A Re-telling of The Butterfly Lovers 2008

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most random of places, the most unexpected of moments. Instead of toiling away this afternoon, I took a long short break that somehow ended with me finally watching the 2008 movie adapation of the legend of Liang Zhu, also known as The Butterfly Lovers (武俠梁祝). I think it was a Zhong Wu Yen tangent actually, one Chinese folk legend leads to another. And perhaps a Sungkyunkwan Scandal tangent as well, as that story is about 99% inspired by the legendary and inglorious love affair that never was between Liang Shan Buo and his cross-dressing scholar roommate Zhu Ying Tai.

Let me preface by saying the Liang Zhu love affair was probably all love and no affair, as likely these two barely grazed hands before all hell broke loose. The story itself I find both lame and intrigiung. Lame because for the most part the hero is dorky and had a weak constitution – how can I cheer for that? Intriguing because it was a teenage cross-dressing tale set in the Jin Dynasty, like 1000 years ago, with a daring and feminist heroine. Too bad the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet ended…..just like its Italian counterpart.

The latest adaptation of the Liang Zhu story was an idol re-imaging of the story set not in the scholarly world but in the wuxia world. Omo, it’s like my fanfiction come true! Normally I’d be all rabid over this movie when it aired, but I was busy with life and just never got around to watching it. The fact that the movie starred Taiwan’s #1 Robot Wu Zun didn’t exactly spur me to camp outside the movie theaters. But I always found lead acress Charlene Choi to be entertaining, in small doses.

Anyways, long story short, I watched this baby this afternoon and it was like a hallelujah moment descended upon me. I simply HAD to post about it. And not in any review or recap format, this sucker was begging for the minstrel treatment. I hereby bring you: The Butterfly Lovers according to a koala high on happy leaves.

Before I begin, just in case anyone thinks I hated this movie, au contraire, I loved it! It was singularly one of the stupidest movies I have watched in a long time, and totally enjoyable for the combination of gorgeous eye candy and the worst screenplay and direction the HK side of Uwe Boll. Verdict: this is a movie best enjoyed via screencaps for the pretteh, which is what I’m going to bring you.

A Story Told In Screencaps:

A fair maiden once lived, so fair she wanted to be free – so she decided to cross-dress and become a boy.

A dashing young warrior once lived, so robotic he wanted to feel alive – so he decided to get drunk and engage in some street fights.

They meet cute on the streets, in the midst of a brawl so fierce everyone had time to put on some extra sunscreen and pose a little first.

Our lady-in-disguise shows up at a training facility to learn some wuxia, and no one suspects she’s a gal mainly because the eldest disciple is prettier than she is.

The dynamic duo is born, otherwise known as the pretty one and the tomboy.

Look at my fist, isn’t it just as pretty as the rest of me?

Yes, that is the very look a girl trying to pretend she’s a boy should be looking at another man with – it screams “what kind of moisturizer are you using?”

Oh, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know you were topless in here, despite the sign outside which reads “I am topless in here.”

And I totally didn’t realize that you like to bath outside naked either, even though this time you forgot to wash your hair. Need some help?

Can you PLEASE stop barging in everytime I’m about to disrobe, you have the oddest timing, roomie.

Darning our own clothes is a technique we teach here, it allows us to get in touch with our feminine side.

Do you really have to leave? But we were just getting to know each other. The next big milestone is bathing in the lake together. Don’t faint now!

I’m so glad you’re cool with me piggybacking you, the other guys would rather swallow a sword than get on my back.

What? You’re a girl? I never suspected! But will you wear this butterfly hairpiece for me, because I just realized that I wuv you.

What? This other dude is forcing my honey to marry him! Grrr, but we’ve got matching butterflies on my sword. She’s my soulllllmate.

Look how awesome I am fighting an entire magisterial army. Me lookee good holding sword.

Out of my way, minions. Nothing stands between a man and the man-woman he loves!

Hhhmm, that didn’t go so well. Got hurtz, a lot. Thankfully nothing marred my perfect face, whew. But back to my dahhhhling, what should I do?

Girlfriend say what? You don’t love me? You just liked looking at my ridiculously cut body? You are such a tease! Argh.

I’m so silly, she does love me, but she’s being forced to marry a douchebag. I need to rethink my strategy – better to just off one dude, the bad fiancee! You may have a bigger sword but I have a bigger….love for her.

[Inside Hu Ge’s mind: Shit, what I am doing here, playing an obsessive domestic violence prone second male lead. I am Guo Jing, dammit! And I’m playing second fiddle to a robot. Sigh, back to making crazy jealous face.]

