Revive: Reincarnation of the Superstar
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I recently watched the Chinese drama Revive: Reincarnation of the Superstar, which starred Ma Ke as the titular superstar. The drama aired on iQiyi from March to May of 2016 and was 16 episodes in length. Ma Ke played the characters of Mu Zi Che/Du Fei/Yun Xiu; I will call him by all of these names, and which name depends on the characters he is interacting with at that moment. Zhang Xingyu played Liu Yi, the actress in love with Mu Zi Che. Xu Hai Qiao played Feng Jing, ESE’s creative/art director hellbent on making Yun Xiu into a superstar. Han Chae Young played Lin Xuan, the woman in ‘love’ with Du Fei, the man before the reincarnation. Thai actor Mawat Kulrattanarak played Xie Yi, the traitorous best friend.
Revive: Reincarnation of the Superstar is a story about an actor named Du Fei rising to the level of a superstar with the help of those around him. It is Du Fei’s story of overcoming betrayal, secrets and scandal to win the coveted Golden Cypress Award. And it is about his realization that the award means nothing when he is surrounded by those that love him for who he really is.
The drama begins with Du Fei, our main character, in Korea. He is lying low after a scandal has broken out about his love affair with a married woman. While out and about one evening, he gets into a car accident. At the same time and location, mere meters down the road, a young scion of a wealthy family meets his end in another car accident. As Du Fei is lying close to death, he is rescued by a shadowy figure for his own nefarious purposes.
When Du Fei awakens, he has lost everything. Du Fei, the man, has been declared dead and his funeral held in China. Du Fei has lost his own face, forced to take on the face of the young man, Mu Zi Che. He is given a new life, forced to live life as Mu Zi Che. He learns everything about him, taking on his mannerisms and impersonating him in front of everyone who knew him, including his own mother. We are kept in the dark as to the reason why the shadowy figure requires this.
Du Fei takes on the role of Mu Zi Che, doing so to get revenge against his best friend, Xie Yi. We subsequently learn in the drama that Du Fei had not had the affair. Xie Yi had the affair with the married woman and then begged Du Fei to cover his ass when he was discovered. Additionally, Xie Yi begged to take on the role that made him a candidate for the Golden Cypress Award. Finally, it was Xie Yi who ordered the tampering on the car so that Du Fei would die in a car accident. Du Fei decides his revenge will be to become a big star and get the Golden Cypress award. It made no sense to me, either.
Mu Zi Che applies in open auditions at ESE. He catches the attention of Feng Jing, ESE’s art director, by doing one of Du Fei’s special monologues. Xie Yi interferes due to the fact that Mu Zi Che reminds him of Du Fei and gets Mu Zi Che kicked out. Feng Jing then offers to take Mu Zi Che in a survival of the fittest kind of competition. Mu Zi Che agrees to the competition and to following all of Feng Jing’s directives. Mu Zi Che wins the competition, becoming part of ESE’s stable of new actors. He takes on the screen name of Yun Xiu, Du Fei’s birth name in another life. Feng Jing gets Yun Xiu the role of the second lead in a good drama, which wins him much love from the public.
Yun Xiu’s acting talent attracts lots of admiration and jealousy, and the anger of ESE’s CEO Li Rui when Feng Jing gives Yun Xiu priority over profits. Li Rui wants Feng Jing to focus on making money rather than worrying about the integrity of his art, and begins a scheme to kick Feng Jing out of the company he helped Li Rui built. Mu Zi Che/Yun Xiu is stuck in the crossfire, forced to take on idol roles that require bad acting from him or he is sidelined or isolated from any projects. When Feng Jing stakes his career on getting Yun Xiu the perfect role that will make him a star, Yun Xiu almost loses it all by getting hurt on set.
