Friday, December 25, 2015

"Captain of Destiny" Review


I had originally dropped "Captain of Destiny" after five episodes on the first try, but after having a few friends tell me it gets better, I decided to give it another shot. Next thing I knew, I had binge watched the rest in four days.

After a slow and rough start that makes "Captain" seem like much more of a joke than it really turned out to be, it develops into one of the better and most entertaining series of the year. Unfortunately, by then, most viewers had already tuned out, as evidenced by its low ratings.

Cast-wise, it is easily understood why people were hesitant and turned off by the decision to cast Grace Chan as the female lead and Tony Hung as the titular "Cheung Po Tsai."

Grace can get very irritating as "Wong Tai-Mui" with her widening eyes and love for screaming her lines, particularly in the early episodes. She does tone down more as the series goes on and becomes much more bearable as the focus shifts more to Ruco Chan. Do I still think she has potential? Sure, but it was definitely too early for her to receive a lead role. I thought she was quite natural in "Raising the Bar," and although she has a stronger and more assertive character here, her acting seems to have even retrograded a bit. Wong Tai-Mui could still be likable overall, but I especially disliked her whenever she was so quick to think the worst of the 11th prince. I understand having hesitations, but how about not blatantly accusing someone of framing or murdering someone without getting any information first? Aren't you supposed to be a cop?

I am genuinely surprised by the criticism Tony received for his performance here, even though the harshest criticism was mostly directed towards Grace. As much as I like Tony as a host and ove
rall person, I had huge concerns for him coming into this series. However, I thoroughly enjoyed him as "Cheung Po Tsai" once we got past the silliness of the first few episodes. Tony was able to use his real-life playfulness and easygoing personality to play the titular character with humor and fun. His emotional scenes are unsurprisingly more raw, but the only scene I felt was particularly weak was one in the later part of the series where he confronts Ruco's character from jail. In the end, I'm not sad that Raymond Wong had to pull out of the series, but happy with the way things turned out for Tony. I'll probably receive some flack for this, but I finished this series thinking he did indeed deserve the Most Improved Actor award.

Ruco's role was increased to pick up the slack that came with casting less experienced actors such as Grace and Tony, and of course, he once again rises to the challenge. He nails the "stern but kind" role, where he was much more domineering and intimidating in the beginning before softening to become the passionate and intelligent 11th prince we loved. Timing-wise, I did think this was the right year for Ruco to win Best Actor. But even as the huge Ruco fan I am, even I must admit that solely performance-wise, this character was not a challenge for him and did not provide him with new material. I was however slightly surprised by his performance as the Bandit King, "Bowie." He needs to play another one of these baddie characters!

The rest of the cast performances are a mixed bag. Joel Chan and Mandy Wong may have been third supporting characters who didn't appear until almost halfway through the series, but they were both very entertaining and unpredictable, which is hard to come by with TVB's trite love trianKelly Fu's acting is still raw with a lot of room for improvement, but she surprisingly did not ever annoy me much. While she was overly naive and kept accidentally getting into trouble in the beginning, I came to appreciate her and Otto Chan's loyalty and confidence in Ruco, and how the three really became friends. Maggie Shiu was enjoyable and a reliable supporting actress as usual. Ocean Zhu's character was just plain weird and could have been eliminated. I ended up being most disappointed by Elaine Yiu's performance having already known she received the Best Supporting Actress award for it. She would just give her best resting bitch face and say her lines in a catty way, and I stared at the screen wondering "She won an acting award for this?"

"Captain of Destiny"'s largest problem lies in the disjointedness of its two storylines: the storyline between the pirates, and Ruco's palatial drama. Both have their distinct strengths, as the pirates' provided humor and lightheartedness, while Ruco's storyline balanced it out with more substantial drama. However, it makes the viewer feel like they're watching two completely different series and made for some awkward scene transitions. There could be a very serious scene involving Ruco and his military, and then we would transition into a scene where Grace was being chased around by the pirates in white "ghost" costumes. It is not until around 20 episodes in before Ruco even meets Tony and Grace.

