CDrama Review: Once Upon a Time (the Movie)

4 Sep

Image result for once upon a time chinese movie

Once Upon a Time | Ten Miles of Peach Tree Blossoms | Three Lives, Three Worlds | 三生三世,十里桃花

Show Length


My Ratings

Theme Depth: ★★
Uniqueness of Plot: ★★★1/2
Acting: ★★★
Technical Elements:


Action & Adventure
Drama / Angst


Yang Yang as Ye Hua
Liu Yifei as Bai Qian
Luo Jin as Zhe Yan
Peng Zisu as A Li


Plot (Based on a Chinese Drama (TV Show) That was Based on a Novel)

Unlike the drama, the movie starts about half way through the story with Bai Qian already in her beloved Peach Tree Forest after the fall. She is missing a large gap in her memory, and only knows what Zhe Yan (a close friend) tells her — the time was difficult, so hard she has forgotten it in an effort to protect her heart.  Happy to be rid of whatever bad memories might have haunted her, Bai Qian spends her days wandering the gardens and drinking Zhe Yan’s wine on the sly.

Her future suddenly takes a dramatic turn as she stumbles upon the handsome yet odd Crown Prince Ye Hua and his happy-go-lucky son A Li.  At first glance, both father and son mistake Bai Qian for the long dead mortal woman who was married to the Prince and was mother to A Li.  And although she quickly denies such a connection, she does feel they are somehow. . . . familiar.  

Follow Bai Qian as she struggles to remember what should remain forgotten and yet also must be recalled.  Can she fall for this strange prince and can she trust him if she does? What happened to his mortal wife? Why does the royal consort hate her so very much, and why does everyone keep calling her by a strange name?  These answers and more must be uncovered as she embarks on a love story who’s tragic or joyous ending is still left to be determined. 


My Thoughts

**I agree with many people, this movie should not be compared to the drama entirely. It is intended for a different audience for one thing — people less interested in deep, involved, dramatic, angsty shows and more into a good watch on a Saturday afternoon. I mean, I like the convoluted stories and interwoved storylines of a good 50-episode drama, but many of my friends and family wouldn’t want to get that involved in something like this. So don’t approach is as A) a copy of the book, B) a really good story to sink your teeth and time into or C) a copy of the drama. With that said, I’m going to give a review of it as a standalone film.

MUSIC: The music was pretty good.  I cannot say I actually notice the music in the background much, so it at least wasn’t annoying.  🙂  Unlike the drama, no songs particularly stood out to me as “oh my gosh I must download that” but nothing was a problem either.  I’d say it worked for the film — momentous when it needed to be, quiet when it needed to be. 

SPECIAL EFFECTS:  This is the one place where I’d say you can compare it to the drama.  I mean, they seem to have had plenty of money for special effects and China has a great history of making BEAUTIFUL fantasy dramas that are incredibly realistic.  Examples are The Mystic Nine, Eternal Love, Nirvana in Fire, Novoland . . . . . China has mad skills when it comes to CGI and special effects.  So I’m not sure why this drama was so sketchy.  I like to watch fantasy movies and forget that it isn’t reality–I don’t want to be reminded that this is fantasy during the film.  I never got there with this movie.  1. Colors — The colors in the drama are too bright.  For a show that is mostly tragic — all the colors were shiny and “animated” looking.  They weren’t realistic and it detracted from the “realism” of the show.  2. The animations were never quite good enough.  In my opinion the nine-tailed fox was obviously animated, and sometimes in Chinese dramas you really can’t tell.  Most of the animals actually were obvious fakes — their bodies didn’t move quite right and it felt like parts of their movements weren’t smooth or flowing right.  Like the tree spirit — it was like they pulled a teletubby from the cartoon network and shoved him in.  Dunno. I just felt like the obvious “animation” of it all detracted from the story too.  3. There were way too many moments where the movie cuts were obvious. We’d jump from scene to scene with no transition, no music, nothing. Just a sudden leap — like stream of consciousness. It was really distracting.  4. I know a lot of people didn’t like the costumes, but I actually thought those were okay.  Ye Hua was really good fashion wise, so was Bai Qian.  Zhe Yan was a bit overdramatic, but considering they were having him come across as a phoenix, it suited his character here.  Once again, it wouldn’t have worked for the drama version of Zhe Yan, but this was a different take on his persona.  

