Friday, February 17, 2012

Quick Rant: SWAK Miniseries Sequel Episode 1-3

I've been refraining to judge the miniseries until more episodes get released. But after Episode 3, I couldn't resist the urge to voice some of my thoughts. Many who have been reading my comments are probably aware of how I feel about the overall plot of the miniseries, which is a total hodgepodge of the most overused plot devices in Asian idol dramas. In other words, I'm feeling really apprehensive about the direction of the miniseries. I just really hate that the new writers made the once powerful, manipulative Mo Shaoqian into a terminally ill patient drowning in his own little depressingly hopeless world. How could they even have the heart to torture poor Mo Shaoqian after everything he went through?! ARGH...

Well...At least we have one redeeming quality about this miniseries: the kisses.
Credit: Tianya Forum
So is your heart pumping yet? On the verge of getting a nose bleed yet? Now this kiss definitely beats every single kiss that was shown in the original drama. Tong Xue has become quite responsive to Mo Shaoqian's kisses. Too responsive.

How about this one? Mo Shaoqian can now kiss the Tong Xue to his heart's content. Actually, I'm sure he has already kissed her to his heart's content during their 3 year relationship.HAHA.

Someone on the Chinese forum is having too much fun making the kissing GIFs! LOL. I found quite a few of them. Here's one where Tong Xue is the initiator.

Like many of you, I'm still not used to Tong Xue being so "proactive" in pursuing Mo Shaoqian. LOL. I sorta missed Mo Shaoqian being the aggressor. 
Love this kiss!

Alright, I'll stop teasing you all with these kissing GIFs and go back on topic. HAHAHA!

When I saw first Mo Shaoqian show up onscreen in Episode 1 completely dressed in black garb/beanie with his black sunglasses and looking like a tough mafia boss, I literally burst into laughter for the next 5 minutes. I only managed to contain myself and patiently sit to watch when the first episode was almost over. I just couldn't swallow this sudden change and associate this gangland mafia boss with the ever sleek, urbane, and suave looking Mo Shaoqian is well known for.

Mo Shaoqian's thick black framed spectacles definitely doesn't help the new look. It's such a BIG NO-NO to the overall feel of the character. A pair of expressive eyes is one of the greatest assets of a good actor. For such a controlled and complicated character like Mo Shaoqian, Hawick Lau cannot overact and must rely heavily on his eyes to effectively convey his character's emotions. Unfortunately, the thick black spectacles completely undermine the expressiveness of his eyes and we see a rather stoic, and sometimes even wooden Mo Shaoqian.  In the original drama, the reason why we could tell Mo Shaoqian was deeply in love with Tong Xue was through Hawick's expressive eye acting. In the mini, his thick black spectacles pretty much cover up EVERYTHING!! You can barely even see his eyes! Therefore, much of the subtle emotions are hidden by those cumbersome spectacles.

Thinly framed spectacles that allow us complete view of his eyes versus the thick black framed spectacles that overshadowed everything.

I still think Hawick Lau did a good job at portraying Mo Shaoqian in the mini based on what was given to him. The biggest flaws in this miniseries lie in the SCRIPT and MO SHAOOQIAN'S NEW LOOK, not the acting. I know some of you are dissatisfied with Mo Shaoqian's lack of passion for Tong Xue compared to the original TV series. Don't forget. Mo Shaoqian at this point in the story is terminally ill. He's been trying to avoid Tong Xue and remove himself from her life. Wouldn't it be contradictory if he acts too loving?

In terms of the writing, the 2 new writers for the mini are absolute rookies. They have never written a script for any real production before this mini, so you can already sense how banal the story is already and incomparable to the caliber of the original. This fact makes me want to worship the original scriptwriter, Guo Baoxian, even more. We all must thank her for creating the Mo Shaoqian that we love so much. Without a good script, no good actor can shine, not even the great ones. Ru Yi is the perfect example. The drama is blessed with many veteran and brilliant actors/actresses, but unfortunately, the mundane script absolutely butchered all the potential excitement. The same goes for the Mo Shaoqian character. In the original novel, Mo Shaoqian was rather skeletally written. Guo Baoxian manages to successfully build upon the backbone of this vague character and flesh out Mo Shaoqian into a cunningly irresistible tortured man. On the other hand, the two new scriptwriters for the miniseries not only failed to use their creative minds, but decided to just copy and paste the most dreaded plot devices in the history of Asian TV series.

Furthermore, Mo Shaoqian's screen time is ridiculously minimum in the first two episodes. He only pops up for a few short minutes in a few scenes. Tong Xue's new suitor, Song Yi (played by Li Zhinan), has even more sceen time than Mo Shaoqian, perhapsndouble the amount! In the original series, Mo Shaoqian has more than 80% of the screen time, even more than Tong Xue. It's vice versa in the miniseries.

