Kicking off with five episodes at one go, anticipated costume drama Immortal Samsara <沉香如屑> has been getting flak from disappointed viewers who pointed out its various flaws, including its predictable story, “laughable” CGI and sloppy editing, with many giving it a one-star rating.
Storyline Lacked Surprise Element
Xianxia dramas typically follow a formulaic logic where deities were forbidden from falling in love or would otherwise suffer a terrible fate – thus setting the premise for a torturous romance.
While many felt while Zanilia Zhao (麗穎與) and Wallace Huo‘s (霍建華) love trial in The Journey of Flower <花千骨> had been intriguing to watch seven years ago, the same plotline was becoming predictable and boring. Also failing to elicit surprise was drama’s recycling of the “cold male lead” with “passionate female lead” trope.
Awkward CGI Effects
Where visual effects on set are especially vital to the authenticity of costume idol dramas, Immortal Samsara also failed to make the cut. Given that Immortal Samsara was a S+ level headliner drama allocated with a bigger budget, fans were aghast at the quality of CGI onscreen.
Describing flying stunts as “uncanny”, they pointed out how characters landed “straight” on wire harnesses, appearing as though they were “taking the elevator”, and compared them to budget web dramas.
The backgrounds of scenes where deities fought each other were also compared to visuals from mediocre internet games, as fans described the background as looking “utterly fake” and wondered where the drama’s budget had ended up. Camera movements were also mocked by viewers; and the terms “more gorgeous” and “ugly” going up Weibo’s top search rankings within two hours of the drama’s premiere.
Many commented that lead actress Yang Zi‘s (楊紫) face appeared bloated, with the actress looking fatigued during close-ups, such that supporting actress Meng Ziyi (孟子義), who plays her younger sister, looked comparatively fresh-faced and more beautiful whenever they appeared in the same scenes.
As for male lead Cheng Yi (成毅), most felt that his styling was not adequately differentiated from his previous drama Love and Redemption <琉璃>, where viewers felt he performed better.
Working to Cheng Yi’s disadvantage were wide shots, which revealed his narrow shoulders. Netizens felt that he could not bring out the aura of majesty and power his emperor character should convey.
Sloppy Makeup & Editing
The drama’s post-production editing was further criticized for carelessness and inconsistency, as some scenes revealed the wrinkles of its supporting cast, but yet smoothed out its leads’ faces so much that their facial features could not be clearly seen.
Lighting was another issue as sloppy post-editing revealed the disparity between brightness of the background versus the cast’s faces. Director Guo Hu‘s (郭虎) preference for close-ups did not help as they revealed the cast’s make-up flaws, such as visible powdered stains on Yang Zi’s face during a crying scene.