Fantasia Film Festival: Demigod: The Legend Begins (素還真) Review

Demigod: The Legend Begins

Demigod: The Legend Begins is an experience. That’s the most accurate description for a movie such as this. In Chinese culture, glove puppetry (or budaixi) was used as a form of theater. In contemporary Taiwanese culture, glove puppetry is a popular art form—especially in the Pili television series. If you’re not familiar with Pili, you might associate the film with stop-motion animation. Rightfully so. The puppets don’t appear like traditional Western puppetry. They move fluidly and feature a porcelain-doll look. 

Nevertheless, the action is still effective and has the look and feel of a traditional live-action wuxia film. The character designs are meticulously designed. The stylish costumes, jewelry, weapons, and MacGuffins are all stunning. Since Demigod: The Legend Begins doesn’t have to conform to the limitations of a theatrical stage, the film takes us to equally breathtaking locations like giant castles or magical forests and mountains. Director Chris Huang’s usage of CGI and practical effects also helps with the sense of realism they’re trying to portray. Regardless, there’s so much one can do to have audiences forget that they’re still puppets. While it’s shocking to see all of the blood and profanities coming from these characters, it simply adds to the campiness and charm of the film.


Demigod: The Legend Begins is a unique movie experience. Although the film makes you feel like you’re watching a classic wuxia film, you’re still constantly reminded of the film’s usage of glove puppetry.


Despite the unique visuals of Demigod, the elements of the story are recognizable—especially for those who frequently watch wuxia films. The young swordsman trying to prove himself, the cantankerous old master, the villain who wants nothing but absolute power, the wire work—all tropes found in martial arts fantasy films. As a result, the film progresses as one might expect with all these tropes. The plotline also suffers from a lack of development. Towards the end of the film, Demigod: The Legend Begins quickly goes through much of the supernatural element introductions without any gradual lead-ins. Despite the familiarity of the plotline, the drama never wavers. As the narrative progresses, the stakes are raised, and the mood and tone shift as well. The film gives enough time for the characters to develop through the course of the movie. Thus, Demigod will leave you feeling for these inorganic puppets.

Overall, Demigod: The Legend Begins is a unique movie experience. Although the film makes you feel like you’re watching a classic wuxia film, you’re still constantly reminded of the film’s usage of glove puppetry. No matter how you would describe Demigod: The Legend Begins, one thing is clear: It offers plenty of entertainment for those willing to give the film a chance. I’ve never known of Pili Puppetry until now. Yet, I’m eager to see what the adventures of Su Huan Jin are going to be like in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

For additional Fantasia Film Festival coverage, click here.

Facebook Comments