The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity is predictably the most anticipated Bromance of 2021.
The anticipation was visibly high and the film’s release courted major controversy (Director Gua Jing Ming was accused of plagiarizing certain scenes from Marvel Universe’s Doctor Strange). The morbid claims resulted in severe backlash and as such there were rumours that Netflix, which had acquired the world-wide distribution rights, may pull the plug on this movie. Fortunately Netflix didn’t backtrack and the film was globally released in its English Dubbed version on 5th February, 2021.
There are three main reasons for the excitement surrounding this film-
● Famous Author turned Director Guo Jing Ming is quite popular for writing and directing storylines related to Fantasy genre. His “Lords: Legends of Ravaging Dynasties” still remains one of my favorite Animation Series. The splendour and CGI effects in his movies are phenomenal and the Bromance elements are tranquil as well as heartfelt!
●Dream of Eternity is adapted from the novel series Onmyōji by Yumemakura Baku. The film draws comparison to another movie based on the Onmyōji mobile game, “The Yin Yang Master”.
● The third and most important factor is the stellar ensemble. Award-winning Taiwanese Actor Mark Chao headlines this fantasy thriller along with popular Chinese actors Deng Lun, Wang Duo and Olivia Wang.
● Mark Chao plays the titular role of Qing Ming, the Ying Yang Master. He is summoned to the Imperial City as one of four masters tasked with preventing the awakening of the Evil Serpent.
● Deng Lun portrays the role of Bo Ya. He is one of the Empress’ protectors, is extremely derisive of Demons and has been tasked to prevent the Evil Serpent’s uprising.
● Olivia Wang plays the role of Princess Zhang Ping. She was raised out of the Imperial City and returns after 18 years to assume her royal duties. She is often accused of using Black Magic to control the Empress.
● Wang Duo plays the dual roles of Zhongxing, Qing Ming’s Spiritual Master as well as the antagonist He Shou Ye. He Shou Ye is Zhongxing’s Spirit Guardian. As the Imperial Priest, he is also one of the Four Masters tasked to stop the Evil Serpent’s awakening.
● Jessie Li plays the role of Long Ye. She is also one of the Four Masters tasked with preventing the Evil Serpent’s Rise.
This Netflix movie follows the journey of Qing Ming whose Spiritual Master Zhongxing was mercilessly killed by the Evil Serpent’s Shadow. The Evil Serpent is contained in a human vassel in the Imperial Capital and recent rumors related to it’s awakening seem to be on the rise. Qing Ming as such is called to the Imperial Capital and tasked with the job of preventing the Evil Serpent’s awakening. On the first day itself, one of the Masters is murdered and the crime scene draws mysterious circumstances. Qing Ming and the Imperial Protector Bo Ya begin to investigate the case. Tied together, they develop an odd sense of camaraderie and brotherhood. As they attempt to untangle the ambiguities surrounding the Imperial Family, shocking secrets are revealed and the truth is far from the reality they conceived. As such, their only chance at survival is to rise above their suspicions and form a strong connection to defeat the Evil Serpent.
The Bromance Which Falls Flat
“The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity” is a classic case of queerbaiting. The Chinese BL industry is fraudulent with such instances, but this movie falls short of even the meagre expectations that the audiences have from Bromances. Although Qing Ming’s first meeting with Bo Ya is characterized by high sexual tension, the next instant they fall in a strange web of enmity and disagreements. The Imperial City is facing the impending rise of the Evil Serpent and as such Demons aren’t seen in a favourable light. Qing Ming’s attempts to save a lovelorn Demon don’t exactly paint him in a good light and Bo Ya grows exceedingly suspicious of his actions.
Qing Ming’s constant reminder that his Mother was a Fox Demon grates on Bo Ya’s nerves. After playing the “Tom & Jerry” game for the first quarter, Bo Ya finally recognizes and accepts Qing Ming’s talents as well as his honest disposition. But unfavourable circumstances again tear them apart as each of them questions the sides the other one supports. While I wasn’t expecting grand declarations of love, this pair surely disappointed me with their distinct lack of chemistry. While Mark Chou’s portrays “Qing Ming” with tailored nuances that reflect the character’s mysterious nature, his camaraderie with Deng Lun’s “Bo Ya” is questionable. The film failed to showcase any proper development of their relationship, so much that it can neither be categorized as “Brotherhood” nor “Friendship”. There are left hanging in between where they act in tandem to save each other’s lives while trying to decipher the secret related to the Evil Serpent’s Uprising.