Another major problem the series has is its plot holes and sloppy writing, particularly when it came to the romantic storylines. I understand that romance was not the focus on the series nor should it have been, but since the writers decided to include it, they should have done a better job. Grace is shown clearly falling for both Tony and Ruco and mulling over her feelings for the two men, but then all of a sudden shows that she only loves Tony. Ruco is portrayed as heartbroken over Grace, and then all of a sudden expresses an interest in Kelly, who returns the interest. This isn't a messy love triangle. This is just bad writing, and it seems like the writers changed their minds midway through writing the script, but could not have been bothered to go back and make the revisions. With that said, to my genuine surprise, I quite liked Tony and Grace together, as their relationship was allowed to grow from friendship. Any love line involving Ruco though, was thrown together very haphazardly.

Perhaps the even bigger concern people had going into the series was not the cast, but the CGI effects. Although it could still be obvious what was CGI and what was not, the effects were definitely much better than expected and the battle scene was very well-done. The series may have had many flaws, but the visual effects ended up not being one of them.

Despite its weaknesses though, "Captain of Destiny" is one of the most entertaining series of the year. It can easily be binge-watched if you just make it past the first few episodes because it has good pacing and still has many elements a solid series should have, including some interesting characters, comedy, drama, a little action, and some romance (as haphazard as it was). With all the mediocre series this year, "Captain" should not be completely written off because of its less-experienced leads and rough beginning. It is still very much a grand production.

Rating: 3.5 stars

9 comments:

  1. thanks for the review! i may pick it back up now after seeing more positive reviews! i'm still not sure about grace though and the disconnect between the palace and pirates makes me less interested. but it seems that ruco and tony delivered good performances which is worth the watch!

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    1. My pleasure Rachel! :) Yeah, it is worth another try since all the other series this year were pretty bad. Captain isn't without some gaping plot holes, but it was still a good source of entertainment.

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  2. Everything about the show is relatively fresh for me now, so this is going to be a little long. ;P I shall start off commenting on your points sequentially before I ask my big question at the end.

    Grace Chan: She's extremely annoying to me too in the beginning. Even after watching the entire drama, I still think she shouldn't be cast as the main lead. She wasn't less annoying to me after the first few eps, but I was able to tolerate her a bit better when the plot got more interesting. About her always thinking the worst of 11th prince, I totally agree with you abt how being a cop and all yet she never gave the chance for the accused to explain before she judges the prince to be guilty. however, she did give an explanation for this, which I thought may be quite true of modern people. She said something like how modern people do not trust with their heart (I take it as trust with faith alone), but trust only with what they see. Esp when she was cheated by her ex bf when she had blind faith in him. In summary, The flaws of Wong Tai Mui the character wasn't enough to make me dislike this character, but with Grace as her, it was enough to make Wong Tai Mui the most unlikable character for me in this drama.

    Tony Hung: Personally I feel that people who criticised him here to be bias just because he's deemed too inexperienced to take this titular character. I thought he did a well enough job, not perfect, but especially in stark contrast with Grace here, he was good. While Raymond Wong is an obviously better actor than him, I thought as Cheung Po Zai, Tony is better to bring out the lighthearted side of this character (& the pirate side), which is so important to balance out the more serious 11th prince (& the Palace side of the story). Totally agree with you abt his most improved award.

    Ruco Chan: What can I say? He's so good I can feel for his character and got so drawn into the drama just because of this character that was so well done by him! He didn't surprise or impress me with Bowie, but that's mainly because Bowie is so BADLY written the story. I'll explain more later. My biggest problem and question mark with this drama is BOWIE.

    The rest of the characters, I generally agree with you, especially for Ocean Zhu's. Totally weird. Feel more that she was added as 'fillers' so that they can make up enough episodes to meet their target number. As for Elaine, haha... I think that's now the most acceptable way evil concubines are expected to behave by audience after the very successful Legend of Zhen Huan. You know, resting bitch face, and drawled her lines out in a lazy yet I-don't-care-but-you'd-better-do-what-I say-or-else manner.

    to be cont....

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    1. Good to see you around again Queen_owl! :)

      Yeah, I definitely understand the notion that modern people can be generally less trusting since we are exposed to so much more nowadays. This probably goes double for cops that deal with criminals on a regular basis. But still, there's a difference between being reasonably suspicious and outright accusing someone before you have anything resembling evidence besides what one guy claims, which seems like a huge "no no" for Wong Tai Mui's occupation. Other than that, her character was generally okay but Grace drags her down. Hopefully she isn't casted as the lead in another big production anytime soon (I'm fine with her being in small/medium-sized ones like Raising the Bar).

