Film Reviews

Ne Zha: An Animated Movie with Mythology and Gross-Out Humour

Ne Zha is a film I found one day on Netflix. It’s an animated film from China. It’s about an eternal fire god that is born possessing the demon orb that can destroy civilization. Three years later, the boy, Ne Zha, is a brat with godlike powers like super strength and magical abilities but is a very lonely kid. He is also an outcast by the townspeople being called a demon by many of them.

The film is based on a deity in Chinese folklore religion. In Taoist, his name is “Marshal of the Central Altar,” and “Third Lotus Prince.” This is a bit of backstory to the deity. The deity is a combination of two beings from Hinduism, the son of the yaksha king, Nalakubar, and the child-god, Krishna. The name was condensed down to Nehza from Naluojiupoluo. According to Fengshen Yanyi, Nezha was born to a military commander and his wife at the Chentang Pass during the Shang dynasty. She gave birth to him after being pregnant for three years and six months. In the movie, he’s the only child in this adaptation. But they briefly show his weaponry and transformations at certain parts of the film. There are a lot of adaptations in cartoon form and video games. From the late 1920s to the 2000s in animated and live-action shorts usually has a supporting character. In 1979, Nezha Conquers the Dragon King was based on the story Investiture of the Gods. It was a hand-drawn animation that was 65 minutes long. It was played at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival screened out of the competition.

Screenshot of Ne Zha (2019). Ne Zha facing down a visible enemy.

The characters associated with Ne Zha are widely sympathetic towards him like his parents, his teacher (Master Taiji) and the servants at the fortress. The servants and the townspeople are afraid of him. His parents and his teacher hate his isolation away from others. He was a super-powered kid who was very lonely and hated among the people. But he didn’t make situations easy by being a bratty kid and doing crude things. They try to teach him and protect him but he is bratty and difficult with no friends.

Master Taiji Zhenren is a large fat immortal god that can teleport people into a painting and different worlds. He has a pig that can grant wishes and transform into anything. He’s also a big slob. Ne Zha plays tricks on him often. There classic foreshadowing in the movie with the lessons.

The antagonist Ao Bing is a shy, dismissive loyal sea demon. He can freeze water, make storms and also has no friends. He is the rain god and without saying too much of the plot. He’s older than Ne Zha; I guess in his teens or early twenties.

Screenshot of Ne Zha (2019). Ne Zha transformed into his final form facing down the sea dragon.

The animation looks similar to the Sony Illumination Pictures animation style. The people’s face details are similar in character design for 3D animation. The large head, round eyes, some angular features for the face with rubberband style animation for the arms and legs. It’s also a very colourful and vibrant film. For example, from scenes inside a painting, the climactic scenes or lair scenes have used effective colour palettes to convey the change of emotion and story. The camera movements were rapid and in the rhythm of fight scenes to show skills. If I would compare the animation style movements to a Genndy Tartakovsky movie like Hotel Transylvania with more calm animated scenes. The action scenes with the fighting has some bombastically big special effects for lightning, fire, angry cloud formations, explosions for the climax of the film. I liked how the water animated in this film and anything that showed a flow. The water in this movie is just gorgeous which is weird to state because it’s water. Most of the time in some animated movies the water can look very plain, boring and dead. This had a realism to it that looked very convincing and lively.

The downside is that the movie is crude and gross in one-quarter of the film. There are more pee jokes than I realized when I watching the movie. There are jokes about boogers, farts and pee that seem like it’s suppose to appeal to gross-out kids’ humour than adults. So, viewers beware if you have a weak stomach.

The movie was a blockbuster in China at second place in 2019 summer releases. The first time I heard of this film I was surfing on Netflix. It’s a subtitled film with readable text. It’s an unpredictable movie due to the flow and the story being unknown to me. It’s a good movie to watch over the weekend during the day. The film has captions available to make it easy to watch.

Genre: Comedy/Action/Animation
Year: 2019
Duration: 110 minutes

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Three and a half out of five stars

All screenshots are from the film
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