Review: THE MONKEY KING Is A Hot Mess From The Heavens

Asian Editor; Hong Kong, China (@Marshy00)
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Review: THE MONKEY KING Is A Hot Mess From The Heavens
Soi Cheang's The Monkey King finally arrives in time for the Chinese New Year holiday, but despite a spirited central performance from an unrecognisable Donnie Yen, the film proves a chaotic maelstrom of make-up and computer-generated imagery that struggles to find its focus.

Banished to Fire Mountain for decimating the Heavenly Palace, the Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) plots his revenge against the Jade Emperor (Chow Yun Fat). Meanwhile, born from one of Princess Nuwa's crystal tears, the monkey spirit Sun Wukong (Donnie Yen) grows into an inquisitive, mischievous character. After studying under Master Puti (Tian Hai Yi), Wukong returns to his mountain where he proclaims himself Monkey King. However, his troublesome temperament soon sees him causing havoc across all three realms, and Bull Demon King formulates a plan to use Wukong as a weapon against the deities.

First announced back in 2010, Soi Cheang's big screen adaptation of the classic story of The Monkey King finally arrives nearly four years later. Cheang's film can be perceived as the origin story of its titular character, coming before Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which itself detailed the origins of monk Xuanzang before the two characters team up for their famous adventure. Here we see how Wukong was created and trained, before his destructive antics see him imprisoned for 500 years under Five Finger Mountain.

Filmed in front of green screens and heavily reliant on computer generated imagery throughout, Cheang's vision is epic in scope and populated by a menagerie of fantastical entities. While the script sets up rivalries between various deities and demons, and a number of potential romances,  much of the film hangs on spectacular duels between all-powerful adversaries. The results, when presented (as they were shot) in 3D, are both kaleidoscopic and abrasive to the senses. Sadly, much of the CGI appears to be unfinished, as the quality of the rendering varies wildly from shot to shot. For a film so dependent on the spectacle of its imagery, this proves a serious stumbling block.

The creature design also proves unintentionally humorous, as almost every demon or spirit is accompanied by an entourage of anthropomorphic animals. Everything from bears and pandas to hamsters and even crabs populate the background, and look better suited to a community stage show than a cinematic extravaganza. Likewise, the performances are either restrained or borderline catatonic, as characters scowl and pose more often than actually challenge themselves physically. Chow Yun Fat is called upon to do little more than act stately, which of course he does effortlessly, while Aaron Kwok gets into a scuffle or two, but mostly just looks sullen and cross. Only Peter Ho's Erlangshen seems willing to get stuck in and keep pace with the film's high-energy hero.

Donnie Yen must be applauded, as he goes all out as Wukong in a performance the likes of which we have never seen from him before. He hoots and cackles as he scampers through forests and leaps from misty mountain-top to crumbling crenellation. To say he goes "full-monkey" would be to understate his dedication to the role, but that is not to say his Wukong is wholly successful. When he gets the opportunity to fight - which is only occasionally - then he looks as nubile and dextrous as ever, with his staff fighting skills proving particularly impressive, but Wukong himself is a somewhat irritating character who can be difficult to sympathise with. 

While the subject matter of Wu Cheng'en's literary classic is an enthralling tale of adventure and heroism, the script for The Monkey King by Szeto Kam Yuen and Edmond Wong is incredibly weak, with numerous conversations and exchanges of dialogue going absolutely nowhere. A burgeoning romance between Wukong and Xia Zitong's Fox Spirit is rendered awkward and unintentionally amusing by the dialogue, while Aaron Kwok's Bull Demon King is persistently badgered by his pregnant wife, Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen). Elsewhere, characters such as Princess Nuwa (Zhang Zilin) and Guanyin The Godess of Mercy (Kelly Chen) are relegated to little more than walk-ons.

