of Huang Rong and Li Mo Chou. Both are supposed to be beauties, but the 2 ladies picked for the roles are not compatible at all. First, Huang Rong is supposed to be a thirty-something lady (for more info on the character, refer to the Condor Heroes) and they cast a 40-plus plain-Jane lady. For Li Mo Chou , a female taoist in her 20s is acted by a thirty-something lady who looked more like a witch to me.

The casting of Guo Jing was no better as that guy(forgot about his name) looks really dumb and didn't look like a hero anyway! Maybe if TVB had asked Felix Wong to pick up that role, it would be far better off!

I liked Maggie Cheung as Cheng Ying in this series but felt that she was wasted in this fringe role. Maybe it was because she'd just started acting then and TVB was not convince by her performance yet. Cheng Ying appeared only a few times and gave Maggie no room to show more of her capabilities.

Other supporting characters were not appealing either and I don't want to waste time commenting on them. I guess the supporting cast in the 1984 version was much better than this version. However, to me it's not a big deal as Louis and Carman were the main attraction of this series.

For wuxia stories, I think these are the important aspects to make a series/movie succesful. In spite of that, TVB took for granted the popularity of the novel itself and made a low-budget product.

First, the fighting scenes were obviously cut short and made simple. In the book itself, fighting scenes may cover a few pages to tenths of pages. Of course I don't expect the scenes in the series to be as lengthy but I never thought they would be so short! They did not really display in entirety the kung fu written in the novel.

Secondly, which is the worst of all, the background settings was so fake that even a not-so-particular person can see that all the rocks are made of polystyrene. Places such as the ancient tomb and caves looked so artificial. Did TVB think that we (the viewers) are dumb and can't differentiate?

- the period when YG stayed in the Acient Tomb and learned martial arts from XLN.

- when YG & XLN got married. It was so touching.
- when they reunited 16 years later.

- The first 4 episodes, they were an eyesore. Louis as a 14-year-old teenager? Unthinkable!

Finally, ROCH 95 is a joy to watch if you turn a blind eye to the flaws. The main characters and storyline will keep you wanting to watch the next episode. However, don't expect too much from this as it's a low budget product anyway! The greatest thing TVB did was to use Louis Koo & Carman Lee as the leading characters. Therefore, I'll rate ROCH 95 a 4 star due to this factor.



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The Return of the Condor Heroes 95

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