How I feel about Ice Fantasy 幻城 can be likened to my thoughts on the widely-panned Star Wars prequels. I loathed Jar Jar Binks and cringed at the godawful dialogue but to be honest, I loved the movie.
Episode 1 begins with Kasuo (Feng Shao Feng) completely alone, staring solemnly at the remnants of his ice covered kingdom and lamenting over the lives lost in the war.
His teardrops crystallize into a bed of red as it touches the ground where the blood of many have spilled.
The scene reverts to a peaceful time when Prince Kasuo plays catch with his snow lion. It is his 130th birthday, an important day since it marks his entry into adulthood.
There will be a celebration in his honor and he wonders whether his half-brother Prince Ying Kong Shi will be able to attend.
Kasuo heads off to find Shi and bumps into granny (Zheng Pei Pei) who points him in the right direction.
Shi is seen running for dear life from a mob of bullies as they mock him for being a powerless prince. They unleash their magic against him but their attacks freeze midair.
Shi instantaneously acknowledges his savior and says, “Brother I’m alright, they are right anyway and I’m used to it.”
Li Luo (Victoria Song) is the most outstanding warrior among the guardians of the realm and she oversees the trainee examination on retrieving food supplies.
A GOT-inspired reenactment ensues where a dragon-like creature swoops in to steal cattle, allowing Li Luo to show off her skills as she effortlessly saves the day. I never spot movie mistakes but that man has got to be carrying a very cute stuffed animal (lower right).
The royal family make their grand entrance starting with the King, Queen, Concubine Lotus (Kim Hee Sun) and their prince and princesses while the Queen and Princess Lan Shang (Madina Memet) from the Mermaid Tribe serve as spectators.
Unfortunately, Prince Xin Jue (Jiang Chao) from the Fire Tribe disrupts the festivities and challenges Kasuo to a duel that he cannot refuse.
Kasuo understands the repercussions of their ‘friendly’ showdown so he purposely ends the fight in a draw and lets Xin Jue get the limelight.
Kasuo later explains to Shi that winning would have broken the fragile peace between the Ice and Fire tribes while losing would have been a sign of weakness. The brothers share a heartfelt conversation wherein Kasuo also admits that he never wanted to be king.
Back at Guardian camp, Li Luo communicates with Prince Kasuo via a messenger bird and shares stories about the mortal realm as she always does.
Kasuo smiles in amusement and promises to one day meet the woman behind the voice.
Meanwhile, Lan Shang is crushing on Kasuo and she tells Shi to arrange their meeting. She heads for the woods only to fall right into the hands of Xin Jue. Lucky for her, Kasuo and Shi arrive in the nick of time.
First Impressions: Ice Fantasy has turned me into a mass of contradictions. I like the duet by Jay Chou and Zhang Hui Mei (download here) but I dislike the sparkly visuals that accompany the opening sequence. I shy away from sad endings but the first scene insinuates an already morbid outcome.
I marvel at the magnitude of a drama so epic in cinematography but I ridicule the hideous white wigs, pointy ears and insipid editing, truly questioning how such scenes made the final cut.
Nonetheless, Ice Fantasy is a high-stakes production and I appreciate its bold attempt to take viewers to a fantasy world that is so beautiful that every scene deserves to be a screencap.
Funny thing is, I feel like that is precisely what Ice Fantasy meant to do, prioritizing the need to show off its expensive CGI for the sake of vanity.
The number of close ups of Feng Shao Feng is insane and his chiseled features scream perfection though I have to admit, I was mostly waiting for Shi to become Ma Tianyu (happens ep 5) especially since his back story seems to be most intriguing out of all the characters.
Despite being dubbed the summer blockbuster of the year, Ice Fantasy is not making a breakthrough ratings-wise and I can understand why. I thought I’d bash it too but the truth is, I enjoyed the show.
It has been 6 episodes thus far and the bromance is my favorite part. Please tell me that Shi and Li Luo survive.
For more synopsis, cast and ratings, see my 2016 best Chinese dramas.