Length: 116 minutes
Director: Zhao Ji
Cast: Yang Tianxiang, Zhang He, Xuan Xiaoming
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles
Theatrical release date: 18 February 2021 (Singapore); streaming on Netflix soon.
3.5 out of 5 stars
New Gods: Nezha Reborn spins a story about a young deliveryman Li Yunxiang (Yang Tianxiang), which happens over 2000 years after Nezha conquered the East Sea Dragon King (Xuan Xiaoming).
Yunxiang comes from the slum, and enjoys motorcycle racing and fixing his ride. His peaceful life is disrupted when the arrogant third son of the wealthy Boss De snatches away his beloved motorcycle, and wounds his innocent, sister-like friend Kasha. His anger runs out of control, which leads to the discovery of his hidden fiery power: he shares the same body as Nezha.
In order to master and realise the full potential of his newfound power, Yunxiang enlists the help of a mysterious masked man (Zhang He). It is also later made known to Yunxiang that Boss De is actually the East Sea Dragon King Ao Guang, and his third son is the dragon prince Ao Bing, who Nezha killed in his previous life. As a form of revenge and to prevent history from repeating itself, the East Sea Dragon Clan is bent on exterminating all of Nezha’s afterlives.
From the same director and animation studio as White Snake (2019), New Gods: Nezha Reborn is yet another adaptation of the 16th century Chinese novel The Investiture Of The Gods. Although similar, it should not be confused with the 2019 Ne Zha animated film, directed and written by Jiaozi.
Regardless, the animation is comparable, especially during the fighting scenes when Nezha shows himself as a towering, blazing giant. The battles also do not disappoint and will keep the audience’s eyes glued to the silver screen. Although the Red Armillary Sash and the Fire-tipped Spear (well-known weapons of Nezha) made an appearance in the film, I honestly thought that they would somehow convert Yunxiang’s motorcycle into Nezha’s Wind Fire Wheels. But that, obviously and sadly, did not come true.
As the plot is referenced from The Investiture Of The Gods, it is not difficult to guess what will happen next if you know the story. However, it is still enjoyable to watch how key events play out in a different rendition. As for the mysterious masked man, pay attention to his little antics and you will be able to guess who he is — which can be quite satisfying when you get it right.
At the end of the movie, there are two end-credits scenes after the first and second credit rolls. Both shed light on the upcoming films: one is on The Investiture Of The Gods, which will likely feature Yang Jian, better known as Erlang Shen; and another is on the sequel to the 2019 White Snake, which will feature the Green Snake.
New Gods: Nezha Reborn is an interesting take on the Chinese novel The Investiture Of The Gods, with a relatively modern spin to it. The animated film is definitely a family-friendly movie that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike this Chinese New Year.