Review: Captain of Destiny (TVB, 2015)

Captain of Destiny (張保仔)CaptainOfDestiny2015TVB.jpg

Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 32 episodes
Producer: Leung Choi Yuen

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Cast

Ruco Chan as Aisin Giro Man-ho and Bowie
Grace Chan as Wong Tai Mui
Tony Hung as Cheung Po Chai
Kelly Fu as Ha Sim
Maggie Shiu as Shek Kiu
Mandy Wong as Wong Suk Kwan
Joel Chan as Wong Yat Hin
Elaine Yiu as Imperial Consort Yim
Lau Kong as Emperor Jiaqing

and Cheung Kwok Keung, Matt Yeung, Claire Yiu, Oceane Zhu, Otto Chan, Lee Sing Cheung, Elliot Yue, Katy Kung, Law Lok Lam, Ram Chiang, Kam Kong, Susan Tse, etc.

The Review

I meant to write this review way sooner than it turned out. As it’s almost been a month since the series ended it’s air, I still feel compelled to write something for Captain because as the year is coming to an end, it is safe to say that Captain was not only a big budget production, but one of the more memorable series this year. Normally, TVB will have 1-2 high exposure and audience commendable series, but while the churn of series this year is the same number, the quality is similar to what you would experience if it were a drought. As TVB is mining down to the last of its talent, you’ll see that newbies like Tony Hung and Grace Chan have more opportunities for work – and also criticism as it turns out.

The overall star of the show is still Ruco and we can really agree that TVB trusts him to take the lead by increasing his screen time to match, if not surpass, that of Tony’s, who is supposedly the main character of the fiction. It is also interesting to see the turn of events as TVB initially planned to filmed this Qing dynasty adaption way back in the early 2000’s with Louis Koo as the leading man. Yet as CGI and green screen effects weren’t as advanced back then, TVB had to delay the filming to 15 years later. Now it’s okay to feel ripped off because we were suppose to see Louis, but ended up with Tony. While I’ve heard many criticisms on Tony’s acting for Captain, I can’t seem to understand the base for the them. For one, although I’ve seen Tony in several series in the past, Po-Chai is his most memorable role with a good balance of comedic timing, brotherly love for his team and father, and a soft affectionate side for Grace.

As an anniversary showoff, it wasn’t short of any of the usual elements that make up a successful action-packed and dramatic production. Sacrificing for your blood-related brother, sworn brother, or adopted father was all in the play. We weren’t short of any of the usual romances where one party believed that they could go to the ends of the earth for the other (Think Oceane ugh), unrequited love, and love triangles. Royal brothers that tried to backstab each other for the throne and princes that turned out to be something else, it was all there. Even palatial catfights between concubines were woven in somehow, even though we didn’t ask for them.

Characters and Performances

Ruco Chan. Righteous, handsome, ambitious, and commanding, Man-ho certainly carries with him a royal and influential vibe at all times. In the beginning, I’ll admit he was almost too domineering and his style of going head-on with his father, the Emperor, was too much to bear. After all, as the Emperor, he could order him out of the palace and never to be seen again. With his selfish and troublemaking royal half-brothers, Man-ho was able to make friends with commoner Siu-fu (Little Tiger). The two partners ended up going through thick and thin together and was able to accomplish much together. The addition of Yat-hin in the picture, of course, spiced things up as he appeared to be a shrewd businessman who had the capacity for loyalty. Together the three were able to conquer the Canton pirates on Cheung Po-Chai’s team, later only to realize that they are brothers bonded by blood.

For Ruco, most of the focus was on his military and naval adventures. Thankfully, for those audiences who believe that it was painful to watch Ruco’s love scenes with two newbie actresses, there was very little of it. He didn’t meet Grace until after the 20th episode and after less than three encounters, they expressed love for one another. The fangirl is not afraid to admit that I loved the snowing night scene with the two. As for Kelly, she serves as his extremely loyal maid until their last scene, right before their life or death battle. It just so happens that Ruco surrendered Grace to Tony and ended up with Kelly. How convenient.

A very solid and award-winning performance as usual. Although Emperor Jiaqing only had five sons and Man-ho was a fictional character, that doesn’t stop Ruco from bring the character to life. In terms of timing, Captain and Man-ho is a good series and role for him to win Best Actor for. I don’t see why anyone else would deserve it more than him. 5/5

Tony Hung. After Bosco and Raymond Wong reportedly have a schedule conflict and illness an unable to film this series, they dropped the hat on Tony’s lap. As a newcomer, he might not be the first to be remembered by producers, but I’m glad they found him. Like Bosco, Tony gives off a very playful vibe, which was partially necessary for the earlier Po-Chai. When he found out that Tai-mui didn’t reciprocate his love, he was down for a few episodes, but it wasn’t anything Tony can’t handle.