In the course of acting in different projects, Mu Zi Che comes into contact with Lui Yi. Lui Yi is a fun loving girl, who causes scandals by posting thoughtless comments on Weibo. Her manager, and owner of the company she is contracted with, loves her and pursues her relentlessly, but Lui Yi heartlessly rejects him at every turn.
Lui Yi loved Mu Zi Che and was heartbroken when he left her to go race in Korea. She is delighted to see him back and begins her pursuit once more. She enters into his home, even meeting his mother, to get close to him. While Mu Zi Che makes all attempts to avoid Lui Yi, he doesn’t hesitate to step in and help her out when she becomes embroiled in a scandal; the scandal was created when Lui Yi retaliated against another actor for daring to hurt Mu Zi Che. Due to Mu Zi Che getting involved, Feng Jing steps in and saves the day. Despite the push back from Mu Zi Che, Lui Yi follows him from project to project, and does not hesitate to take on roles to be closer to him.
When Mu Zi Che is injured while protecting her from an explosion, Lui Yi discovers the truth about Du Fei and that Mu Zi Che is actually dead. While she is heartbroken by Mu Zi Che’s death, Lui Yi ultimately decides to keep the truth from a mother who would be heartbroken by the loss of her only son and decides to return to acting and complete their project together.
Interspersed throughout the drama are scenes of the angelic and really famous Lin Xuan. Lin Xuan was a really close friend of Du Fei’s. The two came into the industry together, and Du Fei took care of her throughout their time together. While Lin Xuan’s star rose, Du Fei’s star stalled and that is why he never felt good enough for Lin Xuan and never confessed to her. She blames Xie Yi for Du Fei’s death. Lin Xuan spends most of the drama remembering Du Fei, crying for him, being tailed by Mu Zi Che who makes up silly stories about how he knows very secretive facts about Lin Xuan and being followed by Xie Yi, who she hates with the fire of a thousand burning suns.
When Yun Xiu/Mu Zi Che gets injured, Lin Xuan steps in and uses her star power to protect his star-making role and even acts in the movie for him. While on set, Lin Xuan and Lui Yi meet, and Lui Yi asks her what would happen if Du Fei were alive. Lin Xuan admits that she would have been with him and helped him in any way that she could, but now that he is gone, she has no interest in acting any more. Later that day, Yun Xiu begs Lui Yi not to tell the truth to Lin Xuan.
As she is leaving for a trip overseas after retiring from acting, Mu Zi Che comes by and gives her a strangely familiar care package. She freaks and runs after him, calling out for Du Fei, Mu Zi Che, Yun Xiu, whoever to come out and be with her. She calls out that she is tired of waiting and being let go by him. Mu Zi Che hides in the shadows and refuses to come out, afraid to show her his face as it is now. Once again, he feels that he is just not good enough.
Du Fei, who has been living Mu Zi Che’s life, learns what it means to have a mother for the first time ever. Du Fei was raised in an orphanage, and maintained ties with that orphanage into adulthood; he calls those orphan children his brothers and sisters. Mu Zi Che was not close to his mother, and rejected her loving overtures at every turn. When Du Fei meets Mu Zi Che’s mother, he falls in love and reveres her as a mother. And she loves her newly returned son back, happy that he now appreciates her efforts.
One day, she notices how he can use his right hand despite the fact that the doctors told him that a wrist injury could never be fixed. Mu Zi Che’s mother plays detective, even going as far as Korea, to find out the truth. She learns that this Mu Zi Che is NOT her son. She digs a little deeper and discovers who Du Fei really is. She sees that Du Fei takes care of her, she sees him crying at her son’s grave, she sees that he warns her from giving him any money/property in the future, and she sees how he takes care of the children at the orphanage. Despite finding out the truth, she decides to keep that discovery from Du Fei, saying only that he is her son. Only Lui Yi knows that Mu Zi Che’s mother now knows the truth.
