Friday, 29 January 2010

Spirit Warriors: first impression

Spirit Warriors, Jessica Henwick, Benedict Wong, Burt Kwouk, BBC

A lot of us may have heard about and has been anticipated to see Spirit Warriors, possibly the first British children TV show that featured Chinese as the main characters. But actually the casts are quite diverse. The series was created by Jo Ho, a very promising British Chinese screenwriter/director to look out for. I've already known about Jo by chance through the internet before I even heard about the series, so it's great to see the progression of this project coming into fruition. She's definitely an ambitious and an aspiring person. Spirit Warriors falls into the fantasy action genre, tells a story of five ordinary school kids whilst on a trip to the museum who unexpectedly transported to a mysterious world (the Spirit World) that pretty much resembles ancient China. The kids are about to explore the unfamiliar world whilst fighting against evils, and as well as finding a way to go back home.

Already in the first episode I can see some influences from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (fighting in the bamboo forest), Narnia (journey to a magical world) and some Dragon Ball (blasting fireballs from the palm). The story moves along quite quickly with all the main characters being introduced and the action already kicking in within the first 15 minutes. Bo the lead character played by young actress Jessica Henwick is very convincing in the martial arts role. There's also another young British Chinese actress Alicia Lai as Bo's cute younger sister. Though I remembered early on in the production Bo suppose to have a younger brother instead of a sister, so that must have changed from the original script. Another great bit is the appearance from veteran actor Burt Kwouk lending his voice to the CGI Dragon Shen.

Parts of it is a little bit cheesy but I guess you can get away with it for a kid's show. Another criticism that some viewers have pointed out is the kung fu stereotype, a cliche that always played out by east Asian characters on Western TV and films that the we are already too familiar with. Also the character Li (the bad guy) played by Benedict Wong shares the aesthetic of the classic oriental villain. However his little squabble with Hwang (his henchman) reveals there's a lot more to the character than just a Fu Manchu archetype, I hope so anyway. Good character development will give them a bit more depth than just two dimensional bad guys. Well at least for sure the casts didn't consist of Caucasians playing Asian characters, unlike this up and coming Hollywood film.

The show is on every Friday on CBBC or if you missed it you can watch it on the official website.

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