NO.53 Issued Date 2014.Feb.25
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Film Review: "The Monkey King in 3D"

2014-02-25 03:00:22 GMT2014-02-25 11:00:22(Beijing Time)  City Weekend
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Directed by Hong Kong director Cheang Pou-soi, "The Monkey King in 3D", with its star-studded cast, hit theaters this Chinese New Years, bringing in RMB400 million in just the first four days. The cinematic remake of Wu Cheng'en's 16th century Chinese epic "Journey to the West" chronicling Sun Wukong's adventures is expected to generate record-breaking revenue in the Chinese film industry.

The film begins with a celestial battle between the heaven's deities and demons. Led by the Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-fat), the heavens prevail and the demons, including his sister Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen) who loves the demonic overlord Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok), are banished to Flaming Mountain. The goddess Nuwa (Zhang Zilin) sacrifices her body to reconstruct the heavens and all that's left of her is a pink crystal in which Sun Wukong is born. Bull Demon King conspires to take back the heavens while Wukong is trained by the Jade Emperor to be a force for good despite his naughty behavior.

The film is a mix of 90s video game-like animation, a badly written script that hasn't improved since the TV series, and some splashy CG thrown up in the background. When animation, which was key to a fantasy film such as this, is done tastefully, the audience is immersed in the world in which the film is set, unaware of the magic going on behind the screen.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case here. Most of the time the CGI is over-embellished, ostentatious, and over saturated to the point of headache-inducing. The end result is there is sadly no sense of atmosphere anywhere in the film.

Song Wukong isn't a compelling protagonist at all. Snickering a whole lot and ticking your head are not indicative of personality traits.

The Jade Emperor looks majestic and divine but you'd think a deity would have more interesting dialogue. In fact, no character is compelling despite the star-studded cast. Thanks to the base-level dialogue which served no other purpose than to relay information to the audience about the plot, the veteran actors had no room to show off their acting skills.

Speaking of the plot: things just happen out of nowhere. Characters appear with no foreshadowing to fill in plot holes or to cause trouble when conflict needs to be created. The film is the definition of overuse of the deus ex machina- you can guess how these kinds of films end. You'd think a legendary classic of Chinese literature like "Journey to the West" would've deserved a film adaptation worthy of, say, "Lord of the Rings" to J.R.R Tolkien. Instead the film is technically sub-par, cluttered, and cheaply packaged for commercial success.

Go watch it for the story but don't expect any artistry or any sort of inspiring spectacle.


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