The Legend of Mother Goddess (Review)
The Legend of Mother Goddess
aka 天后 aka Tian Hou Chuan aka 天后傅 aka 媽祖收妖
Written and directed by Hou Cheng
The Legend of Mother Goddess is a biopic of the religious figure Mazu (aka Matsu/妈祖), known as the Goddess of the Sea. To make things more interesting, the producers threw in a bunch of giant monsters and fantasy elements, thus giving the film legs in the Western cult movie circuit. Worship of Mazu began over 1000 years ago and there are temples all over the world. Find one today! Legend of Mother Goddess even tells the tale of how Mazu got her two guardian guys.
The first tape I got had Korean subs written over the Chinese/English subs, and thanks to a second generation vhs transfer, the English subs were hard to read. Thus…the names might not be right. Who to blame? Obviously, the person to blame is President Taft. That fat bastard! Luckily I later got a better copy with good subtitles, so although it looks way better, I can’t use my cool “We don’t need no stinking subs” tag. Woe is me…
If you wish to learn more about Taiwanese Kaiju, there is a two part Infernal Brains podcast on the subject, here and here.
Legend of Mother Goddess opens with narration and drawings of the Legend of Mother Goddess where they give us some background information of this ancient tale. And basically give away most of the plot. This would be like Citizen Kane opening up with some random comic book panels that explain Rosebud is a sled and the chick in The Crying Game is a dude. Blah blah, on with the show…
The Lam family is praying for a boy, but has yet another girl thanks to the Goddess of Mercy! (who is looking down on the dad Mr. Lam.) Mom is worried because the only son they do have is weird. Freaking weirdos! Is that code for gay? Who knows. Oh, the baby was Lam Mak-Leung, in case you didn’t know.
Later Lam Mak-Leung is like 10 and wanders into where a Buddhist monk is teaching followers and overhears. She starts spouting off a bunch of Buddhist stuff that most of the adults don’t even know. Remember when Jesus did that in the Bible? Yeah, way to steal from the classics, Taiwan! Next thing you know Mel Gibson will be trying to whip Mak-Leung for two hours.
Mak-Leung is now all grown up and skilled with swords to the point of impressing her five sister. Yeah. All teenage girls love swordplay shows! Then a freaking dragon pops out of a well! This movie rules. We demand MORE DRAGONS! Maybe..some sort of Dragon War… Naaah.
Everyone but Mak-leung runs, the dragon then turns into a little kid, who says he is White Dragon who is ordered to wait for her. White Dragon gives Mak-Leung a wordless book direct from God that she’s supposed to study, and White Dragon will be living in the well ready to help her when she needs it because he’s being punished. Then he goes back into the well. This happens to me all the time. Dragon kids popping out of wells giving me books. The last dragon kid tried to give me a copy of Twilight and I punched him in the neck. White Dragon is Baby Jessica!
A Taoist dude steals some wine and is chased until he runs into Mr. Lam. Mr. Lam pays for him, then the Taoist wants to live with Mr. Lam because he is homeless. I think I saw this homeless guy on BART! He tried the same scam on me, but I only let him live in my house for six months! The townspeople are made but Mr. Lam takes him back home anyway.
Mak-Leung talks to the homeless dude while he is asleep via her mind, he says some mumbo jumbo she writes down and sees it as code for understanding the blank book. Then goes to beg him for help to understand. He says there are three parts of wordless book, but that is never explained and instead he makes the words appear with charms and turns into an old man in the sky and flies away. Okay.
Mak-Leung studies up and starts doing work trying to help sick people in the community. Sheesh, you have to study? Lame! Mak-Leung helps a dude fix his hand, and then to help a sick grandma Mak-Leung must go up to heaven and meet the Goddess of Mercy for 1000 year old ginseng. But Goddess of Mercy just tells her to try her best and save the world. What kind of help is that? Goddess of Mercy is useless. No mercy for Goddess of Mercy!
Mak-Leung flies around a bit more, lands by a waterfall, and talks to a guy escorting a woman who is to be sacrificed to two beasts who live nearby that will infect everyone with diseases if they don’t get some tasty virgin sacrifice treats. Mak-Leung says she will beat up these beasts because that is probably more fun than helping old ladies live another few weeks.
In a cave somewhere nearby, some cavedudes are wearing bright colored wigs (orange, blue, and green) and flipping around like they are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and in come their two kings, a guy with giant ears and red skin and a guy with blue skin and vampire teeth. The red guy is Ears of 1000 Miles, and the blue guy is Eyes of 1000 Miles. I’m not sure how the vampire teeth help you see 1000 miles, but maybe they contain more refractive lenses. No answer also to the mystery why ancient China is using Imperial measuring units. Ears hears people approaching, so Eyes uses his magic eyes to see the caravan approaching with the sacrifice, who is now Mak-Leung. When the two teleport down to go grab her, she starts teleporting around and yelling at them for being bad.