Yet despite his qualifications, there have been much criticism for his performance. I don’t know why, but other than his emotional scenes which can be more challenging for him, I’m very glad he was given this opportunity instead of Bosco or Raymond, who are more established leading actors already. 4/5

Grace Chan. Brave, righteous, and intelligent, Wong Tai-mui (sometimes misunderstood by others as Wong Dai-mui, meaning the Emperor’s daughter) is a cop in modern-day HK (for the first three episodes). Upon saving a wealthy businessman (played by Timothy Cheng Chi Seng), she meets Bowie (played by Ruco), also known as Bandit King. During an operation against Ruco, she gets transported back to the Qing Dynasty in a hurricane. She falls into Po-Chai’s team and initially, refuses to become one of them, believing that the pirates’ dealings are immoral. She also rejects Po-Chai’s love proposals many times because she is someone from the future. Yet, ironically, she also falls for Prince Man-ho after only a few encounters.

Performance and criticisms for her acting aside, Wong Tai-mui is one of the most memorable, likable, and well-rounded characters that TVB has produced this year. I personally have an affinity for costume dramas set in the Chinese dynasties era so perhaps the bias is there. For someone TVB is trying to promote, I’m glad TVB gave this opportunity to Grace instead of an established fadan like Tavia or Linda. It seems like Tavia is leaving TVB soon anyway, so TVB made the right investment. Even though Grace has been nominated for Best Actress for Raising the Bar, I can’t even recall her character name at this point.

Most of what people have said about Grace’s acting is true, however. I dislike her over-the-top, childish screaming, wide-eyed reactions when something daunting happens, or even when she’s too happy (Think the scene where she found out from reading her tablet that Joel is her great grand-uncle). It’s okay to take it down a notch, girl. 3/5

Kelly Fu. Although she became Ruco’s final love interest, Ha-Sim’s role was a try-hard addition to the series, not to mention it was very annoying to have to see her cause so much trouble within three days of entering the palace. Thankfully, she redeemed herself when she went along with Ruco’s naval fleet to conquering the Canton pirates and introduced Yat-hin to Man-ho. Still, sometimes it was difficult to blame her for she had loyalty, humbleness, and a self-sacrificing nature.

For the most part, like Grace, Kelly is exaggerating in many of her scenes. Both her acting and character came off as too naive, childlike, and raw. 3/5

Elaine Yiu. Selfish and calculative, Imperial Consort Yim is the Emperor’s beloved concubine. She is often at odds with Imperial Consort Shun, Man-ho’s mother and also the master she previously served under before she won the Emperor’s favor.

Elaine does have a knack for these types of role because she’s able to act careless and cold. (Think of her performance in Bottled Passion. It’s still my favorite role of hers to date.) I found Elaine’s acting eerie and uncomfortable to watch in here, however. She won Best Supporting Actress for this role in Malaysia’s Stars Awards though, so people must think otherwise. I found that her servant, Katy, did a much more natural job. I always suspected that Katy was up to something, but apparently nothing happened up to the end. 3/5

Mandy Wong. You can tell how much TVB loves Grace when Mandy is only a third or fourth supporting star here. Even Kelly had more screen time. However, given how fun it was to watch Suk-Kwan evolve, I wouldn’t exchange screen time for Ha-sim’s annoying character either. Her love story with Joel — from having him call her out on her shit (on how she gets a man’s money through prostitution) to prostituting herself to a man she’s disgusted with in order to save Joel from execution, to having to chase Joel down to marry her (insert giggles here), and finally becoming a nun so he can realize how much he really needs her — was probably the most unpredictable aspects of the storyline. I mean, after they got together, you’ll wonder if that’s their final answer.

Mandy has been blessed to play a variety of roles in her characters and Suk-Kwan is certainly a fun role for her. From being a runaway con-artist to a happy wife, she has experienced it all. 4/5

Joel Chan. Yat-hin was one of the most fun and dynamic characters to watch. As a shrewd businessman with good connections with the British, he was able to make a name for himself. Even Man-ho had to seek him out for help when getting access to cannon. Unlike Man-ho, he didn’t want the stress and politics that came with working for the government or the headaches that came with marriage.

I tipped this guy for Best Supporting Actor. Hopefully, he gets the fame he deserves for being a natural. 5/5

Overall Evaluation and The Verdict

It’s definitely one of the better series this year. Given that TVB rarely produces action-oriented/military strategies-driven dramas, if you’re a fan of those, it’s worth the time. I wouldn’t go in expecting a lot of that because it definitely has more romances or palatial struggles than anything else. Somehow, the writers always manages to find a way to slip the palatial struggle in since the War and Beauty days.

In terms of casting, Ram is your usual calm and educated behind-the-scenes strategist, Kam Kong’s Cantonese was being poked fun at, and Oceane was a miscast for her horrible Cantonese. I’m assuming that since they are trying to save Kam Kong’s Cantonese by claiming that he was born and raised outside of the China, it made sense for Oceane was also a foreign pirate.

Also, if you don’t know the story of Cheung Po-Chai it’s easy to overlook the numerous historical inaccuracies. Finally, despite being a grand production, don’t expect the green screens to be perfect. It’s not Hollywood style. Think what you saw was real, click here to confirm.