Big Fish & Begonia (2016)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

It’s long been said that heaven is in the sky, somewhere far above the clouds. In reality, however, it is deep beneath the sea, in a place where fish can fly, and ocean waves float above mountains. The inhabitants of this place, the Others, as they call themselves, have special abilities, controlling wind, fire, plant life and so on. And when they turn sixteen, they must undergo a rite of passage, wherein they live in the human world for seven days as a fish. Chun is one of these Others and, come time for her rite of passage, she goes out into the human world as a red dolphin. While exploring, however, she gets caught in a net, and is  saved by a human boy, who drowns in the process. Full of guilt, Chun returns to her world, and begs the keeper of souls to resurrect the boy. The Keeper agrees, but only if Chun gives up half her life-span. Chun does so, and is given the boy’s soul, which, in this realm, is a little baby fish, which she must nurture until it is grown enough to fly back up to the human world. Unfortunately for her, the boy’s presence in her realm throws everything out of order, and, soon, all the Others come after her and the little fish.

Big Fish & Begonia is a film that I never would have heard of, were it not for my girlfriend. And I am so glad she told me about it, because, this movie is INSANE. Seriously! The creativity with which this world is drawn cannot be compared. Imagine if, instead of letting M Night Shyamalan do his garbage live-action adaptation, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender had made a big-budget, feature length animated movie. That’s the general look and feel of this film. The landscapes are breathtaking, the character movements are fluid, and the way that magic looks in this world is superb. This film was a huge hit when it came out in China back in 2016, and I can understand why. If movies are all about escapism, about taking you to another plane, this film does that in spades. It’ll be getting a North American release in April, so, if you want to watch something creative and beautiful, give this flick a look.

But go in with tempered expectations. As pretty as this film is, it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. And it all comes down to poor, and I mean poor, storytelling. Characters who you think will be important get introduced, only to disappear halfway through, the rules of magic drastically change from scene to scene,  and the main protagonist, Chun, not only doesn’t grow, but is kind of unlikable. What I mean by that is, she constantly makes drastic, highly risky decisions, like giving up half her lifespan to save a boy she doesn’t know, or forcing her grandfather to use his last bit of magic to save another boy (yeah, she gets another kid killed), and even keeping the fish in her home after she realizes that his presence there is actively destroying her world. Throughout the story, she constantly puts other people in danger because of her selfish need to not feel guilty, and she never really faces any consequences for that. That’s not good. And, like I said, the rules of magic constantly change throughout this story. First, Chun needs to raise the soul fish until it is big enough to return to the human world. Then, for some reason, the fish can’t return to the human world, because, if it does, she will die. But then, oh no, the fish does need to return to the human world, because its presence in the magical realm is actively destroying it. Ugh! The inconsistency of the mythology is truly mind-boggling. This is almost like an animated version of House Of Flying Daggers, where it’s a story that only makes sense to the eye. Speaking of House Of Flying Daggers, this film also has a love-triangle in it. Fortunately, neither of the male leads try to rape Chun (thank god), but, the love-triangle aspect is also highly frustrating. See, Chun loves the fish boy, whom she names Kun, but another boy, Qiu, loves Chun. And, throughout the story, Qiu does everything in his power to help her. I mean he bends over backwards for her. And, in the end, not only does he not get to be with Chun, he winds up dying in the process of helping them escape. And when Chun and Kun return to the human world, there’s no mention of Qiu or his sacrifice at all. The hell, man? Why include that subplot if you’re not even going to acknowledge it? Sigh.

But, like I said before, this film is truly visionary with regards to its animation. And the fact that it is a big budget Chinese animated film, which you don’t see very often, makes it extra special. So, go ahead and watch it for the visuals, but don’t expect much else.

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