Fellow disciples in the Cinematic World, if you are looking for martial arts fantasy to ignite your cranium, director Huang Wen-Chang’s Demigod: The Legend Begins is a good start. While the English title is bland, Demigod is an exuberant and wonder-filled wuxia movie performed with traditional Taiwanese budaixi / glove puppets, though these puppets’ styling is very contemporary manhua. Demigod’s hero, Su Huan Jen, aka, the Fragrant White Lotus, is a long-standing hero in Taiwan’s puppet television show, Pili, and Demigod is the first of what appear to be many planned feature film appearances for the Fragrant White Lotus.
One of the things I love about Taiwanese wuxia is its flamboyance compared to Mainland and even Hong Kong wuxia. Demigod’s sets and costumes are beyond technicolor. There are wonderful, elaborate explanations. There is a puzzle using statues and the Sexegenary Cycle to access a secret room in the library. There are chi blasts and chi-based explosions and light step kung fu. There is the Cranial Ignition Technique, wherein heads are ignited and burn till they are blackened skulls. There are sword fights and characters spit blood and black poison. And Huang even pulls off a kung fu stool fight with puppets! The film’s execution is astounding. Huang mixes traditional puppetry with miniatures, digital effects and even two suit actors performing monsters. Demigod: The Legend Begins is an excellently crafted wonder.
(Make sure to stay through the credits).
Read more of Carol’s thoughts about Demigod: The Legend Begins here.