She’s dead! You caused her death! But I still want her, so stop being such a killjoy and staring at me, and lemme go with her.

[Inside Wu Zun’s head: Don’t think, just throw you head back and scream, apparently that means rabid grief. Don’t worry, you still look gorgeous.]

Where am I going? I don’t know, a place where carrying a dead body isn’t freakish and disturbing.

Oh wait! Maybe she’s not really dead? Why didn’t I try the kiss of life yet. Kissing pronto! Forgets that I have gaping neck wound that is gushing blood.

Well, that’s didn’t so much work. I guess we’ll always have the alterna-universe where we lived happily ever after in a wonderland.

The End.

Since the legend of Liang Zhu was a Chinese folkstory, modern adaptations – whether in dramas, movies, operas, ballets, or even musicals – have taken liberties with the bare-bones story. The Butterfly Lovers 2008 is no exception. And my rendition of the movie took those exceptions even further. What really happened was the Zhu Ying Tai wanted to become learned, so she enrolled in a institution. On her way there, she met Liang Shan Buo and they got along so well they pledged to become blood brothers.

At the school, they were best friends and roommates, for THREE years, while Zhu fell in love but Liang remained oblivious to her true gender. She was summoned home one day, and before she left she told him to come to her house and she will introduce him to her “sister.” When he arrived, he realized the “sister” was his roommate all along, and they pledged their troth. But when it was revealed that Zhu was betrothed to another man, Liang fell ill, went home and promptly died, of heartbreak or a wimpy constitution, we shall never know.

On her wedding day, the wedding procession passed by Liang’s grave, and Zhu got out of the paladin to go weep at his untimely passing. At which time the grave opened up and she hurled herself into it and the grave closed back up. So the lovers died, and two butterflies emerged from the grave, symbolizing the freedom and unity this pair of star-crossed lovers found at last. Be it that the subtext of the story (a woman burying herself alive over the death of a guy) is thoroughly repugnant, it’s a folk legend and I’m not going to quibble with them folks.

In the last two decades, the Butterfly Lovers has hit the big screen twice, and the small screen twice as well. The more notable ones include:

Nicky Wu and Charlie Yeung in 1994 with the Tsui Hark movie The Lovers;


and Peter Ho and Angel Dong did it in 2007 with a mainland drama. I liked but didn’t love the former, and won’t touch the latter with a 20 foot pole.

In the end, watching The Butterfly Lovers 2008 was very entertaining, with its weird execution, terrible dialogue, ridiculous pacing – but all of it tempered with a very intriguing concept and a cast that may not have aced any acting lessons, but at least looked pretty enough it make it all worthwhile. I would only recommend watching this movie if you (1) are a Wu Zun fangirl, (2) have a delightful sense of the absurd, or (3) love wuxia-izing eveything.

[credit: screencaps are as identified, the rest are from online news articles]


A Re-telling of The Butterfly Lovers 2008 — 14 Comments

  1. Heard of this movie way back when it first came out but had, and still don’t have any desire to check it out. But your story told in screencaps is brilliant! ahahhaahhaahh

  2. ^^ omo your picture storytelling is hillariously funny – LOVE it. As I already stated in another comment on this site, Wu Zun definitly is the love of my life and of course I had to watch this movie soon after it came out. So I still love Wu Zun, I just wish he could really become a better actor, he’s trying so hard to be one… 🙂 but at the moment I’m ok with only looking at his face….body…aaaaargh damn it he’s hot.
    Anyway thanks for this post!!!

  3. random? lol… that’s what i thought when i first saw the title of this post…i was like “didn’t i watch this movie a few years ago? or time went more slowly than i thought?” in my defense, i only read the butterfly lovers part and then got distracted my the pretty picture… had to doubleback to read the 2008 part. haha.
    anyways, another tale i wasn’t exactly a fan of just because the ending sucked. not exactly the happily-ever-after story (ON EARTH, LIVING, AS A HUMAN, that is). however, i’m definitely drawn to it since i saw all adaptations of it, from the oldish and sometimes horrible and cheap versions, and sometimes really good, to the newest one with peter ho. frankly speaking, i know wu zun is the main lead but i watched it purely for huge… the guy is not particularly brilliant but i LOVE him to death… he has that characteristic that makes him very likeable to me. a bit like what i feel for jimmy lin, but more so. i think i liked him in almost all of his dramas (that somehow end up being SO LONG… what about my time?)
    anyways, this movie was all very pretty… flash and all. um, i was entertained but i don’t know, at the end of the day, if i LIKED it or not… definitely not the worse, but maybe not the best.
    anyways, it was so PRETTY it didnt matter much. XD plus, correct me if i’m wrong, but that’s the only time we actually get to see wu zun in period costume. and charlene choi wasn’t half-bad. she’s never been my favorite actress but i don’t dislike her either. in fact, she’s quite likeable. overrated though. and i’m sad about what happened with gillian so i cut her some slack.
    anyways, LOVE your post… it was unpredictable and resfreshing.

