[Review] The Rise of Phoenixes

If you’ve ever read reviews about the Rise of Phoenixes on rating sites and forums, people will most likely comment it to be “Almost as good as Nirvana in Fire”. Considering how NIF is such a masterpiece, this is actually a compliment. Sadly, in terms of commercial success, the drama was no where nearly as successful and as popular as Nirvana in Fire was. Nevertheless, The Rise of Phoenixes is one of the best underrated Chinese historical dramas out there.

Title: The Rise of Phoenixes (天盛长歌)
# of episodes: 70
Release date: August 14, 2018
Where to watchNetflix (eng sub); 

BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Synopsis

The Rise of Phoenixes is an intense political drama set in the early years of the fictional Tiansheng dynasty. The story follows the 6th prince, Ning Yi, and the princess of the previous dynasty, Feng Zhiwei. Ning Yi is highly intelligent and ambitious. Yet, he puts up a carefree front to wait for an opportunity to strike back to those who had falsely accused his brother, Prince Ning Qiao. Meanwhile, Feng Zhiwei is desperate to save her mother, leading her to crossdress and eventually enters the palace as an official. From complete strangers, they start protecting and supporting each other in the treacherous palace, then eventually fall in love.

Story: 8/10

If you love political intrigue, no doubt the Rise of Phoenixes will be a great show. Expect complex political schemes, bloody battles between the princes, and different nation-states vying for power. It’s definitely one of those shows that you can’t really fast forward. Despite a great plot, the Rise of Phoenixes can be hard to get into, especially with a slow beginning. It’s definitely not the drama for everyone.

Although the story is great overall with several climaxes and twists to get you hooked, it is sadly flawed. In Nirvana in Fire, you can see how every single scenes explain what will come up next. Everything intertwines together to form a very intricate plot. This subtlety and careful planning is somewhat lacking in The Rise of Phoenixes. Some scenes are redundant, whereas numerous important scenes are cut-off, especially in the last 10 episodes. I blame Chinese censorship for the missing scenes, rather than the production team, because online there are several very good scenes such as the emperor abdicating to Ning Yi, but they are all edited out. Uneven pacing and the deleted important scenes are probably the biggest flaws of this dramas.

There are many “strange” and unexplained details in TROP that made you scratch your head. For example, the misunderstandings between Zhiwei and Ning Yi in the last few episodes feel off. They’re too intelligent for those stupid tricks. Or the bit where Ning Yi and the Emperor’s health are literally connected? Is it even necessary? Somehow we just got magic in this drama? And who the hell is Zhiwei’s bodyguard, Nanyi?

Acting: 9/10

It’s very rare that you see viewers’ reaction split so much for the acting of a drama. On one spectrum, people commented it to be “phenomenal”. On the other, many viewers expressed that they dropped the dramas because of “weird acting”, especially Chen Kun’s performance of Ning Yi.

Personally, I loved the acting of this drama, both Chen Kun and Ni Ni’s. I can also see why people may dislike Chen Kun’s acting because it is completely different from what we normally see on the small screen. Ning Yi is passionate, calculative, and most of all, he is dramatic. In one interview, Chen Kun mentions his interpretation for Ning Yi as “a drama queen, like his father” For me, this interpretation makes perfect sense because (1) it leaves a strong impression on the viewers (2) Ning Yi lost all the people who are important to him at a young age and was locked up alone for a long time, it’s understandable that he’s a bit unstable. Precisely thanks to this strong dramatic acting, the character of Ning Yi remains so vividly in my memory for a long time after I finished the shows.

As for Ni Ni’s acting, her performance is very convincing that you can really see the changes in the character Feng Zhiwei. In the beginning, she was just a nobody, an unfavored niece living in her rich uncle’s house, with a thirst for knowledge. As such, she is boyish and intelligent, yet naive. Fast-forward to the later half of the series, Zhiwei now is aware all the palace conspiracies and has become more prudent in her actions and words. Her gestures and overall atmosphere also transform from boyish to elegant and mature. These changes are so natural that you probably won’t even notice while watching. This is why I think Feng Zhiwei is one of the best strong female characters in Chinese historical dramas.

For a drama that has so few romantic scenes and kisses, the chemistry is incredible. You can sense the love the characters have for each other just by their expressions and their eyes. I love their chemistry so much that the sad ending was devastating for me. My heart ached for several weeks after watching.

The supporting cast gives a convincing performance too. Thankfully, no crazy jealous women here (but there’s a spoiled princess). I’m particularly impressed with the actor who played the Emperor. He’s probably the most interesting emperor I’ve seen, playing out well the complex and unpredictable mentality of an emperor.

