Writer: Ng SuzhenWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“A Chinese Odyssey”, “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer”
The supposed prequel to "A Chinese Odyssey" is best described as a Stephen Chow movie without Stephen Chow.
Fans may be disappointed that the iconic comedian is not making any notable appearances in his latest epic, but it is hard not to miss the actor-director's signature sense of humour performed in full effect from the cast, which tickles as much as if the man himself was playing it.
Giving the original lore a twist, Chow manages to convince the audience of a job well-done with a mix of adventure, fantasy, martial arts and of course, a love story in the midst of it all, reminiscent of "A Chinese Odyssey" back in 1994 when audiences left theatres with a lasting impression of the promise of a million years.
There are not much that connects "Journey To The West" with its predecessor but that detail is easily overlooked as this film stands alone by itself with a story that engages and visual effects that compliment Chow's style even if it lacks a realistic touch at times.
The reimagining of how Xuan Zang and his disciples come together is an interesting one. The choice to film a story that has been countlessly retold through film and television yet still maintain a fresh overview is no easy feat and Chow is probably the only person able to handle the job well.
The focus shifts from the Monkey King (Huang Bo) to the monk, Xuan Zang (Wen Zhang), who doubles as a demon-catcher this time round. The story chronicles his capture of all three of his future disciples with the aid of Shu Qi's Miss Duan, who proves to be more capable than Xuan Zang in the demon-catching business.
His disciples are also given a character overhaul by being more in touch with their demonic selves rather than being painted with redeeming qualities when unleashing their evils upon the human race. Of course, it is explained that their degeneration into the demonic path was pushed by the evils of humankind, leading them to seek retribution to those who had wronged them from the very beginning.
The only character not found in the original story of the Monkey King would be Miss Duan, but her appearance greatly elevates the comedy elements of the film. You can tell that Shu Qi has great fun playing the tough demon-catcher who has no idea how to act feminine. The scene where the Monkey King gives Miss Duan dancing pointers is a hilarious one as it is apparent that Shu Qi herself is caught defenceless against Huang Bo's comedic chops.
It comes as a bit of a shock though, that Chow has made allowances for certain scenes that may not be proper for kids with violent and gory images that may be haunting to some. Parents may have a problem with their children viewing these scenes as they are easily frightening at times, even to adults, as it is something that no one really expects from a comedy.
Concerns aside, you cannot help but be impressed by Chow's ability to combine so many aspects into a single movie without letting it fall apart. Each component fits together like a jigsaw puzzle that makes the movie an enjoyable experience that doesn't really disappoint.
If there was really a bone to pick, it would be his absence from the movie. Other than that, it is easily a praiseworthy fare for a Chinese New Year epic.Cinema Online, 04 February 2013