    • oh… and 1)i’m definitely no a wu zun fangirl… although i AM a wu zun completist… the result is almost the same but there is a distinction there… i think? 2)i hate the absurb… but somehow, i stomach it again and again, and can’t get away from it… i guess i learned how to after watching so many of those weird wuxia stuff they throw around these days, like a whole LOT of hu ge’s dramas, or *cough* some jin yong’s adaptations *cough* 3)yeah… that’s me right there.

  4. Ahahahaha.

    I adored the movie – so pretty and angsty and I definitely am a Wu Zun fangirl – I can’t say it was the best-written movie ever though 😛

  5. The only reason why I watched this two years ago was because 1) There was nothing to do on the 13-hour long airplane ride, 2) It’s a Wu-Xia film 3) The hopes of seeing some major eye-candy.

    Lol. I’m not a fan but he was basically the only person besides Charlene Choi that I knew in this movie. But yeah…it was a pretty entertaining, albeit a rough ride.

  6. Can I just enjoy the BL story crossover with wuxia?! (enjoying more the wuxia)
    I have a very weird ‘ability’/pet peeve of pretty robot hate, and how ingeniously economical they are with textiles does not impress me. I find them yawnfest as in I completely lost interest in staring after ~ 5s, and regress into throwing things when said robot knowingly winks he’s hottest non living thing in the universe….maybe I’m spooked w/ pretty pieces of wood that is not furniture?!?! yeah, the fact that he can’t act if it’ll trigger an armageddon yet tries so very hard makes me cringe. It’s the same cringing I had when noraebanging w/ my gfs and they are totally offkey, tone deaf yet try so ridiculously hard and only relief is they have fab day jobs and I’m showing my bottomless love for them to endure. (Sorry, grinchy’s here.)

    And if HuGe was trying to stretch his acting, and impressed us along the way. This has the exact opposite effect. I like the boy, and he has some talent, but I cant love him if he’s picking roles that pronounces his shortcomings or any period stuff. He should be in suits and suits only.

  7. “You may have a bigger sword, but I have a bigger…love for her.” Hahahahaha yup that just about sums it up.

    I couldn’t finish this movie. (Same director as the recent Mulan film, which wasn’t nearly as bad as this but still problematic.) I really liked the Tsui Hark 1994 one, though.

    • I have little to no problems with Jingle Ma as a cinematographer (he’s quite excellent actually). I have HUGE problems with Jingle Ma as a director. Yup, Mulan also got bit by the Jingle bug.

      • yep… i saw mulan and i agree… jingle ma as director is not exactly my cup of tea. and lol. it’s the first time i heard of jingle bug but love the expression.
        plus, i’m probably going to get killed for this but i think zhao wei is overrated. don’t get me wrong, i don’t dislike vicki, i think she’s a good seasoned actress. i just don’t think she’s that great either.

  8. Yes, that is the very look a girl trying to pretend she’s a boy should be looking at another man with – it screams “what kind of moisturizer are you using?”

    *dead* I think “HK version of Uwe Boll” pretty much summarizes what this guy has done with this movie.

    You know, I’ve only ever seen pretty caps and hyped up news articles about this movie, but never got around to watching it either. And now you’ve provided caps AND saved me 2hrs! This way, I can admire Wu Zun’s very fine bod without actually having to listen to him trying to deliver his lines 😛 Those choco-abs just reiterate how perfect he’d be as Night in Zettai Kareshi, and his robotic tendencies will finally find a place to bloom.

  9. ROFL! My favorite part was “In Hu Ge’s mind.” When I first saw the poster I was like it couldn’t be Hu Ge, there’s no way…but yet there he was. Thanks for the lovely screencaps and the recap 🙂

  10. I just LOLd so hard over this one and i even missed my lunch over this article of yours…I love it! (Not watching this thing, btw, just gonna prolly recommend it to some rabid Wu Zun fangirl I know)

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