Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

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The first Chinese drama I ever saw was “Novoland: Castle in the Sky” and it’s what jump-started my love of C-dramas, so when I saw the trailer for the Novoland-inspired The Legend of the Naga Pearl, it caught my attention. It also stars Crystal Zhang who was in my favorite comedy, “Go, Princess, Go”, and I’ve been wanting to see her again in something else. This is a visually stunning, fantasy and adventure movie about a thief, a detective and a prince who try to save their city, Uranopolis, from the apocalypse.

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If you aren’t familiar with the Novoland book series, it’s been called the Chinese Lord of the Rings, though in this case there are about 30 books and 7 authors and it has inspired some TV series (including “Tribes and Empires” due out soon starring “Princess Agents” fave, Shawn Dou) as well as this movie. Novoland is a place populated by various beings, but in this movie, the focus is on the Humans and the Wingkind, a race of people who used to be able to fly, but, after a war with the humans, lost the Stardust Flower that made their wings possible.

Darren Wang (Our Times, Railroad Tigers) plays a thief and con man, Ni Kongkong, whose only friend is a strange, armadillo-like creature named Oka (the usual CGI pet that I think must be a SARFT requirement for all costume dramas). He has a mysterious, glowing gap in his hand that he covers up as it has been the source of much bullying when he was a child and soon it becomes clear that his goofiness and smart ass remarks cover up a world of pain and loneliness.

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When he is busted by a client for selling her fake goods, he offers to make it up to her by doing a job for free, so she sends him to steal something from the King’s brother. Instead Kongkong ends up witnessing a break-in by some Wingkind baddies who are looking for an artifact for their boss, Vlad, who wants to kill all the humans and give the Wingkind back the power of flight. They end up killing everyone except for Kongkong who is able to sneak away undetected.

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Overhearing their plans to find another valuable treasure in the mountains, he arrives there first and discovers a mysterious box that is somehow connected to his glowing hand. He also meets Raven (Crystal Zhang Tian Ai), a member of the King’s Tiger Bureau who investigate crimes. She has been kicked off the case because she is a Wingkind and her brother, Feng Xiao (played by Liu Jun Xiao who was the scheming Xue Lin in “The Castle in the Sky”) is in league with the bad guy. After fighting with her brother, she and Ni Kongkong end up being arrested by the Tiger Bureau.

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They are set free by a disguised Prince Herley (Sheng Guan Sen, “China Style Relation”) who wants to prove himself to his father by taking down Vlad himself. The three end up forming a wary trio to try to find a way to destroy the Naga Pearl contained in the box before it can be used to destroy Uranopolis.

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You can tell which Wingkind are the bad guys as they all have scarred or ghoul-like faces. Simon Yam plays Vlad who wants to avenge the Wingkind by exterminating the humans. Though he is the main bad guy, he actually gets less time on screen than Raven’s brother.

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I wish that this could have been a little more of a family drama with Liu Jun Xiao being the main baddie as it would have brought even more tension to the film’s climax as Raven attempts to save the world. I really enjoyed their story the most, especially watching the brother’s jealousy for his sister when she gets wings (and whom he thinks their father loved more) while she tries to convince him to switch sides because she still cares for him.

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Rounding out the cast is Zhao Jian, another “Castle in the Sky” alum (the Regent), who has a more comedic part as a disgraced former palace guard who runs a gambling establishment in an unsavory part of Novoland, Hu Bing (“Ice Fantasy”, “Princess Agents”) in a smaller role as the King, and Du Yiheng (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) as the head of the Tiger Bureau who doesn’t know if he can trust Raven or not.

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I loved Crystal Zhang as the Wingkind detective who wants to serve the King faithfully, but due to her race and her brother, she is treated like a bad guy instead. She does a great job conveying the pain from the loss of her father, who also advocated for peace between both sides, as well as her disappointment in her brother. She’s plays the straight man to Darren Wang’s flirtatious and clowning thief as she continues to save him from bad guys.

I enjoyed their combative relationship, but think it would have been better if they’d just left it that way with maybe just little hints that she might slowly be warming to him, rather than having her suddenly have feelings for him later as I didn’t quite buy them as a couple so quickly.

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I thought the visual effects in this film were stunning and it made me enjoy watching the trio’s adventure even more with all the lush scenery. Based on the end credit scene, it looks like the producers are hoping to do a sequel, but I’m sure that will hinge on how well this movie does. Even though I didn’t think the leads had romantic chemistry, I did like them as partners trying to work together for the common good.

  1. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

    Hi guys – I wasn’t sure where to put this but – What is the drama featured in your header today – 8/27 – it looks quite interesting!

    • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

      The headers change every time I refresh the page so I’m not sure which one you are looking at. Right now I’m seeing Sandra Ma on the main page and The King’s Woman on this one. Not sure which one you saw.

    • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

      I will upload the banners in use in a few days. 🙂 They rotate on refresh as Enid pointed out. Lol.

  2. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

    Chinese viewers call this movie trash – harsh as ever. The douban rating is really low. And the movie is doing really bad box office…so I doubt there is going to be a sequel. Good to hear someone feels different about it.

    • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

      I did notice in the theatre that I was at there was barely anyone there so I’m guessing since it premieres here a week after the Chinese release that the bad reviews had already spread. When I first saw the trailer for it, I’d noticed there seem to be quite a few people commenting that the didn’t want to see it because Darren Wang was in it. I’ve never seen any of his previous movies so I’m not sure why, but then again I didn’t leave the theatre thinking I needed to see more of his work. Of course it could also be that after Wolf Warrior 2 blew everybody’s minds that people are being a little pickier. But Crystal Zhang and Liu Jun Xiao I thought did great and would love to see the two of them go toe to toe again.

      • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

        I’m also not sure why people don’t really like Darren. He was charming in “Our times” despite not being in the typically handsome category but I’ve not seen any of his following works to comment on his performance. The common criticism I see is that his acting is OTT and similar to Our times (no progress/change?).

      • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

        That could explain why originally AMC was to have 2 theaters in the LA area to show the movie, but by last week when the movie was to show, they had changed it down to one, so I ended up not going (too far) and knowing the movie will be available online within a month or so of it’s release.

        I wished the people behind the trailer hadn’t shown those particular scenes w/ Darren Wang’s lines…turned me off. I knew I would only be watching because it’s regarding Novoland, and from the same director as Novoland: Castle in the Sky (thus why we saw both Liu Jun Xiao and Zhao Jian). The week of the movie’s release in China, there was a video uploaded to weibo that showed the connection/timeline b/w Novoland: Castle in they Sky and Legend of the Naga Pearl.

        • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Legend of the Naga Pearls (Cmovie, 2017)

          Yeah, I saw Zhao Jian had posted it on Weibo and really liked it, but you really didn’t have to have watched Castle in the Sky to understand the story line since they didn’t really reference it except for the part about Sky City falling to earth and becoming Uranopolis. But I didn’t realize it was the same director as visually they are so different.

What do you think?