The tale of a boy, cursed and corrupted to his core from the very moment of birth. Suppressed, deceived, tempted, and taunted, Ne Zha struggles with his enigmatic identity while imminent doom hangs over his head.
This animated movie is visually stunning. The features of the landscape and characters, the architecture, are all aptly textured. The movement of the characters and objects are so smooth and dynamic. Especially energetic scenes, like chases and fights, are beautifully choreographed. Every gesture and expression leads you along on a string.
The characters themselves are really fun. They're unique, distinguishable in personality and design. I watched it in Chinese with English subtitles on Netflix. Each character's voice stood out, even in a language I don't understand. The voices were just as dynamic and captivating as the animation.
The story flowed beautifully, the plot unfolding like a lotus flower (he-he. reference to movie imagery, check~) The struggle was immediately introduced: A gathering of chaos into a being that could absorb any opposing energy to use as its own. And at the separation of the chaos into two intrinsically dual essences, demon and spirit, the conflict is set. It is poetic on a fundamental level, and gorgeously presented in personified metaphor.
Ne Zha is the main character, of course, and he is one an audience can get behind. He is powerful, yet the underdog. It is an oddly mixed but attractive role. It makes him someone you can route for, and feel a little worried about losing control. He's kind of stubborn and sightless sometimes, but this is hardly every frustrating to watch. His character is a source of tragedy and comedy, eliciting the audience's laughter and empathy. Another aspect of his allure is his ignorance; we know more about his nature and his fate than he does, and we hold our breath, waiting for him to make those discoveries. We wonder how he will react and what will be the magnitude of the consequences.
Ne Zha is my favorite character in the movie, but his father is a runner up. His father serves to ground the tumultuous course of the story. He is level-headed, dedicated to his cause-- which is the well being of the people over whom he presides and the well being of his wife and son --and he is willing to do whatever it takes to resolve a problem by whatever honorable means necessary, including self sacrifice. He brings sense into unravelling and difficult situations.
Ao Bing, Ne Zha's counterpart and another key character in the movie, was probably one of my least favorite characters. He is gullible, impulsive at all the wrong moments, and he doesn't really commit to any of his own desires or his own sense of right and wrong. He's irritating and a bit disappointing. On top of it, he's incredibly powerful, and this causes a lot of trouble for everyone because he really doesn't know what to do with it. But his the relationship between he and Ne Zha is crucial to the outcome of the story.
Overall, this movie was thoroughly enjoyable. The dialogue was entertaining, the animation engaging, the plot affecting. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only reason I deduct half a star is because the ending left me feeling a little incomplete. It was sufficient, and pretty satisfying. Just a tiny bit confusing and abrupt. But this is a minor complaint. I have watched this movie twice, and I'm sure I'll watch it again.
I hope to see a sequel. A prequel was released in America in October of this year. Jiang Ziya, it's called. I haven't watched it yet, but I'm looking forward to it when I get the chance. If it's anything remotely like Ne Zha, I'm sure it won't disappoint.