Stephen Chow director of Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle and many more decided to take a comedic crack at the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West. The result is this 2013 special effects heavy action comedy.
Zhang Wen stars as Xuan Zang a young monk who is learning how to capture demons and find enlightenment. He’s not very good at demon hunting. The movie opens with a fishing village getting attacked by a fish demon. A Taoist priest arrives and kills a giant manta ray, claiming that it is the demon. Xuan Zang shows up and informs everyone that it’s not the demon that the monster is still out there. Naturally the priest and the villagers don’t believe him until the monster attacks again killing more villagers. Eventually the monster is flung out the water where it transformers back into a human form. Xuan Zang begins to exorcise the monster by singing it nursery rhymes but they have no effect. Qi Shu shows up and captures the monster in a pouch, trapping it. Qi Shu is also a demon hunter and laughs at Xuan Zang’s tactics. Xuan Zang returns to his master who informs him that there is a better way than just slaying demons and that when he finds enlightenment, he’ll understand.
The next demon that Xuan Zang encounters is a pig demon that’s too powerful for him or Qi Shu to fight. Xuan Zang’s master tells him to seek out the imprisoned Monkey King to get advise on how to trap the monster. In the meantime Qi Shu has fallen in love with Xuan Zang and keeps trying to trick him into reciprocating her feelings. Xuan Zang won’t because he’s looking for enlightenment.
The film is filled with lots of goofy humour which is director Stephen Chow’s trademark and while I’m only partially familiar with the story Journey to the West but I could follow the story, the people I was watching the movie with had no idea what they were in for and were completely lost at the end, complaining that something was lost in the translation. I disagree but some people aren’t open to different cultures and ideas.
The effects look a little cheap but then it’s an ambitious film with a fairly limited budget. This isn’t a Hollywood movie. The movie did break several records in China last year including highest grossing movie at the time. It might still be, I don’t know. Still it’s a good movie, whether there will be a sequel who can say, the movie ends with the story open for more adventures.