I know Hawick only spent 2.5 days (the whole production took 6.5 days) to shoot all his scenes because he could only take a break from his other filming project for this short amount of time. Hawick had to madly filmed 60 hours straight without much rest, or even sleep, to complete all his scenes. I guess we shouldn't ask too much from the actor, because I completely blamed the producers/production company for the all the flaws/bad planning!

Combining all the above complaints/imperfections mentioned, it's a miracle that I'm even "entertained" by this extremely "flawed" end product. But I must admit no matter what how cliche or hackneyed, this SWAK miniseries is definitely not dull or boring. LOL.

I finally managed to respond to some of the questions I promised to answer:

Why did the SWAK production company rushed through this whole miniseries project? 

The main purpose of this miniseries sequel is to test out the potential market for a second full-blown TV series. The production company, Xing Sheng Di, did not spend all the money and time in making this mini to just satisfy the craving of fans and viewers for more Mo Shaoqian and Tong Xue. Their main goal is to rip as much profit as possible and capitalize on the current popularity of the original drama. If reception to the mini sequel is positive and makes headlines, they will proceed to the next step in pre-production for a full sequel such as hiring a more qualified scriptwriter to write the script (praying they will rehire the original scriptwriter if they ever decide to make a full sequel) and finding investors to finance the project.

Why couldn't Xing Sheng Di wait till Hawick Lau grow back his hair to shoot this mini-sequel? 

Hawick's filming schedule is packed until the middle of 2012. They would have to wait a very long time before Hawick's schedule frees up, and by the time Hawick's hair grows back, Xing Sheng Di would suffer the opportunity costs for not acting faster in planning for the sequel and capitalizing on the current popularity of the series. Since the passion of drama fans tends to fade quickly over time, they fear many will lose interest if they wait too long. Pre-production may also take over a year to prepare before the actual filming occurs. Thus, they first must confirm there is a good market for a full sequel, then decide whether to invest in a full sequel before doing the actually planning for the project.

Why couldn't Guo Baoxian return to write the script for this miniseries instead of hiring new writers?

She is currently busy revising the script for another TV series, Night of Spring. I'm sure the salary of Guo Baoxian is significantly higher than the new two rookie writers for this miniseries sequel. Xing Sheng Di probably wants to minimize the costs and maximize the profits for this investment project.

Why isn't Hawick Lau's voice dubbed in this miniseries? 

When the original drama first aired, many fans, particularly Hawick Lau's fans, complained about the dubbed voice of Mo Shaoqian. They felt Hawick's real voice was more in line with the character. Many fans actually left messages on the producer's microblog begging her to use Hawick's real voice. So the producer complied and we hear Hawick Lau's real voice in the miniseries. Unfortunately, the situation has changed. After 30 episodes of the original drama, most people have gotten used to the voice actor and associated his voice with Mo Shaoqian. Hearing Hawick Lau's voice now with his thick Cantarin (Mandarin with heavy Cantonese accent) bothers quite a few fluent Mandarin viewers.

As for me, I once wrote that I prefer Hawick's real voice over the voice actor because I felt the voice actor failed to convey the right emotions during the intensely emotional scenes (i.e. screams of pain). After hearing the dubbed voice for the entire series, I've grown to like the voice actor, except in parts where he had to scream out loud in pain or frustration. I do think Hawick has a good deep, rich voice, but I'm also quite annoyed by his Cantarin. LOL. Even though I'm sure my accent in Mandarin is worst than his Cantarin, but I'm still not used to his voice for Mo Shaoqian.

Will there be full-blown TV series sequel?

At this point, we don't know yet. Xing Sheng Di is still probably playing with the idea and wants to see more concrete success before embarking on another big investment project. Interestingly, I heard from Li Kenan that the story of this miniseries may not carry over to the full-blown sequel. It's supposedly a complete "separate" story. I don't know what the heck does that mean... I guess he's implying that the premise of the new sequel may depend solely on the production team, and what they deem befitting for a full drama series. Most importantly, the full sequel script needs be "permissible" enough to get approved by the ALMIGHTY State Administration of Radio, Film and Television!

Quick Scene Translation - Mo Shaoqian and Tong Xue at the museum

TX: Look at this! This must a token of love in ancient times. It's beautiful.
MSQ: But I like that one. Look at that one.
TX: Which one? This looks really ugly. It's freaking ugly! [MSQ tries to contain his laughter] You're just trying to counter me for the sake of countering me. [TX grabs MQS' wrist] Where did this come from?
MSQ: What does this have anything to do with you? Someone gave it to me as a gift.
TX: Who gave it to you?
MSQ: Someone you don't know
TX: Then can you give it to me?
MSQ: Why should I?
TX: Come on, give it to me!
MSQ: No
TX: Give it to me.
MSQ: No
TX: Then I'm going to scream
MSQ: Just do whatever you wish
TX: Mo Shaoqian is stealing things! Mo Shaoqian is stealing jade from the Liangchu Museum! Mo Shaoqian is stealing things! [MSQ puts his hand around TX's mouth to shut her up]

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