The Monkey King should not be written off entirely as in the moments when the effects and the performances come together the result has a pretty spectacular impact. Unfortunately these moments are sprinkled sparingly across an unrelenting two-hour bombardment of sub-par material played incredibly loud and presented in cranium-penetrating 3D. Had Cheang and his team been given the time they needed to get every shot up to the same level of quality, The Monkey King experience would have been greatly improved. However, the importance of opening during the Chinese New Year window cannot be understated, and after close to four years of hard work, time clearly had to be called.
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3DAaron KwokChinaChow Yun FatDonnie YenSoi CheangThe Monkey King

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DooKJanuary 26, 2014 2:50 PM

James, how would you compare Donnie's Sun Wukong to Jet Li or Stephen Chow's?

Philip David MorganJanuary 26, 2014 6:08 PM

We have a problem already: Su Wukong (ironically meaning "awake to emptiness") was sealed up not inside Five Finger Mountain, but Five •Element• Mountain.

Beadis80January 26, 2014 8:46 PM

мʏ ғʀι­­­­­­e­­­­­­ɴɖ'ѕ ѕт­­­­­­e­­­­­­ք-мօтн­­­­­­e­­­­­­ʀ мαĸ­­­­­­e­­­­­­ѕ $76 нօυʀʟʏ օɴ тн­­­­­­e­­­­­­ ʟαքтօք. ѕн­­­­­­e­­­­­­ нαѕ в­­­­­­e­­­­­­­­­­­­e­­­­­­ɴ ʟαιɖ օғғ ғօʀ ѕ­­­­­­e­­­­­­ʋ­­­­­­e­­­­­­ɴ мօɴтнѕ вυт ʟαѕт мօɴтн н­­­­­­e­­­­­­ʀ քαʏƈн­­­­­­e­­­­­­ƈĸ աαѕ $1з946 ʝυѕт աօʀĸιɴɢ օɴ тн­­­­­­e­­­­­­ ʟαքтօք ғօʀ α ғ­­­­­­e­­­­­­ա нօυʀѕ. ʋιѕιт тнɛ ա­­­­­­e­­­­­­вѕιт­­­­­­e­­­­­­

AnitaBaileyJanuary 26, 2014 9:41 PM

Really? What's with the heading of this article? The movie finally comes out and you want to brand it "a mess". Yes. I read your complete review, but I am sorry. Obviously, your opinion is unfair and you don't know what you are talking about. Lately it seems Twitch is just being annal and bad mouthing movies that otherwise have merit. I can't trust your reviews anymore. To me, you have become an unreliable source and voice for film reviews. I'm done.

AlecDumasJanuary 26, 2014 9:50 PM

Didn;t anybody tell Yen that you never go full monkey?

marshy00January 26, 2014 10:36 PM

While I appreciate you reading my review, Ms. Bailey, I must protest. It is you who is being unfair. How can you accuse me of not knowing what I am talking about, and being annal (sic) and bad mouthing the film before you have even seen it yourself? For all you know I am going easy on it and being generous in what I hoped was a balanced and even-handed assessment of the film. How has Twitch become unreliable? Because we don't always like the films you want to be good? In my opinion, praising a film solely because we want it to be good would make us an unreliable source and voice for our readership. Perhaps your disappointment should be targeted at the filmmakers rather than the messenger.

marshy00January 26, 2014 10:38 PM

Interesting, although the subtitles definitely referred to it as Five Finger Mountain (although they were rather poor throughout, it must be said). The mountain is even realised visually as Lord Buddha's hand coming down over Wukong, but I understand that a number of liberties have been taken with the original text this time around.

HowardJanuary 26, 2014 10:57 PM

chinese special FXs are subpar compared to korea/japan...same w/scripting.

DooKJanuary 27, 2014 1:35 AM

Scripting... I can tell that you don't watch alot of HK/Chinese cinema...

Mad_Dog_YayanJanuary 27, 2014 1:42 AM

Japan has good SFX? Really? With the exception of a few, Japan usually has subpar CG as well, AFAIK.

