Thursday, October 1, 2020

Jiang Ziya Review: A Visual Treat With An Epic Story

Chinese China animation animated anime Ne Zha NeZha JiangZiya Jiang Ziya

Release date: October 1, 2020
Running time: 110 minutes

Banished to the mortal world, a warrior has to slay a demon to return to the heavenly realm and become a god.  Atop the ruins of war, top commander Jiang Ziya is given the task to banish the Nine-tailed Fox Demon who threatens all mortals' very existence. When he discovers the Nine-tailed Fox's life linked to the soul of an innocent girl, he is faced with a challenging decision--follow the will of heaven or find his own path to righteousness.

From the same studio that brought us the animated film Ne Zha, the sophomore effort from this studio, Jiang Ziya, is a new story that feels decidedly more epic than the first film.  As I said in Ne Zha, although I liked the film, I felt like the animation could be more visually impressive throughout.  Well, Jiang Ziya shows that this studio can definitely make some visually stunning films.  The movie starts you off immediately with a hand drawn / CG style that tells the backstory of this world.  Then when the animation gets going, it is all computer generated but with a soft style that is really beautiful to see.  The animation still reminds me of Ne Zha, but it feels much more detailed, serious, and decidedly more epic.  Scenes are bigger, effects are brighter and have more color, and everything just feels more polished and grandiose this time around.  This film is a visual showcase that highlights the story and the very imaginative world that this takes place in.  It at times feels like a very well made video game, action and effects that you would expect in any big budget project.  

And that doesn't just go for the animation.  Everything about Jiang Ziya feels bigger.  From the story, to the consequences, to the overall journey; Jiang Ziya feels like a much larger film altogether.  Think of it as a comparison between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  The Hobbit was a good adventure and enjoyable in its own right, but Lord of the Rings is so much more.  Jiang Ziya feels more adventurous, more mature, and more of a fantasy epic.  But just like Lord of the Rings, Jiang Ziya is a long story and one that can feel a little drawn out at times.  However, when you start to feel like something has gone on too long, the film hits you with another visually stunning sequence that gets you right back in.  On top of the animation, Jiang Ziya has an exciting, epic soundtrack that helps to impart the scale of this film on the viewer.  It really accentuates the big set pieces that happen and adds to the grandiose nature of the film.  And like Lord of the Rings, you meet a cast of characters that take this journey together.  Each of the companions in Jiang Ziya feels unique and very different from the others.  There are no cookie cutter characters here.  And pulling all of this together is a consequential conclusion that has the level of gravity you would expect given the journey you just went on.  And on top of that, there are a couple of wonderful post credit scenes that are worth the wait!

Jiang Ziya is a decidedly more epic film than Ne Zha, with more detailed and stunning animation, a grandiose soundtrack, and a larger and more consequential adventure. 

Watch it.

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Jiang Ziya is in theaters on October 1, 2020.  

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