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Battle Against Evil
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The Battle Against Evil
[viet title: Chuyen The Kinh Těnh]
* reviewed by Em

Cast:
San Sap Long - Auguste Kwan Tak Fai
Tung Sin Yee/ Yuen Siu Siu - Mimi Law Man Chong
Ging Lit - Michael Tong Man Lung
Lai Suet Gei - Jade Leung Tsang
Sim Mo Che - Moses Chan Ho
Yuen Siu Siu (monkey) - Lee Sze Pui
Shek Shing Gam - Tai Yiu Ming
Sui Fu Yung - So Yuk Wah
San Tso Chak - Lo Chun Shun
Shek Tai Leung - Lo Lan
Wan Tai Lei (rock) - Chun Wong
Siu To Hung (plum blossom) - Chan On Ying
Chuk Cheen Sui (turtle) - Siu Leung
Buddha - Lo Kwan Jor
Toad demon - Chan Wing Chun
Lizard demon - Yeung Ka Lok
Lang Yu Yin - Chan Kei
But Si Yan - Lau Ka Fai
But Ying Loi (But Yee) - Sing Ka Ying
Grandfather Monkey - Tsoi Kwok Hing
Yuen Ching Ching - Ma Siu Ling
Grandmother San Man - Bak Yan
Grandmother San Wang - Leung Bo Ching

 

Introduction

It has been a while since TVB released a true ancient fantasy show featuring magical powers, reincarnation and all the beings of the mortal, immortal and supernatural and just as I was giving up hope of there being a match for the classic series in the "Zu Mountain" genre, I was overjoyed to find this gem amongst the pebbles. "The Battle against Evil" combines a traditional story of love and vengeance with some highly improved special effects and the efforts of some fresh-faced artists and some beautiful twists in the tale to create an enjoyable and memorable production.

 

Story Overview

During the time of the warring states, Chu General Ging Lit is a bold and brave warrior and to repay his services to his country, Master Lai offers him his daughter Suet Gei's hand in marriage. Lit gratefully accepts and falls deeply in love with Gei, but unbeknown to him she is having an illicit affair with Lit's martial brother Sim Mo Che and when their attempt to elope is foiled, Gei is forced to return to her duties as a wife and Che is left alone. However, their secret meetings continue when Lit is away at war until one day, he returns early to find his wife in the arms of Che. A battle ensues between the brothers, and Che plants demons into the body of Lit in an evil spell, causing him to disintegrate into an angry spirit, which is carried away by the winds. Gei feels guilty at what she has done and commits suicide and despite Che's attempts to revive her using various spells and charms, he fails and her ghost is kept sealed in a porcelain figure. In turn Che is punished for using such despicable spells by Buddha and finds himself killed by lightning and banished to the lowest reincarnation cycle.

A thousand years passes and Lit's spirit has travelled the length and breadth of the earth, picking up the power of innocent angry spirits and gaining strength to build a body. He has been prevented from doing this by three immortals: the Stone Fairy, the Plum Blossom and the Turtle. They have been watching over and capping his energy by encasing his centre in a crystal globe. It is released however by a playful monkey demon who is playing and accidentally breaks it. Lit's soul gathers and he emerges in human form on the earth. At this time, as they are fretting, Buddha appears and sends the three immortals down to earth to help the chosen one who is destined to battle with Lit and redeem the mortals. The monkey is sent away to await its fate.

Meanwhile on the earth, the dark clouds and plagues created by Lit's vengeful soul are suddenly dispersed with the birth of San Sap Long and he is seen as an auspicious omen. However, Sap Long doesn't speak until he is seven years old when he meets a young monkey demon called Siu Siu and when out playing with her, he falls into the lotus pool inside her cave and his senses are opened by the magical waters. He falls in love with Siu Siu and she visits him in his dreams every night much to the displeasure of her grandfather who knows that something bad will come of this.

Time goes by and when Sap Long is twenty years old, he is forced to marry his fiance Tung Sin Yee by his family. She is spiteful and dislikes Siu Siu for ridiculing her as a child and knowing about Sap Long's love for Siu Siu, she uses petty magic to force him to love her instead. This backfires and the magic causes her own death, but the immortals intervene and allow Siu Siu to become human by planting her soul into Sin Yee's body. Sap Long is overjoyed to find that his beloved Siu Siu is now a human and his own wife and Siu Siu is totally devoted to her husband, even prepared to give her own life for him.

By a twist of fate, Sap Long inadvertently releases Gei's ghost from the porcelain figure and when she realises that a thousand years has passed, she vows to find the reincarnated form of Che and rekindle her feelings for him. With the help of Sap Long's mother who is a flower fairy, she also takes human form and magical powers and sets off on her search for her lover. On her travels, she meets Lit who has established himself as a preacher, offering magic to his followers in exchange for their anger and bitterness to build his strength. He laughingly sends her on her way, saying that he will catch up with her when she finds Che so he can deal with them both together.

