Describing Wuershan’s Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms to an audience that has never heard of the film seems futile. No words will do proper justice to the complete wall-to-wall insanity that the picture carries for 148 incredible minutes, though we may begin with contextualization.
The film is an adaptation of Xu Zhonglin’s Investiture of the Gods and is the first in a planned trilogy. Production started in 2018, with all three films shot back-to-back. Director Wuershan allegedly consulted with Peter Jackson to approach the trilogy, and from there, the films were billed as China’s Lord of the Rings.
It seems reductive to compare it to Jackson’s adaptations of Lord of the Rings, and it is, but the similarities are there in the sense that it blends old-school period cinema techniques with mythological sensibilities. I won’t call myself an expert on Chinese mythology, but Wuershan’s aesthetic skills are highly drawn from what made Jackson’s mythological tales memorable.
The movie begins as an old-fashioned epic, where soldiers attempt to siege a fortress. The scene is simple enough, but how Wuershan and cinematographer Wang Yu stage the scene immediately hooks you into the film’s multiple lived-in worlds. The dizzying IMAX cinematography puts us in the soldiers’ shoes as they’re shrouded by flames and begin to lose their perceptible skills, only for Yin Shou (Kris Phillips) to pick them up.
Then, the movie gets into the fantasy realm, though explaining the intricacies of the plot may prove far too elaborate in this review, but here’s what you need to know: A curse has befallen all the realms after a Crown Prince inexplicably kills the King (and gets killed), leading Shou to become the new King of All Realms. But he becomes infatuated with power, as his concubine, a demon-fox-possessed Daji (Naran), manipulates him behind his back, and a curse befalls the realms.
This leads Jiang Ziya (Huang Bo), an Immortal from Kunlun, to intervene and deliver the Fengshen Bang to the King, a MacGuffin who promises the curse to be lifted. However, once Ziya realizes that the King is mad for power and will use the Fengshen Bang to his advantage, he starts to doubt, and a cat-and-mouse game begins between the Immortals and Yin Shou’s army.
Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms Suffers from Some Part One Pitfalls But Remains Entertaining
That was a mouthful to explain, and there’s so much more to discover inside Wuershan’s 148-minute-long first part. At times, it does suffer from the pitfalls of many part ones, with exposition dumps carrying most of the first half and many unresolved plot threads by the end of the movie (with two post-credit scenes setting up the next part). However, the exposition never once feels like exposition. Wuershan and co-writers Ran Ping, Ran Jianan, and Cao Sheng always find new ways to invest audiences within the storytelling: each expository-driven scene feels important in setting up the main conflicts and the multiple worlds that inhabit the film.
However, it gets complicated when the film introduces new characters every second, with a text accompanying who that person is. By the film’s end, you’ll only remember the core characters: the King, the sons, the Immortals, and the fathers. They were the only ones that mattered for this picture, even if it KEEPS introducing MORE characters (with text) during its post-credit scenes! That’s something we rarely see in Western blockbusters nowadays, but Wuershan seems so confident that audiences will want more that he keeps his film continuously moving, delivering exposition at a breakneck pace and making each character feel important within the story’s context, even if many make fleeting appearances.
Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is Epic Beyond Compare
Even with those slight nitpicks, Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is a continuously entertaining and awe-inspiring spectacle. The aforementioned opening action scene is just a taste of what the movie has to offer, and it gets even crazier when Nezha (the best part of the movie, played by Wu Yafan) and Yang Jian (Cisha) show up and start to incorporate their magic, while Jang Ziya keeps forgetting he traded his powers for mortality. Wuershan crafts copious amounts of action involving the immortals, at times comedic and indescribably mind-melting, and other more dramatic sequences where the emotional involvement runs at its highest.
Every action setpiece is also a massive improvement upon the last one — Wuershan takes time to introduce the aesthetic and the visual effects before crafting more elaborate sequences, but they get crazier as the runtime progresses. There’s no describing the multiple mental backflips I had while watching the movie, whether it was when Nezha would roll with their fire wheels in the sky when Yang Jian cut a log while walking on it in midair, or when the two immortals carried a beheaded body in the sky while multiple armies attack them on the ground. This picture has no shortage of show-stopping action scenes, which should be seen on the largest possible screen.
As I said in the beginning, putting my viewing experience of Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms is a futile endeavor. No words can describe how massive this thing is, let alone a fraction of the scale. There’s no denying that Wuershan is one of the most imaginative directors working in China today, and he fills his runtime with eye-popping action, lavish worlds, and well-developed characters that coming out of the film wanting more will not be hard for anyone who likes to experience pure imagination. Bring on Parts 2 and 3.
Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms will have special IMAX screenings on 9/20 and 9/21 before making its way to theaters on 9/22. What did you think of the movie? Have you heard of Investiture of the Gods before? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on social media!