Production Quality: 10/10

The production quality of The Rise of Phoenixes was indeed very impressive. I remember thinking to myself, since when Chinese dramas has gotten this beautiful? Unlike everyone else, I watched TROP first before watching Nirvana In Fire. Coming from TROP, even NIF looked a bit cheap in terms of costumes and sets (the filming itself is beautiful though). The soundtrack also goes well and succeeds in building the tension of the drama.

Overall: 9/10

Although there are many serious flaws with the story, at the end of the day you don’t really care. The amazing acting, high production quality, and engaging plot more make up for that.

If you like Ni Ni (the actress who plays Feng Zhiwei), she has a new drama called Love and Destiny, which is a spin-off of the 2017 hit series Eternal Love (aka Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms). It’s amazing to see how she has completely transformed from the capable Feng Zhiwei to the innocent and cute Ling Xi!

[Feature] Rumored Couples in C-Entertainment

With ongoing pursuit from the media, celebrities never get the kind of privacy that they want. And while many couples have been exposed and then later confirmed, there are a few still out there that were speculated, but never confirmed (or denied)….

Continue reading “[Feature] Rumored Couples in C-Entertainment”

[Feature] C-Actors Who Are Younger Than 25

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Despite their young age, these C-Actors have already dominated the C-Entertainment world. Whether it was through the support and guidance of older actors and actresses or through their own talents, these actors have already made a name for themselves. But they’re still considered rookies! Anyway, here’s a list of some of the most sought after C-actors in the industry.

Continue reading “[Feature] C-Actors Who Are Younger Than 25”

[Feature] Antagonists We All (Should) Hate

Whether it’s becoming sworn enemies, being friends with and then betraying the main character, or just being plain annoying, you can’t deny that the entire purpose of an antagonist in the any C-drama is to make the life of the MC miserable. And, as a longtime viewer of C-dramas, there have been a few antagonists that I’ve come to absolutely hate. And before I go on to name a few of these characters, I do want to say that this has nothing to do with the actors and actresses who portray the characters, as they all did a great job in their performances. Seriously, props to them for being able to play despicable characters. But anyway, here is a list of some antagonists that I honestly did not like.

Continue reading “[Feature] Antagonists We All (Should) Hate”

[Feature] Supporting Female Leads Who Deserve Some Recognition

Most of the time we focus so much on the female lead, her character growth throughout the series, and her romance with the male lead, that we often forget that there are also supporting female leads that deserve some attention as well. Whether she’s the one who is fighting with the FL for the ML, having an unrequited love towards ML or someone else, or has her own agenda in the drama, you can’t deny that sometimes she just outshines the FL in one way or another. Personally, there have been many times where I truly rooted for the second female lead more than the FL because I saw more potential from her and I liked her character more. Unfortunately, not all supporting female leads get their deserved happy ending. But, regardless, here’s a list of supporting female leads that I personally rooted for and really liked because of their badass attitude, selfless love, and unwavering convictions.

Continue reading “[Feature] Supporting Female Leads Who Deserve Some Recognition”

CBN Weekly’s Most Commercially Valuable Celebrities of 2018

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CBN Weekly released their list of Most Commercially Valuable Celebrities in 2018 a few weeks ago, so this post is a bit late. My apologies! Topping the list of 2018 is Yang Mi, who was #3 in 2017’s list. Being one of China’s most popular actresses, Yang Mi has definitely established herself as an important figure in the Chinese entertainment industry. It makes sense for her to be at the top. See below for which celebrities made the top 100!

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[Feature] Hu Ge’s Notable Roles

Hu Ge Emporio Armani Hu Ge Fronts Emporio Armani China And Asia Pacifics Spring/Summer 2017 Campaign

If you are a fan of C-dramas, then the name Hu Ge should be very familiar with you. Not only is he a big star in the C-entertainment industry, but he is known to play many different types of roles. Initially, he started with doing wuxia and fantasy wuxia dramas, such as the Chinese Paladin series, but, in recent years, he’s been foraying into other types of dramas. As of now, he’s had a lot of both modern and ancient dramas under his name, both of which cover a wide range of genres. In my opinion, Hu Ge is a very talented actor. His portrayal as Li Xiao Yao in Chinese Paladin was every girl’s dream hero in the mid-2000s and his role as Mei Chang Su was marvelous and magnificent. He’s definitely one of those actors you know that will always leave you with a good impression. And, if you didn’t know already, he’s also one of my favorite Chinese actors. So that’s why I decided to write this post and dedicate it to my love for his acting. Read below to see some of the different roles that he’s had throughout the years.

To watch some of Hu Ge’s dramas check out Viki! Most of them are English subbed.

Continue reading “[Feature] Hu Ge’s Notable Roles”