Du Fei also learns the entire purpose behind this charade with his mysterious benefactor, who turns out to be ESE’s CEO Li Rui’s twin brother, Li Chen. Mu Zi Che will come into a lot of money/property when he turns 25. Li Chen then wants Mu Zi Che to turn over some of that property, which I am guessing are ESE stocks, to him. From there, I’m guessing, Li Chen plans to kick out Li Rui from ESE, just as Li Rui kicked him out of the company years ago. When Du Fei tells him to back off and that he will not turn over any of Mu Zi Che’s property to him, Li Chen cackles and threatens him with the truth. He asks Du Fei what his newfound friends would think of him if the truth of his deception came out. When Du Fei tells him that he will tell Mu Zi Che’s mother the truth, Li Chen has Mu Zi Che’s mother attacked, which lands her in the hospital.
Feng Jing, ESE’s art director and Yun Xiu’s mentor, cares about protecting the integrity of his art more than any profits. Years ago, he made a promise with Li Rui that they would build a company that would nurture art. Years later, he still holds onto that dream, even though those around him have given up that goal. His philosophy costs the company tons of money and angers the CEO. Li Rui goes behind Feng Jing’s back and brings in a new director that slowly, but surely, pushes Feng Jing out of a position of power.
Working with Feng Jing’s assistant (who is being used by a newbie actor named Zhu Feng), they soon have Feng Jing practically begging for office supplies and for good roles for Yun Xiu. Feng Jing sees a spark in Yun Xiu and wants to nurture it, rather than forcing him to act in atrocious movies/dramas solely for money. Despite Feng Jing’s wishes, Yun Xiu agrees to do an idol drama for Feng Jing’s sake. Feng Jing then wheels and deals behind the scenes to get Yun Xiu into a star making role, and when Yun Xiu is about to lose that role due to injury, Feng Jing steps in and somehow persuades Lin Xuan to speak up and nudge the investors to do the right thing. Feng Jing oversees Yun Xiu’s recovery, saves him when he almost dies from an allergic reaction, and encourages him when he is down, all so that he can see this new talent be recognized.
One day, Feng Jing discovers that Li Rui has been married to his new director for years and has hidden that truth from everyone, including Feng Jing. Feng Jing feels betrayed that all of Li Rui’s promises to build a great company with him were false. He immediately resigns from ESE, and the new wife takes over the art director position. While Feng Jing is getting drunk and nursing his wounds, ESE begins a campaign to malign Feng Jing’s reputation, going as far as to allege that he embezzled funds from the company.
Yun Xiu rescues Feng Jing from his own destructive actions and brings him home. He cannot bear to see Feng Jing broken, and urges him to get back up and fight just as Feng Jing taught Yun Xiu to do so in the past. When Feng Jing asks him why he cares, Yun Xiu shouts that he considers Feng Jing his older brother. As Feng Jing still lies around, depressed, Yun Xiu goes out to ask his contacts to speak up for Feng Jing. Everyone refuses.
One bright morning, Yun Xiu dresses up and leaves the home, telling Feng Jing that he will go out and throw away his chance to act, just because he needs to do the right thing. And the right thing right now is to defend Feng Jing and stand by his side. While Feng Jing tells him not to do this, Yun Xiu does not listen. Yun Xiu defends Feng Jing and derides ESE’s actions on TV. He then gets “frozen” by ESE, meaning no projects, etc. His co-newbie teammate, Zhu Feng, also speaks up in defense of Feng Jing, talking badly about ESE so that he can go off to Li Chen’s company.
Feng Jing is touched by Yun Xiu’s defense and comes out of his depression. He tells Yun Xiu he appreciates his words, but Yun Xiu must stay with ESE for his own benefit. Yun Xiu responds with something like, “I would rather have all of your love than ESE’s half love.” Once again, Feng Jing is touched by Yun Xiu’s trust in him, even though Yun Xiu himself has faced betrayal in the past. Feng Jing tells him fine, they can then be two good friends who will never deceive each other. Yun Xiu agrees. Feng Jing then puts his intelligence to work, and goes to Zhu Feng, instructing him to sue ESE along with Yun Xiu, and then the two of them can break their contracts with ESE without paying any penalty.