Jedi4life2003January 27, 2014 1:46 AM

I still want to see it, but it probably won't be as impressive as Chow's take on Sun Wukong

TheAngryInternetJanuary 27, 2014 2:49 AM

That's not really an inaccurate interpretation, since in the original text the Buddha transforms his fingers into the Five Element Mountain ("the five fingers transformed into a five-peaked mountain of Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, called the 'Five Elements Mountain', which gently held down [Sun Wukong]"). I don't expect this to be a faithful adaptation, but in this case it sounds more like a subtitling issue than anything else.

marshy00January 27, 2014 3:11 AM

Quite possibly, but i certainly didn't hold any of that against the film.

QinlongJanuary 27, 2014 5:55 AM

I see you've been introduced to the dialectic wonders of Ms Anita Bailey. Enjoy.

On the topic of the film, how much of a role does Fan Siu Wong have ?

QinlongJanuary 27, 2014 6:01 AM

I thought Jet Li's was underrated. I don't know if it fit the source character or not, but as a stand-alone performance I loved it.

marshy00January 27, 2014 6:04 AM

Either he was under so much make-up I didn't recognise him, or his role was cut out of the film. If anyone can help it would be greatly appreciated because I didn't see him anywhere.

QinlongJanuary 27, 2014 6:14 AM

IMDb credits him as "Giant God Ju Ling Shen", so you're right, he must be unrecognizable.

Marc ClementJanuary 27, 2014 8:57 AM

Pretty much everything from asia looks bad.

Wayne HengJanuary 27, 2014 12:01 PM

I watched it during its premiere, and I have to say, It is one of the best asian films in recent years. This review is not very accurate, I am a Chinese and i have seen every Journey to the west movie and every tv series and I can tell you that this movie is the best yet. You can catch it in the theaters and you will see that I'm right. The premiere is in IMAX 3D, and it is absolutely amazing. Easily a 4.5/5
Chaotic because of the wars between the Demon and the "Gods".. .just like war time, i have no idea why the writer of this article is picking on it.
Very disappointed with Twitch, i think you should write a more neutral article because many people have not watched it yet and you might lower their expections or even turn them away from the cinemas.

AnitaBaileyJanuary 27, 2014 2:21 PM

Qinlong, I am not going to even have an extended dialogue with marshy00 as I unfortunately had with you.

AnitaBaileyJanuary 27, 2014 2:43 PM

Twitch has obtained a reputation for being the "go to" source for film reviews. For me, I could always count on interesting information and reviews on your site. But lately, I have not been satisifed with your opinion on certain films and I have a right to state that. I have behind the scenes knowledge of the film so I don't need to see it to say whether I agree or disagree with your review. There is power in one's words, spoken and written. So to me the title of your article is unfair. You really want fans to believe that this movie is a "hot mess" without giving it a fair chance? The filmmakers did a great job, but it is the messenger who is not fairly conveying that. If you truly believe your article gives a balanced view of the film, then the title should have conveyed that. But it doesn't and that is why you are getting mixed responses to your commentary. Show some responsibility and accountablility as a writer. That is all I am saying. Hey Qinlong is that short enough a conversation for you! I'm done.

HowardJanuary 27, 2014 2:46 PM

actually I have a VHS collection numbering in the hundreds of HK movies dating from the 90's/2000's. HK movies nowadays are cheap/poorly scripted.

HowardJanuary 27, 2014 2:47 PM

I watched HK cinema well before Japan/Korean cinema. Let me tell u HK has fallen 3rd behind these 2 countries in terms of producing good movies.

Todd BrownJanuary 27, 2014 3:11 PM

Ah, I see. You're absolutely certain the filmmakers did a 'great job' on a film that you haven't seen. And what you want is us to be 'balanced' by praising a film that we HAVE seen and which isn't very good.

You know why we have a reputation for being a go to source of honest reviews? BECAUSE WE DON'T DO THAT. When we see something that's a great big mess, we call it a great big mess. That's what a reviewer is obligated to do.

I get it. You've got a thing for Donnie Yen and, in general, seem to feel that he can do no wrong. But, hey. He can. And he does. He's in a bad movie, deal with it. It's not the first time. It won't be the last time. Maybe the next one will be better.

