Donnie Yen achieves his ambition to build a wuxia cinematic universe

News of a new film based on a classic wuxia novel produced by and starring action megastar Donnie Yen caught the eye during the 75th Cannes Film Festival in France.

A concept art for “Śakra”, released during the Cannes Film Festival in France. [Image courtesy of Wishart Communication]

Called “Śakra,” concept art for the production presented in an Indian ink painting style was released during the festival, with media including flagship entertainment publication The Hollywood Reporter picking up the story. The film is a new adaptation of “Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils,” a massively popular wuxia novel written by legendary Chinese novelist Louis Cha, also known as Jin Yong, from 1963.

The film’s story will focus on martial arts hero Qiao Feng, leader of the beggar clan and one of the central figures in “Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils.” Cha said Qiao Feng was one of his own favorite creations because he represents a true Chinese hero. Yen will not only play the lead role in the film, but also act as the executive producer of the project.

Yen had starred in many hits, such as the “Ip Man” franchise and the crime blockbuster “Raging Fire”, as well as several Hollywood tentpoles, including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”, “Mulan” and the upcoming “John Wick: Chapter 4”.

The novel “Demi-gods and semi-demons”, also known as “Eight Books of the Celestial Dragon” in Chinese, draws major characters from the eight races of demi-gods and semi-demons depicted in Indian Buddhist cosmology . This is also where the inspiration for the film’s title, “Śakra”, comes from. As one of the best-selling works of martial arts fiction of all time, the story has been successfully adapted for films and television series many times throughout the nearly six decades since its creation. The most recent film adaptation was Andy Chin’s “Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountain” in 1994, starring Brigitte Lin and Gong Li, while the latest television series adaptation was released in 2003 and stars Hu Jun, Jimmy Lin and Liu Yifei. .

Yen said one of the problems with adapting wuxia is that the genre features many novels and fictional heroes, but lacks a unified universe. Its ambition is therefore to build a Chinese wuxia universe, using the story of Qiao Feng as a franchise starter in order to promote the Chinese wuxia spirit. In the future, the character may also encounter other classic wuxia heroes in the universe, much like “The Avengers” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Chinese studio Wishart will produce the project, while famed action stunt coordinator and longtime Yen collaborator Kenji Tanigaki will serve as action director. It is not yet known when the film will be released or which other actors will join the cast. International distribution of “Śakra” is handled by Plus Entertainment Limited.

Kimberly B. Nguyen