      I totally agree about Tony. Niki told me she read some reports where people were complaining Ruco is so much of a better actor than Tony. Well duh. Ruco now has 20+ years of acting under his belt and Tony has about 2. This isn't a fair comparison to make at all. I do also think that Tony did a great job with the lighthearted side of Cheung Po Tsai that was so vital.

      Yeah, I meant to say I enjoyed Ruco as a straight up baddie like Bowie in the beginning. The ending was just so jarring I didn't bother to write about it in the review itself because I knew it would become a ranting mess.

      I don't particularly have any problems with Elaine's performance since Grace and Kelly weren't very strong either, just annoyed that she won for this...

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    2. nice reading and interacting with you again here too!

      precisely, so wrong to compare Tony to Ruco. Plus, as a newbie, I thought he's doing a fairly good job unlike Grace.

      yes Elaine's a good enough actress that's not been given good opportunities to show what she can do. she's always given roles where she has to give a 'black face'. haha


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  3. Now, about my biggest problem and question abt this drama. The ending. I basically couldn't understand and couldn't find my answers by searching other people's review online. Nobody seems to have any problem with the illogical ending (either that or it's me who can't understand). So, is Bowie good or evil? He seemed to be evil in the beginning since he SHOT wong tai mui in the middle of the sea, on her body (not even limbs!) where she has a low chance of survival under normal circumstances. So he meant to KILL her. And by the time Cheung Po Zai came to the modern time where we see Bowie again, Bowie didn't seem the least bit disturbed by Wong Tai Mui's (presumed) death. He's still dead bent on kidnapping that same rich nasty guy. So logically, Bowie is evil right? I can accept that he followed his ancestor's (11th prince's) instruction to help wong tai mui/cheung po zai, since the note's a pretty amazing find. Never mind the loop hole of how 11th prince could have known the exact date of wong tai mui meeting bowie. I mean, even if wong tai mui were to tell 11th prince that she was chasing a guy who looked like him when she accidentally travelled back in time, it seemed ridiculous she would even mention the date they met. ok that she mentioned how they met, but the date?? Anyway, this is a small loop hole. The big problem is, after Bowie helped Wong/Cheung got back together, the writers seem to make him a good person by showing that he kidnapped the rich nasty guy just to teach him a lesson to make him donate his money to help the poor. ??????? So Bowie was willing to KILL (cops + wong tai mui etc) to kidnap a rich guy to donate money to the poor???? Remember how in the beginning he also almost killed Grace's ex bf? Or did Bowie changed his mind after reading a note from his ancestor, and hence, decide to kidnap the rich guy only to help the poor? Then, what was his intention to kidnap the rich guy before?? I'm really confused.

    I would have given this drama a 4/5, as it's my favourite drama for 2015. but because of the terrible ending and how badly they tie the modern day loose ends, I give it 3.5.

    Queen_Owl

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    1. Bowie's character made absolutely no sense in the end with the complete 360. I was very confused by the end, but by that time Captain's writing had already become pretty sloppy so I just didn't even bother to try to comprehend the whole business with Bowie. :/

      I originally put down 4 stars when publishing this post, but upon looking over all the major criticisms I wrote about again, I knocked it down to 3.5 stars. Objectively, it commits too many writing mistakes and bad choices. It is still my most enjoyed series of the year though.

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    2. sigh.... it's really a pity. if tvb writers started off writing something so good, why couldn't they just follow through and do a good job till the end?! Grrrr..... it's probably bad time management, where they took too much time writing the beginning, and had no enough time for the last quarter of the show, hence a rushed crappy ending just to meet their deadline. :(

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  4. I couldn't stop feeling frustrated when mui obviously liked man ho more but could distrust him so easily!

    Then in the prison when CPT asked if she would regret dying w him, she said no regrets to die with the man she loved. The lovelines nor plots didnt make much sense at times, causing frustration for viewers.

    While Man Ho could roughly calculate how many generations would have passed in 2015, it is not comprehensible how he even knew the name of his great great great grandson.

    His feelings also changed relatively fast...

    Nonetheless there was a feel-good factor the ending did not end with mui returning to 2015 alone. In fact I felt proud that CPT adapted quickly!

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