DooKJanuary 27, 2014 3:17 PM

And what are some of these movies you refer to? And name HK/Chinese movies in the past 15-20 years that are "cheap/poorly scripted".

DooKJanuary 27, 2014 3:20 PM

There's no such thing that proclaims facts of the state of HK/Chinese cinema compared to Japanese/Korean cinema. Be careful of pontificating things when you can't back your statements.

DooKJanuary 27, 2014 3:25 PM

People say Dicky Cheung's interpretation of the character is still the best one.

Mad_Dog_YayanJanuary 27, 2014 6:40 PM

Ah, I know that one. That one was broadcasted in a dubbed version in my country (Indonesia) in the 90's. It was a big hit here in Indonesia too, and yes, Dicky Cheung was excellent. I actually prefer him than Benny Chan who replace him in the second season

Chou ThaoJanuary 27, 2014 6:41 PM

Well... Dont all US films use green screen and CGI THESE DAYS! So biased from the perspective of An American's view when reviewing HK/Chinese cinematic films! After an opinion of an individual has no effect on the film and critics these days are just too much even though films are good

Ard VijnJanuary 27, 2014 8:00 PM

Ouch. That might have made sense if the reviewer was American.
Which he isn't.

marshy00January 27, 2014 10:13 PM

I conferred with some other fellow critics sat another screening last night, and nobody remembers seeing Fan Siu Wong in the film at all. Sadly it seems like somewhere down the line his role was cut out.

marshy00January 27, 2014 10:16 PM

I'm British and live in Hong Kong, but thanks anyway for dismissing my opinion with such well-argued reasoning.

marshy00January 27, 2014 10:25 PM

I see Todd has already responded to you, but I just wanted to add one thing. Has it occurred to you that blind devotion like yours might actually be perpetuating this downward trajectory of Donnie Yen's achievements? If he knows there are people like you out there who will fawn over anything he does regardless of its actual quality, where's the incentive to produce quality work, or heaven forbid, get better?

You of all people, as the passionate Donnie Yen fan that you clearly are, should be the one demanding the very best from him and the first to complain when he delivers anything less. By giving him a free pass simply because of his past successes, you stand to lose more than anyone else, because in the end you are the one who has to endure inferior product, all the while convincing yourself that he's still just as good as he ever was. I pity the fool.

marshy00January 27, 2014 11:58 PM

"One of the best Asian films in recent years"...? Wow. It's not even the best Chinese film to come out this week! Our tastes in movies, my good man, appear to be rather different.

Wayne HengJanuary 28, 2014 2:55 AM

Your taste appears to be different from everyone.. over 50 critics got the chance to watch the early screenings of monkey king 3D.. and many members of the public too. Their reviews can be found on weibo.. i haven't read one that said it was bad... Too busy to translate now.. but here goes: this is a milestone of Chinese Cinematic History and the first english language review is dissing it..

davebaxterJanuary 28, 2014 3:02 AM

Korean and Japanese CGI tends to be similar to China's, actually, but Korean and Japanese films tend to recognize this weakness (read: lack of stupid amounts of money to throw at a single movie) by using the CGI in more artful or creative ways, that allow the schmaltzy-ness of the effects to harmonize with the rest of the film. For example Casshern and Goemon use CGI like a painter uses a canvas, illustrating completely unrealistic but very eye-popping backgrounds that create a hyper-realistic setting. It's often only when CGI tries to be used in Hollywood style ways that it comes across as cheap, as no one can outspend Hollywood yet.

marshy00January 28, 2014 3:16 AM

If you liked the film then that's great. But not a single one of my fellow critics here in Hong Kong (who are all Chinese) who I saw it with on Sunday liked it at all. But thanks for the link, I'll check out these comments.

marshy00January 28, 2014 4:23 AM

It's always possible I read/remembered the subtitle incorrectly - it's only mentioned once in passing. Either way, it's nothing worth dwelling on.