Feng Jing then moves in with Yun Xiu, even taking over his bedroom, since he is now jobless.
Yun Xiu’s mother goes off to Hawaii after being discharged from the hospital.
Lui Yi begs Yun Xiu to go home with her for New Years. He ends up going. When the two return to her home town, we discover that she is pretending to be a schoolteacher for her grandfather. She introduces Yun Xiu as a fellow teacher and her boyfriend. When her grandfather outs her career as an actress who gets reamed out on a daily basis by the public, the two fight. Lui Yi runs off, making sure that she is well covered up on her way out into a snowstorm. She is able to get far enough that Yun Xiu has to borrow a car to come after her. When he convinces her to go home, the car won’t start and then they can’t open the doors to walk home (they tried even if she didn’t know the way home), there is no cellphone signal, and the two begin falling asleep (freezing to death) as the snow falls around them. They are rescued by Lui Yi’s uncle. The next morning Lui Yi awakens to find that Yun Xiu has left.
There is a somewhat amusing scene in the midst of all this. While Yun Xiu and Lui Yi are in the “northeast”, Feng Jing is at home watching TV. As he channel surfs, he complains about how all of the people in the show are hired from the northeast.
Yun Xiu races home to see Lin Xuan who has returned from abroad. The news outlets are blasting out the news that Lin Xuan has been dumped by her French boyfriend (I don’t know she had one), is apparently pregnant (wasn’t she in love with Du Fei and mourning him half an episode ago?) and is dying from some dreaded disease (I think cancer). Yun Xiu sneaks in to see her at the hospital and proposes marriage. Even though Yun Xiu has tacitly admitted that he is Du Fei by this time, Lin Xuan says no, saying that she does not want a relationship with an expiration date (huh?). She also doesn’t want him to be her umbrella and be the one who is constantly getting rained on.
In the very next scene, as Yun Xiu stands crying in the rain, Feng Jing comes out with an umbrella and tells him that he will always be there for Yun Xiu. See what they did there?
Lui Yi and Yun Xiu meet up and say goodbye to each other. Lui Yi tells him that she cannot get away from Zi Che, he was her love, and she has no relationship to Yun Xiu. The two hug goodbye, and Lui Yi walks away, knowing that she has to let Yun go Xiu for his own happiness.
Yun Xiu rushes off to propose once more to Lin Xuan, who agrees this time. The two get married under the watchful gaze of Feng Jing who watches from the sidelines with a softly regretful look on his face.
Lui Yi sees the broadcast on TV and mourns her loss once more, running after one of their bus advertisements in the rain. Later on that night, as she sits alone in her home, her manager and the man who has spent years loving her, sits down beside her and comforts her. And she falls into his arms, crying for her loss.
Xie Yi comes rushing over to the wedding venue but is too late to stop the wedding. He wonders why Lin Xuan married Yun Xiu so quickly. He sends his assistant to go off and investigate, wanting to confirm his suspicions about Yun Xiu once and for all.
Lin Xuan has the baby and then delays treatment so that she can present the Golden Cypress Award to Yun Xiu on stage. Yun Xiu tells her that he doesn’t need it. He only needs those that he loves.
Feng Jing tries his damndest to get Yun Xiu the award, even as ESE fails to nominate him. Yun Xiu begs him to give up on the award. Feng Jing refuses, saying that he pursues justice for his artist, not the award itself. Yun Xiu then reveals that he is not Mu Zi Che but Du Fei. Feng Jing is heartbroken by his deception, but soldiers on. As he sees Yun Xiu’s chances slipping away, Feng Jing trades his ESE stock for Yun Xiu’s Golden Cypress nomination. He tells Li Rui that he doesn’t want to see Li Rui succeed, but he can’t bear to watch Li Rui fail either because of their shared past. Li Rui begs for Feng Jing to come back to ESE, but Feng Jing leaves.
