Ne Zha (2019 film)
|Mandarin||Nézhā zhī Mótóng Jiàngshì|
|Literally||Birth of the demon child Nezha|
|Based on||Investiture of the Gods|
by Xu Zhonglin
|Music by||Wan Pin Chu|
Chengdu Coco Cartoon
|Distributed by||Beijing Enlight Pictures|
|Box office||$710.51 million|
Ne Zha (Chinese: 哪吒之魔童降世; pinyin: Nézhā zhī Mótóng Jiàngshì; literally: 'Birth of the demon child Nezha'), also spelt as Nezha, is a 2019 Chinese 3D computer animation fantasy adventure film directed and written by Jiaozi. Its animation production is done by the director's own Chengdu Coco Cartoon. Featuring the popular Chinese mythological character Nezha, the plot is loosely based on the classic novel Investiture of the Gods, attributed to Xu Zhonglin.
It was released in China exclusively in IMAX and China Film Giant Screen theatres on 13 July 2019, followed by other theatres on 26 July, distributed by Beijing Enlight Pictures. It is the first Chinese-produced animated feature released in IMAX format, and, despite being the debut feature of its director and animation studio, and having no widely-known actors in its voice cast, it has been one of the biggest commercial successes in the history of animation and that of Chinese cinema, setting numerous records for box-office grosses: as of August 2019, the film is the highest-grossing animated film in China, the worldwide highest-grossing non-U.S. animated film and the second worldwide highest-grossing non-English-language film of all time. With a gross of over $710 million, it is the 8th highest-grossing film of 2019, as well as the 2nd highest-grossing film of all time in China.
It began a North American release on 29 August 2019 in select IMAX 3D theatres, before a nationwide rollout on 6 September.
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A Chaos Pearl, birthed from primordial essences, began to siphon energies gluttonously. Tianzun dispatched his disciples Taiyi Zhenren, a portly Taoist immortal riding on a flying pig steed and Shen Gongbao to subdue the sentient pearl. Due to its ability to absorb energy, Taiyi and Shen's are unable to gain the upper hand. Eventually Yuanshi Tianzun contains the Chaos Pearl in his heavenly stove, separating the pearl into two opposite components: the Spirit Pearl and the Demon Orb. Tianzun places a heavenly curse upon it: in three years time it will be destroyed by a powerful lightning strike. Tianzun then instructs Taiyi to take the Spirit Pearl to be reincarnated as the third son of Li Jing, to be named Ne Zha.
Shen conspires to steal the Spirit Pearl and in the ensuing battle, the Demon Orb is placed on the ritual altar instead, causing Li Jing's pregnant wife Lady Yin to give birth to a child, Ne Zha, whose demonic nature is apparent. Ne Zha's parents refuse to allow their son to be killed. Taiyi tells them that Ne Zha's fate is sealed: in three years' time the heavenly curse placed upon the Demonic Orb will kill him regardless. Li travels to Heaven with Taiyi in an attempt to plead for Ne Zha's life, but is told that the curse is unremovable.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Shen stole the Spirit Pearl for the Dragon King to reincarnate as his son, Ao Bing. The dragons resent their role as jailers of the Heavenly Court and being confined to a hellish existence on the ocean floor. It is hoped that through the blessed nature of a son born from the Spirit Pearl that dragon kind would be deemed worthy by Heaven, allowing the dragons to ascend. The Dragon King allows Shen to take Ao Bing as a student.
To tame his demonic nature and to make him happy, his parents lie to him that he is born of the Spirit Pearl and destined to be a great demon hunter. Ne Zha studies under Taiyi and acquires great skills. Eventually becoming impatient, the impetuous Ne Zha escapes his confines to hunt demons. While chasing a water demon, he burns down a fishing village. Ao Bing also comes to fight the demon, but is eventually defeated. Ne Zha cleverly overcomes the water demon and rescues both Ao Bing and a little girl, but is nevertheless misunderstood by the townsfolk. In a rage, Ne Zha lashes out at the villagers, hurting many of them.