Lit's evil is shown in full when he slaughters Sap Long's family in cold blood when he finds out that his love for Sap Long's mother Sui Fu Yung was unrequited and she left him for a mortal. In a final bid for Lit to spare the life of Sap Long, she reveals to Lit that Sap Long is his son just before her own death. A brief father-son relationship is created as a result, but this is soon crushed by Sap Long's feelings of vengeance towards Lit and also the revelation to Lit that Sap Long is not his son, but is actually the reincarnation of his archenemy Sim Mo Che. Faced with the knowledge that Sap Long's destiny is to destroy him, Lit prepares to create chaos on the day of reckoning and for a battle which will not only decide the fate of them both, but also the future of the earth and all mankind.

 

My Thoughts

I must admit that despite high expectations of this series, I was very disappointed with the tedium of the first few episodes. Repeating the same scenes over and over again and exaggerating the extent of the love between Suet Gei and Mo Che and also the human-monkey love between the child Sap Long and Siu Siu. Whilst I appreciate the importance of these love affairs to the whole plot of the story, I did feel that this was dwelled on to the point of exhaustion and it almost led me to stop watching. However I persevered and to my delight found that the show became a lot more enjoyable as it progressed.

My other major gripe about the beginning of the series was the casting mistake and horrific make-up and costume used for the character of Siu Siu. She was supposed to be a truly lovable, yet playful monkey demon but was portrayed to be an ugly and annoying furball who made you wish she were made into soup in the beginning. This disastrous image really spoiled what could have been a beautiful love story between two innocent hearts and I must say that I breathed a sigh of relief when she was placed into Sin Yee's body,  not because Sap Long's dreams came true, but because I no longer had to endure the torture of watching the monkey character any more.

Things certainly got better as the story moved on at last and the main plot of Lit and Sap Long finally came into fruition. The introduction of sub-plots, like the story of Yu Yin and the Tao Priest was refreshing and these were cleverly tied into the main story when it came together in the finale. The twists and turns of the storyline were truly captivating and I really found myself drawn to the point where I was on the edge of my seat. Adding the superb character development and some of TVB's better attempts at special effects redeemed the series and totally turned around my opinion on this production.

The cast in this show is definitely not a drawing point, yet they have managed to pull off quite a remarkable performance. The main lead Auguste Kwan is little known to the TVB clan, although he is more popular among the Mandarin speaking population. Hailing from Malaysia, his Cantonese accent is more than a little distracting, but his acting does make up for that. Ranging from the wooden (now I realise that it was intentional) personality of Sap Long to the mad, obsessed character of Mo Che and the extreme emotional turmoil of seeing his parents being murdered to the subtle melancholy as he remembers of his lost love, Auguste proved his years in the industry and gave me a great first impression of his talents.

Bad guy Michael Tong takes a change from his usual boy-next-door image and although I am still not convinced of his wickedness by his rather feeble evil laugh, the character of a terrible demon with an honourable past does show through. His daft demon costume also didn't help with his menacing look either without the special effects and a pinch of imagination, it would have been very difficult to really think of him as the one to destroy the earth. Michael's partner in crime (never one without the other) Moses Chan's role was not as major, but was important and once again well acted by the towering actor who has once again disproved my original opinion of him being rigid and having only one expression. His performance as a desperate, lovesick and thoroughly evil lunatic was impressive and powerful, the degree of his determination never once questionable.

Mimi Law contributed a fitting performance as Auguste's long-suffering wife and playmate, showing a great mix of playfulness, strength of mind and emotion. In her first lead role, she has carried this well and shows some good chemistry with her co-star, changing well from the hurtful Sin Yee to the endearing Siu Siu. On the other hand, Jade Leung's portrayal of the poor lonely ghost was very disappointing. Throughout the show it was difficult to grasp her character's ethics and to work out whether she had a good heart or not. I am unsure as to whether this was deliberately written in this way to depict the fickleness of Suet Gei, but I found my opinion of her alternating around twenty times per episode from like to dislike back to like and this was rather off-putting.

The fantastic team of supporting actors such as So Yuk Wah, elegant and beautiful as ever as Sui Fu Yung, the team of three immortals: Chun Wong, Chan On Ying and Siu Leung, comical and always there when you need them and the natural talents of the young Sing Ka Ying , great potential, all provided the padding of the story and moulded the winding plot into a great work.

Among my favourite scenes was the part where Sap Long chooses between Siu Siu and Suet Gei and because of a premonition he had seeing the death of Siu Siu because of him, he decides to leave her for Suet Gei. As he hugs the happy Suet Gei, he glances over to the tearful Siu Siu and his eyes show the emotion from his heart that he is acting against his will and the pain he is feeling. A short but significant excerpt, but the expression on Auguste's face is lingering. Another is when Sap Long forces Lit to do a charitable deed by threatening him with his own life , the feeling of disgust from Michael as he sets about healing all the people he has poisoned is rather amusing and perhaps reveals a little of Lit's vulnerability.

In summary, this show is a little slow on the start but takes off to provide ancient fantasy fans with a well thought out story, a set of likeable mortals, immortals, fairies, demons and animals, as much love and hate you could ask for and absolutely no love-struck emperors as is the recent trend. Looking beyond the tacky costumes and hasty make up, for a fairly low-budget production and a rather low-key cast, some magic has been woven here to create this admirable series.

 

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Rate this series: Battle Against Evil
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