Yun Xiu is nominated.
Lin Xuan meets up with Xie Yi and tells him to rethink his past and stop doing the same selfish things over and over. She tells him to follow his conscience. Li Chen threatens Xie Yi with Du Fei’s murder, ordering him to vote for Zhu Feng. And Xie Yi, who becomes the deciding vote on the Golden Cypress Award Committee, votes for Yun Xiu. As Xie Yi is close to learning the truth from his assistant, who was successful in his investigations, his assistant ends up being arrested and the truth remains hidden.
Yun Xiu wins the newcomer award, finally achieving his dream. He hugs Feng Jing and goes on stage. Lin Xuan presents the award to him, and the two share a heartfelt hug over his victory. Yun Xiu thanks both his wife (Lin Xuan) and his partner (Feng Jing). Lui Yi watches from home, still nursing her broken heart, but happy for the man she loves. Yun Xiu chases after Lin Xuan once the awards are done, only to find that Lin Xuan has left him, going off to die (I think).
Epilogue: As the drama ends, we see that Li Chen has not given up. He now has Mu Lan, Mu Zi Che’s mother in his grasp, for some nefarious purpose. Mu Lan holds Du Fei’s photo in her hands.
Revive was my first BoyLove (BL) drama ever. Or rather, it was supposed to be, but due to the recent ban on gay-themed shows and increased scrutiny of those, this BL drama ended up being a conventional Boy/Girl drama. And it wasn’t really a great one at that. I’m still not sure how or what to think about this drama.
The drama did a really good job with the visuals. The coloring, the lighting, the costumes . . . for the most part everything looked sleek. The scenes looked good. The people looked beautiful. The sets were rich and stayed away from being too gaudy. I appreciated the hard work that went into making this production look good, but . . . it felt as if the team spent too much time on the appearance, forgetting about the content.
I’ve read that this drama is the most expensive Chinese drama produced. I’m not sure if that’s true, but they certainly had the product placement to show for it. Ferrari and Olay are the two that stick out. But there were a lot of scenes purely for just advertisement’s sake, and they completely took away from the scenes playing in front of us.
I believe that all of the actors in the drama did an able job. No one overacted, no one was too screechy, no one was overtly bad, but . . . as I’ve said before, when people are acting in another language, it becomes hard for me to really judge how well the actors are doing. In this case, I believe that everyone did a good job portraying their characters. And I’ll just go with that.
The drama editing was completely weird. It was too choppy. The tendency of the editor to jump from scene to scene, cutting things short or the cameraman to focus on the Ferrari logo as a car drove around . . . to zoom from one thing to another was highly distracting. It felt too abrupt and we never lingered on any one thing. It made me feel that because there were so many actors the production team felt frantic in making use of them in the scenes. As if the director was worried that they wouldn’t work enough for their salaries.
Story ~ Writing ~ Characters
The one area where this drama completely failed was in the writing department. And the fact that this drama was based on a novel, something that had already been written, makes it double the failure. The novel is currently being translated on Wattpad. (Revive – Check it out.)
From what I have gathered, Yun Xiu was gay in the novel. He died after having spent his life being reviled by others for his sexuality; his own lover rejected him publicly despite their long history together. He reincarnated in the body of a young Mu Zi Che after his death. Feng Jing and Li Rui were lovers, and he was publicly dumped for Li Rui’s new wife. Feng Jing and Yun Xiu then rose to fame together, and lived happily ever after. There was a Lin Xuan in the story, but she wasn’t Yun Xiu’s love, she was a friend. She died and left behind her child, who both Feng Jing and Yun Xiu raised lovingly. There was no Lui Yi.
