Friday, March 9, 2012

Da Mo Yao/Ballad of the Desert and Casting Decision of Eddie Peng as Huo Qubing

Eddie Peng in his Huo Qubing's costume. I love this look, especially the way he wielded his bow
After the SWAK miniseries fiasco, I shifted my attention to the upcoming Tang Ren's period drama, Da Mo Yao or Ballad of the Desert. At first, I wasn't too interested in this production when I heard Hu Ge and Liu Shishi would portray the main couple, playing Huo Qubing and Jin Yu respectively. I'm certain a large majority of people totally disagree with me. It seems many are adamant about Hu Ge in taking the role of Huo Qubing, to the point of boycotting the series when they heard Eddie Peng took the role instead.

Contrary to the widespread resentment and anger from Chinese netizens, I was absolutely thrilled by the announcement of Eddie Peng playing Huo Qubing. For me, the image of Hu Ge and Liu Shishi as siblings is too deeply ingrained in my head. I would feel VERY awkward if I have to watch them act as onscreen lovers. Even though I love Hu Ge's witty off-screen personality and his fun interaction with his co-stars, he hasn't impressed me yet with any of his onscreen performances. I remain neutral toward his acting, but definitely do not want him to play one of the most fascinating historical figures in Chinese history. I know the characterization of Huo Qubing in Da Mo Yao is mostly fictitious, but the novel's character still holds the namesake and some traits of the real guy more than 2,000 years ago. In my mind, Huo Qubing has always been the Han Dyansty version of Alexandra the Great in terms of military ingenuity. Not many will be able to portray this youthful, bold, spoiled, and brilliant military commander who supposedly never lost a single battle in his life.

For those of you who don't know anything about Da Mo Yao, it's a historical fiction written by Tong Hua, the author who created the immensely popular Bu Bu Jing Xin. The story takes place during Western Han Dynasty when China was constantly threatened by invasion from a fierce group of nomadic peoples north of the Great Wall, known to Chinese historians as "Xiongnu." The Xiongnu Confederation spanned the Asian steppes including southern Siberia, Mongolia, and bits of Manchuria. Every year, the Han royal court would pay tributes in gold and valuable goods (silk) to appease the Xiongnu and keep them from raiding the Han frontier settlements. Occasionally, the Han court would also send some beautiful "princesses" to marry the Xiongnu leaders, which was seen as a humiliation for the Han ruling house.  
Map of the Xiongnu Empire around 200 B.C. (credit: wiki)
Finally, one ambitious emperor (personal name Liu Che, reign Han Wudi) came along and decided to terminate the marriage alliance system and put an end to the Xiongnu threat through military prowess. This was when Huo Qubing, who was a nephew of the empress, came into the picture. He got famous in history for his successful attacks deep into Xiongnu’s territory, captured some prominent prisoners of war from Xiongnu ruling house, and forced the Xiongnu to moved their base northward.

Enough of my history babbling, I should get back on main topic. My anticipation for Da Mo Yao skyrocketed when I heard Eddie Peng got cast as Huo Qubing. I know some feel Eddie Peng has a baby face and doesn't fit the commanding presence of a great general. I admit, I'm really biased because I like Eddie Peng as an actor. I have confidence in his acting chops to bring me a convincing portrayal of Huo Qinbing. Don't forget his physique is definitely befitting of a military commander!
I can definitely see the "electrifying presence" of Huo Qubing in this shot! (credit: spcnet forum)
How can anyone say no to these eyes? I think Eddie won't have any problem bringing out the passionate side of Huo Qubing (Credit: spcnet forum)

Anyway, I'm really curious how Eddie Peng and Liu Shishi will approach the make-out sessions between Huo Qubing and Jin Yu. They are quite a passionate pair in the story. In the novel, their love scenes definitely felt more "bold" compared to the subtle sexual nuances in Sealed with a Kiss. Don't get the wrong impression! The novel is very chaste, nothing graphic is described! At least, I haven't read anything overly explicit. Actually, I think I need to go back and read the novel thoroughly since I only read bits and pieces of it

Can you picture the onscreen chemistry for these two yet?
 
I'm praying the costumes in Da Mo Yao will do Hu Qubing justice. The outfit that Eddie Peng wore during the press conference was absolutely disappointing/unflattering to me. I expected something similar to the Greco-Roman-like armor in 2005 CCTV series, Emperor of the Han Dynasty. Like this..

I've seen two previous onscreen portrayals of Huo Qubing, but I found none of them satisfying to me. If I have to pick a version I like, I think the best adaptation so far is the 2005 CCTV series. I absolutely love Huo Qubing's military costumes in the series. However, the character Huo Qubing was rather minor since he wasn't the focal point of the story. I also felt the actor overacted a bit and wasn't too fond of his dubbed voice. You can enjoy this fanmade MV of Huo Qubing from this CCTV drama below. 

Ending note, shooting for Da Mo Yao officially commenced yesterday in Zhejiang Province and should take 2-3 months to finish. 

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