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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Journey to the West

journeytothewestDirector Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) returns with this comedic action-adventure, loosely inspired by the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West.  The film tells the story of Xuan Zang (Zhang Wen), a Buddhist monk learning to become a demon hunter.  Unlike other demon hunters, who set out to destroy demons, Xuan Zang is instructed by his master to use a book of nursery rhymes to coax the goodness out of the demons.  When a certain demon becomes particularly difficult for either Xuan Zang or, extremely skilled fellow hunter, Miss Duan (Qi Shu) to defeat, Xuan Zang is instructed to seek the assistance of, the imprisoned Monkey King, Sun Wukong (Bo Huang).  However, he is warned that the Monkey King is an extremely evil trickster and must be tamed, using the methods Xuan Zang has been taught.

Journey to the West is the second adaptation of the novel involving Stephen Chow, who previously starred as Monkey in the loose 1995 adaptation A Chinese Odyssey.  This time around, Chow stays behind the camera, for his first directorial effort since 2008’s CJ7.  If you are a fan of Chow’s 2004 hit Kung Fu Hustle, then you should equally enjoy Journey to the West, which employs a similar level of action-comedy. 

Even though I’m somewhat familiar with the original story, which has received countless film, TV, and stage adaptations, I am not certain how closely Chow’s adaptation sticks to the novel.  One thing that is for certain is that this film, which has the full title of Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, is merely just part one of the story.  That’s not to say that the film doesn’t end with a satisfying resolution and I would end up being completely happy if this turns out to be the only Journey to the West film Stephen Chow makes.

Dating back to Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow has always been a director to embrace comedic special effects in his films.  Journey to the West is no exception, with the action scenes making a heavy use of CGI, whether it be the gigantic demons or the hundreds of rings Miss Duan throws at her enemies.  While there are some scenes that play the story straight, Journey to the West is by and large a comedy.  In fact, there is a particular dancing scene around the halfway point of the film, which absolutely cracked me up.  The film also features a number of darker moments, including a number of violent and/or shocking deaths in the opening action scene.  That said, the film still retains its overall fun tone.

As a big fan of Kung Fu Hustle, I was quite looking forward to seeing Journey to the West.  While I can probably say that I overall liked the previous film better, I still had quite a lot of fun watching this comedic reinterpretation of the classic Chinese story.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).