HowardJanuary 28, 2014 12:12 PM

korean movies have more critical acclaim than Chinese movies universally. Why? bc they don't rush/cut costs to get the product out like chinese producers..

HowardJanuary 28, 2014 12:14 PM

no HK movies nowadays can compare to what John Woo, Dante Lam...hell even Wong Jing made during the golden era. Now all these flicks coming out are some sort of mainland china co-production meant to appeal China. Look at the recent police story, wack!

HowardJanuary 28, 2014 12:16 PM

agreed, flicks like Shinobi/Casshern take came out over 5 years ago look better than any current Chinese special FX flicks. China could take some pointers from those countries.

Todd BrownJanuary 28, 2014 12:23 PM

Not countries, directors. China, as a whole, doesn't make any hive mind artistic decisions when it comes to aesthetics. SARFT weighs in on content, sure, but not look. And there are plenty of directors in China who have plenty of style. Just like Kaz Kiriya is a major anomaly in Japan ... If you look at Japanese film as a whole rather than just the relatively tiny portion that exports you end up concluding that 80 - 90% of it looks like cheap crap. It's the same basic ratio everywhere.

Some directors in some places could stand to learn a lesson or two from some other directors, but geographical location is completely and utterly irrelevant.

Todd BrownJanuary 28, 2014 12:24 PM

You're aware that Dante Lam's peak period is now, right? And Woo's was 20 years ago?

Todd BrownJanuary 28, 2014 12:26 PM

No, current Korean cinema is overwhelmed by shoddy romcoms. Nothing is universal. And producers everywhere are driven by cost and market concerns.

Mad_Dog_YayanJanuary 28, 2014 1:04 PM

Seriously all that you're saying makes it clear you're just biased. A few director's artistic output does not make it representative of the whole country

DooKJanuary 28, 2014 1:13 PM

John Woo was long time ago... It's all about Johnnie To now. And newcomers like Soi Cheang, Derek Kwok are bringing HK filmmaking back. As does stuff by Dante Lam (whose peak is actually nowadays and not in the past lol) and Alan Mak, Felix Chong etc. Hong Kong may not dominate like the Mainlanders but the market is far from over.

DooKJanuary 28, 2014 1:14 PM

In your narrow-minded view...

QinlongJanuary 28, 2014 5:02 PM

To be fair, if we talk of Chinese cinema, French cinema, Indian cinema and so on, it not simply because all the directors come from the same place, but also because countries and cultures have their aesthetic canons (always with numerous exceptions). I agree with Dave Baxter (I know you were not responding to him) that Korea and Japan, on the whole, seem to use SFX differently than China. It's easy to become simplistic in that respect, but I do think there's a kernel of truth here.

QinlongJanuary 28, 2014 5:03 PM

Yes and actually scripts are being paid much more attention to now than in the 80's-early 90's heyday...

QinlongJanuary 28, 2014 5:13 PM

Again, while I don't really agree with Howard, I do think it's possible to evaluate the "current state" of a country's film industry through indicators like the proportion of internationally acclaimed artists, festival presence, box-office returns, average critical acclaim. That does take a pretty in-depth knowledge of said industry. But for instance, nobody will make me believe that French cinema is not in a massive slump right now.

HowardJanuary 28, 2014 5:31 PM

from a chinese person's perspective, it may be considered the best film of the year. from non-chinese people, it may come across as chop-socky if u know what I mean.

TRDJanuary 28, 2014 10:56 PM

I am one of those people. Dicky Cheung was amazing in that role. Benny Chan had nothing on him. And then Stephen Chow comes close.

leonJanuary 29, 2014 5:48 AM

This movie will be great and yes it's messy it's one of the most convuluted stories ever written. This will be great for monkey fans. And those who haven't seen at least 1 complete monkey series and 5 movies should write something about some other movie. This is looking great!!!!!

Todd BrownJanuary 29, 2014 10:00 AM

If your movie requires audience members to have previously been exposed to 30+ hours of content based on the same story to be comprehensible then you've made a bad movie.

