CERT: PG | DIRECTOR: JIAOZI | SCREENPLAY: JIAOZI | STARRING: LU YANTING, JOESEPH, HAN MO, CHEN HAO, LU QI, ZHANG JIAMING, YANG WEI | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
After the sentient Chaos Pearl is subdued and split into two opposite elements; the Demon Orb and Spirit Pearl (essentially Yin and Yang), a ritualist birth of the son of a nobleman and his wife is thwarted by a jealous disciple of a Taoist immortal and the son is infused with the energy of the Orb instead of the Pearl in Ne Zha, a Chinese 3D-animated film that is taking the world by storm.
With foreign cinema reaching a wider audience in recent years, there has never been a better time for countries who are yet to feature at the forefront of Western viewers to give it there all and break the mould. Step forward Chinese animation studio Chengdu Coco Cartoon and Director Jiaozi whose debut film has broken countless box office records not only in China, but across the rest of the world too including America.
The story of Ne Zha (or its full translated title: The Birth of the Demon Child Nezha) is derived from the Chinese folklore tale Investiture of the Gods and tells the history of the popular titular mythological character and his struggle with being accepted because of the power he was cruelly transfused with by a jealous disciple of God. It’s essentially a well-written tale of Heaven and Hell, Good vs Evil, Yin and Yang whilst also having a whimsical and lighthearted message of wanted to be accepted for who you truly are.
The computer animation used to create the film even rivals the likes of Dreamworks or even Disney – for those not in the know, one would think that it was one of those animation giants that made the film. Each character, from our protagonists right down to the town folk, all have a unique individual look to them and they all fell as though they have a part to play. The animators must be commended for the appearance of Ne Zha especially, as they managed to find a balance of the young boy looking cute yet menacing when his more demonic and evil side comes out to play and torment the townsfolk after he escapes the confines of his home.
Not only does the film possess a great message and beautiful animation but it is also incredibly funny throughout. For example, towards the beginning of the film there is a Terminator reference as a band plays the iconic melody as Ne Zha is bathed in fire in the classic pose shortly after being born – a surreal yet belly-laugh inducing moment. Ne Zha’s relationship with his mentor Taiyi Zhenren is played to pitch perfect comedic effect with the latter’s weight playing into a plethora of body comedy moments.
Amongst the second act of the narrative, Ne Zha befriends a Dragonkin named Ao Bing who, like Ne Zha, feels like an outcast because of the power he inherited. Their bonding moment is accompanied by a wonderful score that pulls on the heartstrings and said musical tones are present throughout the 110-minute runtime.
At its core, Ne Zha tells a fantastical story of Gods, power and finding your place in the world no matter who you are. It possesses buckets of charm, chemistry and comedy that places it amongst the elite animated films from across the globe. It certainly won’t be for everyone due to its location-centric source material and the fact that the film does tend to predict that the audience will have at least some history with the story, but it still manages to entertain with its humour and gorgeous visuals.