REIVEW: ‘New Gods: Nezha Reborn’ Boasts Stunning Visuals But A Thin Plot

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New Gods: Nezha Reborn

New Gods: Nezha Reborn is a Netflix Original Film,  directed by Zhao Ji and written by Mu Chuan. It is based on the Chinese novel Investiture of the Gods. Li Yunxiang (Stephen Fu), a motorcycle racer/smuggler living in Donghai City, discovers he is the latest reincarnation of the deity Nezha. While learning to control the fiery powers that now reside within him, Yunxiang must battle the multiple forces of the Dragon King Ao Guang (Andrew Kishino ) including his ice-wielding son Ao Bing (Aleks Le).

I have to give props to Light Chaser Animation Studios and their undertaking the animation duties for Nezha Reborn. The visuals in this film are absolutely gorgeous. A key example of this is the opening sequence, which features a high-octane motorcycle race. The camera tracks the motorcyclists as they speed through the nooks and crannies of Donghai City, the golden light of the setting sun bathing them. Donghai itself is a steampunk paradise, with the vehicles sporting a retro yet hi-tech look and the clothing a hybrid of Chinese and Western influences.

Light Chaser also designs a unique set of adversaries for Yunxiang to face. These range from a jellyfish woman whose tentacles move like whips and a massive angler fish encased in a steel exoskeleton. Yunxiang and other figures also summon auras during a battle that correspond to their respective elements and deities. For example, Yunxiang’s Nezha aura is a massive fiery being, with his body being surrounded by waves of fire and heat.  Conversely, Ao Bing utilizes cryogenic powers that allow him to create projectiles and objects out of pure ice while his father can summon massive bolts of lightning. This leads to inventive and intense fight sequences where the very elements themselves are wielded as weapons, and the environment is often destroyed because of it.

While the film looks visually stunning, the story is another matter. Much like Onyx Equinox and Blood of Zeus, Nezha Reborn presents its own take on mythology-particularly that of its titular character, who is one of the most popular mythological figures in China. However, the film more or less expects audience members to be familiar with the source material. Those who don’t know anything about Nezha or the Monkey King will feel left out of the loop.

Similarly, Yunxiang’s supporting cast is thinly sketched. His contentious relationship with his father is barely touched upon, and a potential relationship with doctor Su Junchu (Nicole Fong) feels tacked onto the main story. I would have liked to see more exploration of these relationships, as they provide the human element that is necessary for a story involving deities and superpowers. Having those connections keeps a superhuman character anchored to their humanity, and without those connections, the audience can feel alienated from the character.

One aspect of the film I do appreciate is how it approaches Yunxiang’s godhood. His discovery of his powers, and training to control them, is oddly similar to the structure of a superhero film. He even creates a suit of armor to master his powers, giving himself a de facto superhero outfit. Conversely,  the Dragon King and his lackeys come complete with all the supervillain trappings: destructive abilities, an outlandish nickname, and a willingness to kill and blackmail others. As approaches to mythology go, it’s extremely innovative-especially given how superhero stories are the modern mythologies of our time.

New Gods: Nezha Reborn sports stunning animation and takes a unique approach to its mythology, though its characters are thinly sketched. A post-credits scene teases a sequel and I hope it fleshes out the world set up in this first film, and hopefully be more accessible to newcomers.

New Gods: Nezha Reborn is currently available to stream on Netflix.

 


New Gods: Nezha Reborn
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

New Gods: Nezha Reborn sports stunning animation and takes a unique approach to its mythology, though its characters are thinly sketched. A post-credits scene teases a sequel and I hope it fleshes out the world set up in this first film, and hopefully be more accessible to newcomers.