Since they can hear 1000 miles and see 1000 miles, Mak-Leung challenges them to a contest to see and hear far, and wins because she changes the targets (cheater!) They get upset and try to attack her, but they just end up tossed in a lake, and later when they try to hide as rocks they have their heads rattled together and both of them end up face in cow dung. They also try to hide as fish, but are caught by Mak-Leung with a fishing pole. Run into the cave with the wig cavemen and get their cavemen to fight for them. It is so easy even a caveman could do it. Except these cavemen, who are losing, and thus making my joke completely wrong. Thanks for spoiling my joke, sucky wig cavemen! Some of the cavemen get thrown literally into the walls (but are later rescued by Mak-Leung.) The wig cavemen bolt, and the Two Monsters get beaten up and rings placed around their necks until they agree to be good and to work for Mak-Leung.
Mak-Leung sends them to get the 1000 year old ginseng. Which is represented as a baby-sized flying piece of ginseng speaking ginseng-ese. Like usual. They hit it with an arrow, and it is an actual baby doll (until it turns into giant ginseng.) The two monsters try to eat the ginseng instead, so Mak-Leung appears and makes their collars tighten as punishment.
While she was off fighting monster dudes who should be on Heroes, a whole ton of guys have come to try to marry Lam Mak-Leung and are meeting with her dad. A guy named Ng Pak-wong (or something close, frakking white subtitles on white backgrounds!!) laughs at all the other guys when Lam Mak-Leung says she doesn’t want to get married. The other guys try to beat him up, but he teleports around and splits into two and does other tricks to beat them all. Like turning random things into snakes and frogs, or body switching.
Hey, it’s great they have a long sequence they can film while Judy Lee is off making a different picture, but seriously, this is dragging on way too long with Ng teleporting around and laughing at everything. Ng also makes one of the guys pregnant. Yeah.
Eventually Mak-Leung comes in to yell at everyone for padding out the running time of her film without her permission, so Ng declares he should marry her because he knows kung fu. She challenges him so that if he wins he gets to marry her, but if she wins he has to get lost. The challenge is they will throw up chess pieces in the air and fight to retrieve the most pieces, but that ends in a tie. Next, Ng tries to boil some fish alive in a bowl (I think they actually use dead fish for this – I dunno if they kill them or just got some already dead fish from someone’s tank) but Mak-Leung brings them back to life. Finally, they do some sort of calligraphy thing I didn’t get, but Mak-Leung wins that one, so Ng teleports off in a huff and never comes back. and Mak-Leung’s sisters all get married to the other random guys who came in.
In another part of China called Po-tien City, there is a big drought and some priests can’t get rid of it. Some of the priest attendants have hats that look like the tops of Crayola crayons. Maybe they should just drawn clouds in the sky, like Harold and his magic crayon. The head government official in the area gets an idea, let’s call in Mak-Leung! They need her help to call the Gods of Wind and Rain.
She manages to call up the two gods, who say the drought is caused by a strong beast in the western mountains. They are too lazy to stop the monster themselves so she has to. She calls up Eyes of 1000 Miles and Ears of 1000 Miles to go check for the monster. They find the monster, a giant Godzilla-ish dinosaur who sucks in the wind and clouds. This monster really sucks! Booyah! Seriously, nice to seem more Taiwanese kaiju!
Ears and Eyes decide to kill the monster themselves so they will impress Mak-Leung enough to set them free. But the monster is too tough, they get beat up and repeatedly kicked into the wall until Mak-Leung appears and saves them. The monster shoots fire at her, but she blocks it and fires smoke back. The monster is hurt, so Eyes and Ears kill him dead. Mak-Leung is upset because the monster pleased for mercy before it died.
It starts to rain the second the monster is dead. The ghost of the monster calls his brother to avenge his death, his brother lives in the ocean and is a huge dragon guy. He floods Meichow, which is the town Mak-Leung lives in. The dragon demands Mak-Leung for revenge, but that White Dragon who lives in a well pops out and we got a dragon fight! Two dragon puppets battle it out. You have never seen such hot dragon fighting action between two dragon puppets.
White Dragon loses and turns back into a kid, just in time for Mak-Leung and Eyes and Ears to show up. After a brief fight, Mak-Leung traps water dragon under a big book and he agrees to go back under the sea and not bug anyone anymore. See, reading IS fundamental! White Dragon gets a promotion to guarding the Eastern Sea, while Eyes and Ears get promoted to officers. Officers in Mak-Leung’s made up officer corps. But at least they get a raise. Maybe. It is never addressed.
Mr. Lam gets a promotion from the king, but has to go on a ship that is over troubled waters. Thus, the boat capsizes, and Mak-Leung flies over to investigate. Her brother survived but her father is missing. You know, everyone seems to live very close by, why did her dad need to even take a boat? Mak-Leung just walks right into the ocean, and later walks out holding her father’s body. He’s dead, but Mak-Leung goes up to heaven to chat with the Goddess of Mercy.
Mak-Leung trades her life for her dad’s, so she has to stay in heaven while he is alive. Thus, she floats up to heaven and is now a Goddess in Heaven. The Mother Goddess, aka Goddess Matsu aka Goddess of Heaven. She has more names than a secret agent. This was her legend. Was it legendary enough for you? Well, too bad, because it’s the only legend she has. Maybe you can write a better one? Then get to it! It’s your job now!
Rated 8/10 (He sees, He hears, she tells tales, he’s impressed, he’s homeless, makeup coming off in the water, it’s a cow!, The power of reading)
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