Saturday, November 7, 2009

Burning Flame III Review

TVB continues their disappointing series streak with Burning Flame III. I haven't watched the original or the first sequel, but I know that Burning Flame is a very beloved series. With that said, I have to say that the third does not even meet the 'average' mark. Unlike the first two, evenly balancing out love/relationships with the dangers of being a firefighter, BF3 focuses too much on all the bad stuff TVB has to offer: love triangles + rushed and undeveloped relationships. What did that leave the viewer feeling? Frustrated. Let's try to continue this review with a more positive and critical attitude than a negative and bashing one...This review will also attempt to use a different format than the usual one...

The series started strong, or at least the first episode did. The first episode opens with Encore (Bosco Wong) and his friend (played by Oscar Leung) getting stuck in the middle of a huge storm which turns into a flood in Encore's car. The two are about to drown, but Chung Yau Shing (Wong He) comes to their rescue. The first ten minutes or so will leave you at the edge of your seat. It's this scene that makes you feel how heroic and brave Ah Shing is.

A common complaint for the first half of the series was the flashbacks. These flashbacks lasted for almost 10 episodes, and took up nearly half or whole episodes. Personally, I found flashbacks for this particular series necessarily. They can complete the task of setting up the Ah Shing/Ah Ying/Rex love triangle and explaining to us how it all began. The flashbacks were too excessive though, and at the time I couldn't wait for them to be over. When they were finally over, and we were finally at the present, I felt that the series only became worse. Perhaps the flashbacks were the strongest point of the series, but we just didn't realize that until we traveled back to the present to see our two leading men fighting for the one they love.

We are first introduced to Wong He's 'Ah Shing' as an 'ox.' He works hard and puts his best effort into everything he does. Brother Ox never gave up. Consequently, he is a very stubborn man. While it's great to never give up, we know that there are certain things that you should just give up on. Ah Shing unfortunately was not aware of that, and applied his stubborn and determined personality to his failing love relationship. Even when Ah Ying confronted him saying that she was no longer in love with him and broke up with him, he couldn't let her go. Of course, there are always people who 'can't let go' initially, leaving them heartbroken. Ah Shing's broken heart and inability to let go was taken to an extreme level, making him nor anyone else around him happy. Ah Shing just didn't know when it was time to give up and move on. His stubbornness is aggravating to watch. I am actually happy that he spent 10 episodes in a coma, as I personally wouldn't have been able to stand 32 full episodes of his stubbornness.

Perhaps Wong He is such an excellent actor that he convinced us with his portrayal of the stubborn and annoying man. 'Chung Yau Shing' was a waste of Wong He's talent.

Kevin Cheng and Myolie Wu are both versatile actors, as seen with their breakthrough performances in Last One Standing and Survivor's Law. In recent years though, the two have become type casted into one type of role. Those who have not watched their breakthrough performances, or simply don't remember them, no longer think that Kevin or Myolie can act.

Kevin is constantly playing the cool 'Mr. Nice Guy' and it's obviously not a challenge for him. While he is enjoyable to watch, I tend to question myself numerous times on whether or not he can really act. His performance in Last One Standing was excellent though, and Burning Flame 3's 'Rex' manages to still be likable. The scenes were he was clumsily trying to control his wheelchair were hilarious too.

The role of 'Ah Ying' was supposedly a more 'mature' role for Myolie. It turns out that if anything, Myolie was only given a more mature outer look (her hairstyle) and was paired up with older guys. Ko Wai Ying is another 'weak' role for Myolie to play. I'm tired of Myolie playing these characters and I wish TVB would give her another interesting character like the beloved Ling Ling in Survivor's Law. Myolie still manages to give off a sweet and innocent aura which makes you like her though. Her emotional scenes were also very well done. I still do not doubt that Myolie has what it takes to be one of our next fa dans.

The love triangle between Wong He, Kevin, and Myolie is one you wish you didn't have to watch. Myolie and Wong He had no chemistry whatsoever, but she looked ok with Kevin. The two managed to pull off a sweet chemistry, but it was obvious that their script was a mess.

Then comes Bosco and Aimee, our young couple. That is, if you could even consider them a couple. Although the two were occasionally cute, their relationship was ridiculous. Encore and Easy were too immature and irresponsible towards their attitude, thinking, and decision making. They still acted like kids, and yet they had to raise one. I felt sorry for their baby.

