Vampire Owl: I have this name wandering in my mind somewhere.
Vampire Bat: I am sure that you have known many kings and monkeys during your life-time.
Vampire Bat: What? You met the Lich Queen? It is forbidden for a vampire to meet an undead queen sorceress.
Vampire Owl: She is not that undead, you know, and she is a good host.
Vampire Bat: Whatever. That doesn’t explain how you met the Monkey King though.
Vampire Owl: Well, I was reading this classic, and the pages came alive.
Vampire Bat: And they attacked you?
Vampire Owl: No, then I realized that I was tearing the pages apart. Then I took some glue and fixed it back to its place.
[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].
What is the movie about? :: A young Buddhist monk, Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) is on the journey to the West, to the Thunder Monastery in India to collect some of the valuable scriptures of Buddha. But the soldiers who were meant to assist and protect him during his journey leaves him when a white tiger attacks them. Trying to protect the horse, he ends up being under attack from the tiger, only to get into a cave and save himself. As he is followed by the tiger, he sees Sun Wukong a.k.a. The Monkey King (Aaron Kwok) who was imprisoned under the Five Fingers Mountain as part of his five hundred years of atonement for the trouble which he had caused in heaven. The awakened and released monkey soon deals with the tiger, but that only begins in new life, as the Goddess Guan Yin (Kelly Chen) has instructed him to protect the monk throughout his journey.
So, what happens next? :: Wukong is not someone who likes taking orders from anyone, but he is bound to stay close to the instructions made by the goddess, as he is wearing a magical headband which can’t be removed, and will cause him pain if he acts like a bad monkey. He finds his life connected to the monk’s, and decides to finish this job as soon as possible, and get back to his usual, mischievous life. On the way, Wukong defeats two other immortals looking like monsters – Zhu Bajie (Xiaoshenyang) and Sha Wujing (Him Law) who joins them in the journey as atonement for their sins, as the monk gets protected from three sides. Both of the new travelers consider Wukong as their big brother, and approves of his superiority in skills. They have some interesting moments during their travel, and reaches Yun Hai Xi Kingdom, which is ruled by a king (Fei Xiang) and his people living in fear.
And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: The kingdom is terrorized by the White Bone Demon (Gong Li), a powerful demoness who is known to take away children from everywhere, and she is supposed to devour them to keep herself in this world. As the demoness learns about the arrival of the young monk, she decides to eat him, and thus get more powerful, without no reincarnation, being an eternally unstoppable demon who could challenge even heaven and hell. She, along with her three demoness minions (Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi and Miya Muqi) get the four to their house in the middle of the forest, where they offer all of them a place to rest. She tells them the story of her past as a young woman, which had Sanzang in tears. The two monsters fall into the seductive trap of the demonesses posing as beautiful girls, and Wukong seems to have some problem with his eyes – so, will the demoness and her minions be successful in using the young monk to expand their evil? Or will the Monkey King be able to save him?
The defence of The Monkey King 2 :: This movie is visually excellent with its creatures, surroundings and magic having our attention, and has those action sequences which will immediately ask for your attention. There are also the messages about forgiveness, and the reflection of the fact that humans are so capable of being more evil than the demons every time. There is also some humour present here, and the comic relief is very much useful in this movie. It actually combines nicely with the adventure as well as the spiritual side, making this package whole. Everything is so simple in this movie, and this simplicity in fantasy is something that we can cherish, and the same makes sure that this movie is for everyone – kids are certainly going to love this one as much as any animated movie. Even though there are not that many reviews of this movie in English, the ratings received, including those in Rotten Tomatoes make nice example of how well this has worked.
The claws of flaw :: Maybe, a more serious version of the classic might have been expected by many, and also this one happens to be a sequel rather than the original story, which could have also kept some people from watching this particular flick. There is also more needed of action from everyone other than Monkey King whose action scenes never cease being delightful – the fans from everywhere will always look for more from him, as I had wondered more about this particular character than anyone else. Also, despite having a very strong female villain there with minions, her manipulation or the fighting skills get quite less attention than we would have expected to witness. Looking silly at times is not something that one would expect from this movie, as there is enough depth all the time, as long as you have a classic in your hands, and got hope of everyone who has read or has read about the work expecting a lot. Also, despite the movie being a visual treat, there are moments when the CGI looks too much and strange.
How it finishes :: Those who have read the novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, are sure to love this movie adaptation of the tale – there are so many version of the same, and many translations. This tale is actually something that needs to be read by everyone, and this movie will help in attaining that for sure. As more people get to read Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, adding the other three, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber and Water Margin to their list of books to read, we can safely say that this visual extravaganza of an action movie is successful in doing the right thing for literature. Even if you haven’t watched this movie’s predecessor, or never known about the novel, it is still okay to watch this movie – this one is a rather stand-alone work, and things really can’t get any simpler than this as far as fantasy movies are concerned. Then, the messages are also straight-forward with nothing there to bring a message out of a message. Also note that the actor who played the antagonist in the previous movie plays the protagonist here.
PS: For more on the movie of the week here, read on – Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum
Release date: 6th February 2016
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Cheang Pou-soi
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang, Him Law, Fei Xiang, Kelly Chen, Lu Weu, Xi’er Qi, Miya Muqi
@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.