This Adapation of Journey to the West may surprise you!!
Donnie Yen's Monkey King is easily the highlight of the show!
4 Years in the making, starring the biggest stars in Asia right now. Donnie Yen, Aaron Kwok, Chow Yun Fatt, Joe Chen, Peter Ho, Kelly Chen, Gigi Leung, and many more.
Highest Budget for an Asian Movie, an estimated, RMB500 million (US$88 million). Invited Avatar, Pirates of Caribbean, Spider-man 3 special effects team to help out with the IMAX and CGI effects.
What is the results? A new height attained in the Chinese Film Industry. Journey to the West is one of the 4 most famous Chinese Novel in the world, and to tackle a classic tale is always a huge risk(see The Sorcerer and the White Snake, a huge critical and box office disappointment).
Many thought that this might be another failure, but the results is actually very surprising.
Donnie Yen's Monkey King "Sun Wu Kong" is so good and Donnie is so into-character that most viewers do not know its him until the end credits. Despite the heavy make-up, his emotions were able to touch the hearts of audience, as we can clearly see this monkey display curiosity, sadness, aggression like never before. This may just be the best Sun Wu Kong we have ever seen, right up there with the one starring Liu Xiao Ling Tong.
Props to Aaron Kwok too, for being such a good villain and making the viewers hate him.
The plot has a little bit of twist and changes from the original journey to the west story, but they were not overboard and the story is kept simple perhaps to introduce worldwide audience to this Chinese Folktale.
The CGI is a new level compared to previous Chinese movies. Watch out for the last fight scene, the CGI is easily Hollywood standard.
A huge milestone is reached on 31st January 2013, on Chinese New Year, we see the rebirth of Sun Wu Kong and Journey to the west.
Asians can finally be hopeful, because its no longer Western Superheroes such as Iron Man and Thor dominating, but our very own Eastern Superhero, the Monkey King is here to stay.
From novels, comics, video games, TV series to movies, Wu Cheng'en's classical novel "Journey To The West" has certainly been told over and over again in different kind of media adaptations. Last year itself we already have Stephen Chow's "Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons", and this year, "The Monkey King" has finally seen the light of its day after nearly four years of production.
"The Monkey King" begins with a titanic battle between god (led by Chow Yun-Fat's Jade Emperor) and demon (led by Aaron Kwok's Bull Demon King), which ends up causing a serious damage on the Heavenly Palace. Bull Demon King lost the battle and about to be severely punished but Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen), daughter of Jade Emperor, begs her father to spare him a life since she loves Bull Demon King very much. So Jade Emperor banished both of them to the Fire Mountain and forbids them to enter Heavenly Palace ever again. Meanwhile, a monkey spirit is born out from Princess Nuwa's (Zhang Zilin) magic boulders and subsequently grows up as a mischievous adult. Soon he is trained under Master Puti (Tian Hai Yi) and names him as Sun Wukong. After Wukong accomplished his master's teaching, he returns to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits where he originally belongs and declares himself as Handsome Monkey King. Trouble comes when Bull Demon King recognizes Wukong's incredible power and uses him to penetrate into the Heavenly Palace.
When "The Monkey King" teaser trailer was first debuted last year, this reviewer was highly doubtful about the quality of the movie. Even many trailers later, "The Monkey King" looks destined to be a huge fiasco. But upon finally watching it (and with low expectations), this reviewer is surprised by the overall outcome of "The Monkey King". It certainly is far from the best adaptation ever seen from the "Journey To The West" source material, but director Soi Cheang does a good job turning "The Monkey King" into a hugely entertaining CGI-heavy fantasy.
Yes, the special effects looked average at best (imagine those video game graphics from either PS or PS2, and you'll get the idea how they look like) and some of them even looks like a rushed job, but somehow Cheang and his effects team manages to overcome the weakness with their overall imaginative effort. The effects-laden battles are reasonably epic in scope, and they are surprisingly fun to watch for, thanks to the impressive action choreography by Donnie Yen himself.
Speaking of Donnie Yen, he definitely does a tremendous job both on-screen and off-screen. Here, he successfully captures the playful spirit of Sun Wukong while proves to be such an agile fighter as usual, especially when he uses his golden staff. The rest of the supporting actors doesn't fare as good as he does, with Aaron Kwok's villainous turn as Bull Demon King is sadly underwritten while the appearances of Kelly Chen as Guanyin and Gigi Leung as Chang'E are nothing more than glorious cameos. At least Peter Ho's Erlangshen and Chow Yun-Fat's Jade Emperor deserve some minor praises for their respective performances.
Szeto Kam Yuen's and Edmond Wong's screenplay may have some weak spots here and there, but their overall storyline manages to strike a fair balance of action, comedy, romance and fantastical elements. Lastly, special kudos must goes to Christopher Young for successfully delivering majestic score that blends well with the epic grandeur of the movie.
Uneven special effects and some other flaws aside, "The Monkey King" is a satisfying effort worth watching for this Chinese New Year.