CHARACTERS / ACTING:  The acting in the movie actually wasn’t too bad!  Okay, so I know some of you maybe didn’t like this “interpretation” of the characters.  Ye Hua is a lot less gloomy and tragic all the time, more cheerful and extroverted.  Zhe Yan was totally different — he’s more of a flamboyant character (wine, women, and song kind of guy) and less “I want some peace and quiet” type.  But while you may not like how the scriptwriter’s depicted the characters, I don’t think the actors themselves did too bad a job.  I’d say Ye Hua and A Li did the best job. The only “eh. . . no” part I got was with ghost tribe b*tch.  It just didn’t work for me from costume to characterization to the portrayal.  She came across as Overdone.  Oh and the water king and townspeople scene — definitely over done. 

PLOT:   The plot struggled.  A Lot.  I did try to watch it as someone who wasn’t expecting things from the drama because I knew they changed some stuff. And I do think you could follow the storyline even if you didn’t see the drama.  But as far as a stand-alone film, it wasn’t the best I’ve seen from China.  Too many cut scenes and chopped up movement. 1. The drama just jumped too many times.  You’d be in a scene and then suddenly you were somewhere else. For example, Bai Qian going to the sea palace.  First you’re in the garden and suddenly she’s on the bank waiting to be shuttled to a palace for reasons.  Why? They don’t tell us.  It just jumped there — making the whole meeting with Ye Hua and A Li seem really forced.  2.  Too many plot holes in the drama.  For example, there is no background into her time with Mo Yuan — we just know he’s important for reasons.  Later to be abandoned? I think? Or maybe he is Ye Hua — I didn’t understand that whole issue with him.  It was strange.  3. Bai Qian is entirely too trusting of Su Jin in this drama.  It isn’t really clear why she listens to her at all and it demonstrates a naivety that she doesn’t have in other places in the drama.  It makes the conflicts seem forced.  4.  The Ghost Queen — that part was SO weird.  IT was there, but I’m not sure why other than to drive the plot along. She didn’t really do ANYTHING that was important to the plot (okay she pushed it along), but it felt so contrived. 5. The ending was CONFUSING!  Was Ye Hua Mo Yuan. Which one woke up at the end. What was going on there?  SO many questions left unanswered!!

That said. . . . it was understandable.  I don’t think they cut out TOO much that would have made the movie more clear.  For example, it would have been nice to see her brother and family in the movie, but they could be taken out without ruining the Ye Huan / Bai Qian storyline.  

FINAL THOUGHTS: This movie has a different “feel” from the drama entirely.  There are several angsty moments, but more like what you would expect from a Comedic / Dramatic movie.  Angst at the middle and end, with quite a bit of lightheartedness and romance in the rest.  The focus is more on them falling in love again and less on what drove them apart.  None of the drama and tears brought from the side stories in this movie–all ends well at the end.  You can follow along, although you might need to pause it every so often to review what you’ve seen.   It’s a cute movie. Not going to win any awards, feels like a B list fantasy film from when they were kind of newer to it.  I’d say — Watch it without any expectations. IT ISN’T THE DRAMA and it really doesn’t try to be. Don’t try to make it too serious or too “meaningful.” It isn’t that. It’s cute, mostly cheerful, got some fight / action scenes, got lots of romance and some good kiss scenes — fun.  Just enjoy it and (if you want a better storyline and effects) go rewatch Eternal Love again afterwards to get your crying on. 



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