As to the drama . . . the production didn’t want to lose their BL audience, so had scenes of Feng Jing/Yun Xiu being friends, hugging each other, Feng Jing leaning into Yun Xiu, etc. But the team also didn’t want to piss off the Chinese regulating agency, so had a lot of scenes with Lui Yi and no actual hints of sexual confusion on Yun Xiu’s part when he was around Feng Jing. Additionally, they had Yun Xiu end up with Lin Xuan. The show kept a narrative going in the background of Lin Xuan having loved Du Fei so much, and that they were meant to be.
In the end, the drama dropped the ball in all three of these courts.
Lui Yi loved Mu Zi Che. Mu Zi Che was dead. When Lui Yi found out the truth, she gradually fell in love with Yun Xiu/Du Fei. Yun Xiu never looked at Lui Yi as more than a friend. So, that was never a viable ship.
Lin Xuan literally spent the entire show crying. Crying! What a waste of acting talent for Han Chae Young. But she has spent years being friends with Du Fei. I found it hard to believe that Lin Xuan never took the initiative and confessed to Du Fei on her own? I saw love there, but not the love between lovers. Despite all of that, I might have accepted their ending if she hadn’t just months before marrying him gone off and come back pregnant by another man! She wasn’t a character that would have slept around. So, she must have began a relationship with someone else. Fallen in love with someone else. And then to have her return and then profess her love to Du Fei felt double-faced. The show really shot itself in the foot by keeping Lin Xuan’s pregnancy in the show.
As for Feng Jing, in the drama the two never gave off any vibes of being more than friends. They had a bromance not a boylove thing going. Then to show a regretful look on Feng Jing’s face as Yun Xiu got married and revealed his truth was just not fair.
By trying to keep so many different audiences with such different ships happy, the production team pretty much sank all the ships. After all, didn’t Yun Xiu remain all alone at the end of the drama?
~~The Motivations of the Characters
I think part of the trouble I had with the writing was the editing itself. So many things seemed disjointed and so silly because of it. We don’t get into the motivations of the characters . . . until episodes later. And for some of them, we have to guess at their motives until the end.
Why does Yun Xiu pretend to be Mu Zi Che? He wakes up and has another man’s face, but what makes him take on that mantle? Du Fei was too nice of a man . . . too pure as written to ever contemplate something like that. He spent months fooling a mother, a lover, a mentor/friend and betrayed the woman he supposedly loved for revenge. But the Du Fei we knew would never have done that.
Lin Xuan . . . I sure as heck did not believe that she loved Du Fei. You don’t love one man, suspect that he may be alive, and then still go off and begin a relationship and have another man’s child.
Xie Yi . . .he did all of this because he was in love with Lin Xuan? They don’t ever expressly say it. But to kill a friend because of love, what kind of motive was that?
Overall, I ended up really not rooting for anybody, and I feel bad about that. I wanted to root for Yun Xiu but the production team did him no favors by pairing him with those three.
I liked Feng Jing, but I felt his character was a bit too stiff. Why the melodrama when his business partner got married? When they took away the fact that he had been in a relationship with the other man, they took away a lot of his reasons for breaking down and feelings of betrayal.
Li Rui was opaque. Why did he kick out his brother years ago? If he could join hands with Feng Jing, why not do that with his own twin brother? Why keep his marriage a secret? When he cared so much about making money, why put his business in the hands of his incompetent wife?
What was it that Li Chen really wanted? We see this man take a dying Du Fei, pay for his plastic surgery and force him to take on Mu Zi Che’s role . . . for what? We don’t get the answer! I guessed, but it was only a guess. At the end, we get it’s for revenge against Li Rui but HOW?
At the end, I would give the drama a 5/10. It wasn’t anything special, but I don’t think I wasted my life by watching it. I didn’t connect with the characters. It had too much melodrama, when the elements that would have helped us to make sense of that melodrama were missing, and too little romance that I could root for. I can’t honestly recommend it, but there were some very good fanmade vids out there, so I’d definitely say check those out.