There are however certain instances where you get to appreciate the two characters getting along. It could be the scene where Bo Ya finally reveals the true reason behind his hatred for Demons or the scene where he entrusts Qing Ming with his life. Qing Ming despite being a Soul Master, cannot concoct a proper “Protection Spell”. But seeing Bo Ya in danger always jocks his memories and he starts remembering all incantations with perfect connotations! The dialogue that resonates throughout the film is spelt out in detail by Zhongxing and you learn to appreciate the reverbance later, when Qing Ming understands the true meaning behind those words.
” In this world, is there someone you would protect with your own life?”.
Bo Ya is supposedly the “Someone”, Qing Ming would protect with his own life!
A Hetero Romance which turns into Sismance
The focal point of this movie is preventing the awakening of the Evil Serpent. The Serpent was contained in a human vassel and the Four Masters are tasked to protect the vassal (The Empress). Throughout the first half, we are led to believe that the Empress has grown old and her daughter, Princess Zhang Ping might be conspiring against her. The reality is far from the surface, as the film grows through a bizarre maze of events that document the Empress’s life and her various tragic love stories. The revelation of the Princess’ true nature and the Imperial Priest He Shou Ye’s obsession with her, ultimately leads to disastrous events that destroy the Capital City.
Olivia Wang as the Tang Imperial Princess Zhang Ping embodies the mystique of the character. Although her marked indifference to Hu Shou Ye’s conniving nature might grate on your nerves, her final sacrificial act redeems the character’s notoriety. Her disposition and vulnerability will draw your sympathy. Wang Duo on the other hand portrays the “Perfect Antagonist”. Hu Shou Ye’s entire existence tethers on the awakening of the Evil Serpent and as such, his love for Zhang Ping is at a constant war with his own survival instincts. The revelation of He Shou Ye’s true sexuality certainly projects this unlikely romance into the “Sismance” genre.
Wang Duo and the Duality of His Character Roles
There is a marked difference between the two roles that Wang Duo portrays in this movie. One of the main reasons for the high anticipation, was the curiosity surrounding Wang Duo’s character. As the Imperial Priest Hu Shou Ye, his disposition demands respect and admiration. Until the first half of the movie, he is considered as one of the heroes and you are left in awe by his screen presence. He looks ethereal and draws much more attention than our popular main leads.
Wang Duo’s Hu Shou Ye matches upto the seasoned performances by Mark Chou and Deng Lun. As the Imperial Priest, he is formidable and as Zhongxing’s Spirit Guardian, he is fiercely protective of the Empress. His expressions are so in sync with the character’s emotions, you can’t help but empathize with his plight. He is a man in love, trying to fight his Destiny while standing guard beside the woman he loves. The entire catastrophe of events leaves you emotionally distraught and entirely disconnected. Zhang Ping and Hu Shou Ye’s ill-fated romance is the only saving grace of this abysmal storyline.
On the other hand, Wang Duo plays Zhongxing with a disparity that inspires devotion. In the opening credits, Zhongxing sacrifices his life to save his disciple, Qing Ming from the Evil Serpent’s shadow and you admire his brave nature. You also appreciate his emotional strength when he gives up on the Love of his life (The Empress), to protect the Four Realms from the Evil Serpent. The fact that Zhangxing was the only person whom the Empress truly loved in her entire lifetime will make you tear up. Hence, Hu Shou Ye tailors his looks to resemble those of Zhongxing. Fond memories turn into a major debacle and Zhongxing’s memories become a precedent to the Evil Awakening.
Most of Guo Jing Ming’s productions are focused on their visual representation. It’s his repertoire to create a fantasy world with mind-blowing CGI effects and intense drama that keep you hooked. “The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity” is certainly not indifferent to his time tested formulas. While the show projects breathtaking locales, aesthetic cinematography and excellent choreography, with astonishing set designs and costumes resplendent of the gone era, the only drawback of this film is the loosely interpreted script. The movie draws comparison with Doctor Strange (whenever Qing Ming activates his portals to teleport). You can’t help but compare the CGI effects and storytelling to the Marvel Universe Superhero. The film heavily leans toward to the impending visuals and designs that overshadow the dialogues. In the end, you are left confused with the inadequate story arcs that move forward without recline or proper development.
The constant jumping through loopholes might frustrate the audiences and lull them into a period of sobriety. The only saving grace of this movie, remains the eclectic star cast that try their level best to shoulder the lack of appropriate storytelling and create an illusion of excellence that manages to keep you engaged throughout the entirety of the two hours feature.
Frankly speaking, I’m quite disappointed with this Chinese remake. Compared to his very own “Legends of Ravaging Dynasties”, Guo Jing Ming’s flagrant attempts to recreate the magic of the Japanese version fall flat and leave alot to be desired. Although fans of the main leads might very well enjoy the film, the storytelling is least impressive. This film isn’t meant for all!
Rating- 3 out of 5