Encore, although he sometimes brought badly needed comic relief, was for the most part irritating. He sometimes got on my nerves. However, I enjoyed his friendship with his mentor Brother Ox in the beginning of the series. Their interactions were sweet, entertaining, and funny. Wong He and Bosco collaborate greatly. Come to think of it, their friendship is one of the best parts about this series.

I was never a fan of Bosco, and my opinion still remains unchanged. I don't find him good looking or charming. I can't deny he is one of the better younger actors though. Encore isn't one of his best characters. I don't believe that winning the Best Actor award is anywhere in his future. How Bosco was even nominated for Best Actor this year still blows my mind. Personally, Ron deserves Bosco's nomination much more for his performance in E.U.

I've been keeping an open mind to MHK 2006 winner Aimee Chan. The outcome is not that bad. Aimee acts surprisingly good for a newcomer. She delivered a decent performance and managed to not look too bad against the rest of the cast. Obviously she has to improve her accent and fluency in Cantonese though, but I believe she will eventually. On the other hand, I believe it is still too early for her to win Most Improved Actress.

No one would've thought that the most annoying character at the start of the series would wind up becoming their most liked character, never mind me. Stephen Wong's Ko Ho-Nam is hands down the most well written character in the whole series. Unlike the rest of the characters, he is dynamic. He goes through change and maturity at a reasonable pace to the point he is an ambitious, responsible, hardworking, and sweet gentleman. What a contrast to the lazy bum who didn't have any idea what to do with his life! Ko Ho-Nam is my favorite character in his series and one of my favorite characters of this year. As for Stephen's performance, I can say that he has greatly improved. However, his performances seem to be on a roller coaster ride. In specific series he is rather wooden, then in others he does a decent job.
Stephen and Elaine make a sweet and refreshing couple. The two look nice together and they share a sweet chemistry. Unfortunately, their relationship is the most undeveloped. The so called 'love triangle' between Elaine, Stephen, and Chan Chin Pang never came full circle. The problem with Chan Chin Pang's character is resolved rather quickly and he appears merely in a couple episodes. It was also a shame that the audience was only able to infer that the two got together at the end instead of showing us. I also wasn't very fond of Elaine's character Ah Man and found her somewhat annoying and pretty whiny. At times I thought Ah Nam even deserved someone better.

Leanne Li's Kristy is the most unnecessary character in TVB history. While a daring attitude is good, Kristy's techniques of courting Rex were way too obvious. It annoyed me how she seemed to just be throwing herself at him. Leanne also still fails to deliver a solid performance. If anything, I don't mind her playing simply a character's friend or sister.

While I don't think June Ho had a very hard character to play, she was sweet and likable as the kindhearted nurse. She and Wong He make a much more compatible couple than him and Myolie. It was great that Wong He was able to find someone else he could love. I wish June would've appeared earlier on in the series though.

Highlights of Burning Flame
  • Without a doubt, the best scenes of this too long series was the fire rescue scenes. They were intense and very well done. Those scenes made my heart beat rapidly and left me holding my breath. I was aware no one was going to die, but the intensity still left me anxious.
  • The scenes between Wong He and Bosco. It was hilarious seeing Bosco constantly going to bother his 'mentor' and 'lifesaver.'
  • Ah Nam's gradual change. His character is the most interesting to watch. It is quite a surprise that the most well written character is a supporting one with barely any screen time.
  • The scenes with the other firefighters like Sam Chan, Matthew Ko, and Eddie Li. Their interactions and discussions were hilarious. They were very enjoyable to watch and generally brought a smile to your face.

The Bad
  • The series is too draggy, and it would've been much better if cut down to 20-25 episodes.
  • There was not enough focus on the life of the firefighters, but instead way too much focus on the love relationships.
  • Wong He's stubborn character.
  • Leanne Li's unnecessary appearance.
Recommended? No. Really, I wonder why they decided to make another Burning Flame sequel anyway, especially so long after the second one. It fails to be a memorable series, never mind a great installment to such a beloved production. There are many great and strong aspects of the series, but the bad out dos the good.

Rating: 2 stars

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