And, again, by the 'will be' it's clear that you haven't actually seen the film, meaning it's probably YOU who should be writing about something else.

Todd BrownJanuary 29, 2014 10:14 AM

Sure, but using those markers Korea's not doing any better than Hong Kong / China these days. People are still behaving as though Korea's in the glory years when Park, Bong and Kim all broke through simultaneously and all bets were off. That's not the case any more. The ratio is really, honestly no better than China. Japan may be slightly below those two - if we're just looking at the three major nations in the region - but only by a small margin and that fluctuates year by year.

I haven't done a country by country run down of the Berlin line up this year but off the top of my head I'm seeing more prominent stuff from China / HK than anywhere else in Asia, for example.

Todd BrownJanuary 29, 2014 10:26 AM

Korea and Japan have more of a history with VFX which allows for a broader application, but China's racing to catch up and they're all using the same talent pool when it comes to VFX and post production houses. And, honestly, 90% of Japanese VFX heavy films look like CRAP because they don't put the time and money into them to do it right and they're not artistic at all. And most of the good stuff in the Japanese mainstream somehow or other ends up tracing itself back to Takashi Yamazaki on the VFX front. Take him out of the mix and the ratio - particularly in mainstream film - would be much, much worse.

Korea's slicker in general - I'll agree with that, not that they're more artistic - because their post houses are very strong. And because - thanks to the localization of most film production around a few very well financed companies who both produce and exhibit and thus control the market from creation to distribution - the median cost of Korean films is significantly higher. The ratio of low budget:high budget film in Korea is significantly different than it is in either Japan or China and the difference in VFX quality is down more to this than any sort of art employed in the process. They spend more to get better results.

People are making judgements here based on extreme selection bias. They've seen only a small slice of the total output from these nations, that slice carefully curated by gatekeepers at film festivals and distribution companies, and assume those narrow windows are normative and representative of the entire industries. They're not. My own viewing is certainly not comprehensive but I see a LOT of stuff before it gets to the festival filters and I'm very confident in saying that most of the judgements being made here about industries as a whole are based on too small a sample size of what's actually going on.

Bobby StrykerJanuary 29, 2014 10:47 AM

Will obviously catch it but sounds like we have yet another sub-par Donnie Yen movie on the cards =(

QinlongJanuary 29, 2014 5:14 PM

Thanks, that was quite enlightening, and I can only agree with the fact a lot of people jump to conclusions based on a sample.

QinlongJanuary 29, 2014 5:16 PM

Indeed, Iwas making a general statement about measuring the state of an film industry, but since China/HK is the only Asian film industry I have a somewhat comprehensive knowledge of, I personnally wouldn't venture comparing yet.

Todd BrownJanuary 29, 2014 5:27 PM

Heh ... see, Mainland China is my biggest blind spot in the region. Bash us together and we might collectively be correct!

JoeJanuary 29, 2014 11:23 PM

this must the the worst movie i watched in years even by asian standard. don't waste your money on this garbage. the criticisms of the article are just understatements. the visual effect is so poor that it looks like computer game of the 90s. there is no character building, the story flow is incoherent, the dialogue is cheesy and the chemistry among characters is non-existence. the best rate i would give is 1/5, and that includes 0.5 sympathy point for chow yuen fatt, aaron kwok & donnie yen for the inevitable ridicule they are bound to receive from moviegoers watching the movie

CliffJanuary 30, 2014 12:39 AM

This may be culturally rooted into the Chinese just like Lord of the ring. I mean I don't understand why the western world love Lord of the Ring so much either. It's one of the most boring trilogy adaptation movies I have ever watched in my entire life and I really hated it...only watched it because all my western groupies...but my Asian Hong Kong friends hate LOTR too.

wikig1itchJanuary 30, 2014 5:16 AM

Why am I not surprise....Special ID was boring, this looks like a mess & his upcoming "The Iceman Cometh" remake will no doubt be disapointing. I've gotta admit I'm losing faith in both Tony Jaa (Tom Yum Goong 2 was lackluster) & Donnie Yen, I think their 15 minutes of fame is almost up...