Since Ne Zha is destined to die by lightning on his third birthday, his mother wants him to be happy in his final days. The Li household organizes a lavish birthday party for their son, inviting a nervous town to attend. Shen visits Ne Zha before the party, revealing the truth of his nature to him. Angry and upset, Ne Zha unleashes his true demonic form and nearly kills his father. Ao Bing helps return Ne Zha to his usual form and regain his consciousness. Feeling betrayed, Ne Zha leaves to await his fate.
Shen says that if his deceit is revealed to Taizun then not only will he be punished, all of dragon kind will be condemned forever. Ao Bing, not wanting to betray his kind, decides to bury the town alive under a massive sheet of ice so there are no witnesses. Meanwhile, Ne Zha learns that while visiting Heaven to plead for his life, his father sought an enchantment that would allow him to trade his life for Ne Zha's. Moved by his father's sacrifice, Ne Zha returns to the village to stop Ao Bing. Eventually unleashing his full demonic form, Ne Zha defeats Ao Bing but spares his life, calling him his only friend.
When the heavenly lightning approaches, Ne Zha surrenders to his fate but is unexpectedly joined by Ao Bing. Linking hands, they unleash the power of the Chaos Pearl, which has the ability to absorb energy. Their mortal bodies prove too weak to contain the energy of the strike. Taiyi joins the fray, saving their souls in his Lotus Artifact. The lightning strike is contained, saving the town. Though their bodies are destroyed, the townsfolk kneel before Ao Bing and Ne Zha in their spirit forms.
- Lü Yanting as the child Nezha, son of Li Jing and Madam Yin.
- Joseph as the adolescent Nezha.
- Han Mo as Ao Bing, the Dragon King's third son.
- Chen Hao as Li Jing, the chief who governs Chentangguan. He becomes a noble father willing to sacrifice his own life to rescue his son Nezha.
- Lü Qi as Madam Yin, Nezha's mother.
- Zhang Jiaming as Taiyi Zhenren, Nezha's master, a Taoist immortal who lives on the Kunlun.
- Yang Wei as Shen Gongbao.
The film tells the mythological origins of Nezha, who is a protection deity in Chinese folk religion, and its story is loosely based on the Investiture of the Gods, a Ming-dynasty shenmo novel, traditionally attributed to Xu Zhonglin, which incorporates various existing myths into a wider narrative.
Nezha has appeared in films at least as early as in two Hong Kong martial arts films that were both released in 1950. and the myth of his magical birth and adventures as a child has been adapted for the screen many times before, whether on its own (as in the 1979 traditionally-animated feature film Nezha Conquers the Dragon King) or as part of adaptations of the whole of Investiture of the Gods (such as the 2016 live-action film League of Gods).
The film has more than 1,318 special effects shots, and it took over 20 Chinese special effects studios, employing more than 1,600 people, to realize the film's fairy tale setting, the mysterious Dragon King's Palace, and a stunning fight between fire and water. One scene alone took two months to complete.
Executive production company and distributor Beijing Enlight Pictures premiered Ne Zha on 11 July 2019 in Beijing, followed by an encore on 12 July. The film was given a limited release in IMAX and China Film Giant Screen premium large format theatres on 13 July, and was released nationwide on 26 July.
On 7 August 2019, Ne Zha became the fastest animated film to reach $400 million (in 12 days) in a single market, overtaking The Lion King (2019) (14 days). It is currently the highest-grossing animated film of all time in a single market ($703.71 million in China) overtaking Incredibles 2 (2018) ($608.5 million in North America), the highest-grossing non-Disney or Pixar animated film in a single market, overtaking Shrek 2 (2004) ($441.2 million in North America), and the highest-grossing non-English spoken animated film, overtaking Spirited Away (2001) ($361.1 million worldwide). Upon reaching $700 million (in 46 days), it became the first ever animated feature film in film history to reach that milestone in a single market.
In Australia, it was released on 22 August 23 and in New Zealand on 29 August, distributed in both by CMC Pictures.
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 80% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 7.15/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100 based on 4 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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- The name is romanized as Ne Zha on the film's title card but as "Nezha" in the official English subtitles when referring to the character, and also on the U.S. poster and in the U.S. trailer.
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