Thursday, 30 January 2014

Movie Review: The Monkey King (西游记之大闹天宫)

The Monkey King (西游记之大闹天宫, literal translation: Journey to the West: Havoc in Heaven) is a disappointing and terrible fantasy action epic adaptation of the classic Chinese literature Journey to the West (西游记). This film was said to be 4 years in the making and the end result is a terrible mess.

The script is weak and severely lack of content and depth. Character development is heavily absent in this film and the film expects the audience to know most of the characters that appeared on screen immediately without brief explanation of who they are. Although the film is filled with credible actors, but they're mostly forgettable cameo roles that doesn't make much impression at all throughout the film...they just come and go for the sake of the story.
Although Donnie Yen provides a decent performance as the monkey Sun Wukong (孙悟空), but it's ultimately hampered by the overall production of the film. The romance between WuKong and the fox spirit is unconvincing and awkward, the challenge between Buddha and WuKong were absent in this adaptation, the portrayal of God Erlang (二郎神) is extremely inaccurate to the point it's insulting to the people who worship or respect him.

Worst, the story is heavily altered from the original that it makes the expected outcome by the end of the film doesn't make sense at all. The climactic battles in heaven (the so-called havoc) is not as epic as the trailer might have promised, the action fight sequences were chaotic and difficult to watch in most cases, most of the deities of heaven are not present in the climatic battle and The four heavenly kings were swiftly defeated by WuKong as if they're nothing.

While the costumes and makeup were acceptable, the CGI effects for the entire film is extremely terrible and looks incomplete, as if the entire production was heavily rushed for Chinese New Year release.
This film proves that you can't make the entire film with only green screen in the background, you have to put some effort to build miniatures or real sets, or even find real, nice location for shooting the required scenes for the film.

This film is not reinventing the classic story that's been told many times before, but destroys it. This is a bad, bad film. It's a pain to waste money and time to watch it and I will certainly not watch it again.

Rating: 3.5/10

 The Journey to the West (1996 and 1998 TV series) from TVB 
remains the best iteration of the classic novel.

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