The Untamed series began in 2019 in China. It is an adaptation of the famous book by the name Mo Dao Zu Shi which literally translates to “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation”. Upon its release, it became an instant sensation in China. Unexpectedly it soon gained global acclaim. Across nations, critics became admirers of this series. Even in countries with no Chinese speakers, the film retained its value, the question here is how?
The Untamed is the symbol of the fact that movies are not bound by their language. Subtitles can take you very far, evidently. The underlying fact here is that. The visuals combined with the cultural appeal and exceptional cast made the language barrier seem like only a small obstacle. The Untamed was one the highest-earning dramas of 2019, bringing in profits of more than 97.87 million Yuan all credits to its amazing creation.
The plot revolves around two characters Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. They both respectively represent the evil and the good, the tainted and the sacred and the dark and the light. None of them however are the antagonist. In fact, they represent the two sources that maintain the balance of the universe almost like Yin and Yang. Wei Wuxian is a member of the Jiang sect that later on becomes the master of demons. Lan Wangji is the dutiful and righteous member of the Lan sect protecting the world from evil forces. Sixteen years after Wei Wuxian’s death he is feared and is reborn in another body. What happened in those sixteen years? Why were they separated? Why did Wei Wuxian die? Why did Xaunyu invoke him? Those are the questions is seeks to answer.
Pre-production process alone took two and a half years; including the modification of the script, writing process and art concept. Many substantial changes had to be made to the series including changing the relationship of two leaders. The original novel was written in a flashback fashion which had to be again amended to suit better narration. Before the production process, all the actors had to take etiquette and martial arts training, in order to retain the fantastical aspect of the book.
The casting procedure especially appealed to the fans of the show and the novel. Both Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were beloved characters even before the release. It was important to have actors who will embody the two, as they are the main driving force of the story. Wang Yibo was selected to play the character of Lan Wangji. It was later revealed that it was because of their shared “cold demeanour”. Rightly so, as Yibo had quite the tsundere reputation.
The designing, visuals and costumes brought to the show its rich cultural element. The globe was able to familiarize it with a heritage about which it had known little. This indeed is a very active and amazing way to familiarize oneself with other cultures. The costumes for the Lan sect were influenced by the Song Dynasty while other dynastical designs were used for every different sect. The best part was perhaps the fact that the costume itself talked a lot about the character and their associations. Using fashion and costume as symbols was a wise idea by the show. For example, the Lan sect full of rules and restrictions had to flare long wings. While Wei Wuxian had tied and more practical sleeves. It was a euphemism for how the Lan rules tied and held back its members while the Wei Wuxian was more liberal and free to act giving them an advantage in battle.
Bless the soul that created the visual and set structure for The Untamed. Every set was more remarkable than the last from the Lan palace to the largest battle, it was as impeccable as they come. Colour scheme was used with wisdom speaking volumes about both characters and the storyline. Untamed was perhaps a lesson on how to use visuals to aid script and character development.
Often when shows and movies are created on the premise of a book it becomes disappointing. This is because of the inability to preserve the originality of the idea. Untamed faced a similar challenge. In the original text, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian are lovers but due to a Chinese ban on the depiction of LGBT characters, this had to be changed.
Instead of however completely changing their relationship, it was made a subtext. It was neither out rightly nor were windows closed. They repeatedly refer to each other as soulmates, risk their lives for each other and in a very surprising element, Wei Wuxian is allowed to touch Wangji’s headband that only partners can touch. This was something fans could appreciate.
It is very rare that we come across TV series that leave behind such impact and are almost perfectly created. They become exemplary in a sense of how we can use visual media to say so much more than just what is obvious. They are a reminder that there was so much that we could not be part of, that there is so much we are missing out on. It reminds us to keep an open mind of whatever we see and do.