The Legend of Guan Gong is a Chinese mini-series based on the historical figure Guan Gong. Guan is well-known individual in Chinese history; he is often referred to as the God of War. His leadership, along with brothers Lui Bei and Zhang Fei helped to reshape Chinese politics after the fall of the Han Dynasty. Guan and his fellows are considered to be very important because they helped fight for the rights of the common man. This mini-series is based upon the legends and accounts of Guan Gong and his fellows rise to power. It trails Guan from the end of the Han Dynasty to the early days of the Three Kingdoms.
The story begins when Guan Gong was merely Guan Yu (when he became famous he was referred to as Guan Gong). Guan was a simple twenty-something who stood up for the weak. He had a run-in with the local bully Lu Xiong: after witnessing him needlessly beat a helpless man, Guan responded in force and killed the bully. As a result, Guan became an enemy of the state, so to speak. He became a criminal and he fled his village in hopes of a better life. While he was away, his mother was captured and tortured in his stead.
When Guan was in hiding, he found a slavery train and did what he could to free the prisoners. He was able to save Qing-luo, who later became his wife. After saving her, he escorted her home. He found sanctuary there, and slowly chemistry developed. Later, Guan received news his mother was dying and returned to help her. He was too late and her last wish was to see him married to Qing-luo. Days into their marriage, the local village was attacked. Guan tried to save the helpless villagers, but at the cost of his wife. She was taken and they would be separated for many years to come... complicating the situation is the fact that she was pregnant with his child. This development is a minor plotline throughout the story, as they are separated for a very long long time. Their reunion is a credit to unconvincing and dull acting performances.
After losing his blushing bride, Guan went out into the world to look for her. Along the way, he met several people who would change the world. The first important person is Lu Bu. Guan joined him as he believed they had similar hopes and dreams for the direction of China. He later found that Lu Bu was self-centered; so, they parted ways. The next meeting is the most important; he meets Liu Bei and Zhang Fei. The three immediately find they share the same vision for China and hope to free it from corruption and lead the country into a time of peace and salvation. In the garden of peach blossoms (well-known event in this piece of history), Guan Yu, Liu Bei, and Zhang Fei take an oath and declare each other as brothers.
As the story continues, Guan and Zhang Fei follow the lead of Liu Bei. They join other military leaders and government officials to do what they believe are in the best interests of China. However, they find more often than not that most politicians are corrupt and self-serving. Eventually, the brothers become popular and referred to as "heroes" for their intentions and efforts. They forge alliances with individuals, sometimes temporary, to stand up for what they believed in. Lu Bu becomes one of their biggest threats, as he grows in strength as a military force. He killed his adopted father Dong Zhou and absorbed his armies and holdings. There is also Cao Cao, a powerful warlord from the Han Dynasty, who became an influential leader in the development of the Three Kingdoms and the growth of Guan.
What it comes down to is an epic story about a romanticized version of China's history and its key figures during a time when China was plagued with corruption. However, this tale (as presented) fails to be engaging or even entertaining. The problem comes in multiple flavors. First, the pacing is very slow. The majority of events unfold at a pace that is so dull it is almost intolerable to watch. Second, as a direct result the characters are uninteresting. This aspect is coupled with mediocre acting performances. Third, some of the events focused on do not bring out the most dramatic or action-packed sequences. The storyline tries to keep with the big events from the story behind Guan Gong, but the events in-between tend to be sparse with detail. Finally, the special effects are cheesy and look horribly unconvincing.
Overall, The Legend of Guan Gong is not an engaging, exciting, or even eventful mini-series. The story itself has a lot of promise (see Korean dramas Jumong and Dae Jang Geum), but its delivery and execution are failure points. In short, this production is probably not worth your time.
The video is given in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen letterbox format. The picture quality is generally good, but there is noticeable dirt and distortions in the transfer. Those with big screens will really be able to notice it.
The audio is given in Chinese 2.0 Dolby digital mono. The audio quality is acceptable and on par with production. It is dialogue driven and individuals are easy to hear throughout. There are subtitles in English.
For special features, The Legend of Guan Gong has a couple featurettes and a slew of trailers. Here is the breakdown:
- Behind the Scenes (7:20): is a featurette with behind-the-scenes footage. The featurette is in its original language and there are no subtitles. I have no clue what was said. Regardless, it didn't look like anyone was speaking to the camera, i.e., it is literally seven minutes of people standing around on set, the director giving instructions, redoing takes, etc.
- Video Montage (5:03): is series of clips from the show, compiled together with a soundtrack.
- Shaw Brothers Trailers: trailers for Black Magic, The Magic Blade, The Super Inframan, The Water Margin, Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, Have Sword, Will Travel, Heaven and Hell, The Cave of Siken Web, Legendary Weapons of China, The Deadly Breaking Sword, Vengeance Is a Golden Blade, The Shadow Whip, The Bells of Death, Shaolin Intruders
- Other Titles You Might Like: trailers for Fearless Fighters, Bloody Brothers, Angel of Vengeance, Exorcist Master, The Executioner, Blood Stained Tradewinds, Chase From Beyond, China Heat, Shaolin Family Soccer, Lying Hero, Madam City Hunter, Retreat of the Godfather, Revenge of the Scarface
The Legend of Guan Gong is a romanticized mini-series about one of China's key historical figures Guan Gong. The series is begins at the end of the Han Dynasty and follows Guan and his brothers Liu Bei and Zhang Fei as they make sacrifices to restore peace and battle corruption. The material has potential, but the delivery of The Legend of Guan Gong fails in its presentation and execution. It comes off as a slow moving, lackluster production. Skip it.