DooKJanuary 30, 2014 11:03 AM

Don't have too damn much expectations...

wikig1itchJanuary 30, 2014 11:32 AM

Expectations were at an all-time low for Special ID because his work since 2008's Ip Man has been mediocre at best (the only exception being 2011's excellent Wuxia aka Dragon), and yet the film still failed to ignite my interest.
I still can't believe I actually enjoyed a predictable tournament film directed by Keanu Reeves more-so than Yen's last few duds...but hey that's just my opinion, if you enjoy his recent stuff more power to you. To each their own.

DooKJanuary 30, 2014 12:58 PM

The fact that you say that Yen's recent movies (Wu Xia aside) AFTER Ip Man have been mediocre at best pretty much tells me that you've had expectations of seeing the same quality and traits from that movie in Yen's new movies. So having low expectations on Special ID don't matter because that goes back to your specific criteria based on that one movie that sparked your interest in Yen in the first place. Just saying ;)

wikig1itchJanuary 30, 2014 6:49 PM

Hey I've been an avid Yen fan since his pop-locking days in Mismatched Couples so don't assume otherwise. All I'm sayings is every film I've seen of his since Ip Man (be it 14 Blades, Legend of The Fist, The Lost Bladesman) I've slowly lowered my expectations due to my disappointment in said films. And still it wasn't enough. The thing about Yen's recent work (beyond the usually excellent fight choreography) is that his film's are really not that interesting to me. Take Flashpoint for example, the fight scenes (particularly the end scrap with Collin Chou, who might I add was given a thankless role in Special ID along with Ken Lo. Just saying...) are outstanding but once the narrative takes strides it become anything but gripping. Special ID suffered from the same problems, as do the other films I mentioned. That's just how I personally view his recent work.

Tiger333January 31, 2014 8:10 AM

Gotta say i kinda agree with you :-(

Donnie seems to be overworking of late - Think i've watched about 5 new Donnie Yen films in the last 3 years!

Never really had any hopes for this film (although i did enjoy Journey to the west)

Marshy how would you compare this to Stephen Chows film?

DooKJanuary 31, 2014 10:34 AM

Most of Yen's movies in general are no different when it comes to stories/acting so there's no use expecting original and gripping stories in his new movies every time. At least he's trying to invest on different types of movies than sticking with the same kind of movies.

Although he's been stretching himself as an overall performer recently (which is what I want to see from him now), he's an martial arts actor first, actor second. Same goes for Tony Jaa, who I'm sure will make more good action movies with decent stories and acting in the future.

Speaking of which, if you want to see Yen in action movies with good plots/acting, look out for Dragon City. It's going to be about a cop and his unit battling gangsters and bent cops inside Kowloon Walled City. Shooting starts soon.

Untame AbleFebruary 1, 2014 7:47 AM

Ever since the Chinese got their hands on special effects they've been overusing the "cheap" techniques for the most simplest attacks! Lame and uninteresting. Sadly I have stopped watching Chinese Kung Fu fantasy films due to this reason. Story and characters make the film, not green screens and cheap graphic renderings.

GinkomanFebruary 2, 2014 5:06 AM

I watched the movie in Sydney, I think this review is fair, but at the same time, the movie does do certain things that the chinese market will react more positively to compared to an international audience, One of them is the simple fact that this is the first time the Havoc in Heaven arc of Journey to the west is filmed as far as i know. Though there has been a handful of Journey to the West movies, they were all based on the arc after Monk Xuan Zhang freed Wukong (which is the arc that is more well known internationally), this is because Havoc in Heaven was considered unfilmmable with it's pure high fantasy settings. That, coupled with the mega star cast would guarantee a strong front loaded box office at least.

As for the film itself, It actually did do a few things i like. I think the almost judeo-christian God vs Satan relationship between Chow Yun Fat and Aaron Kwok is an interesting take that actually tied the whole plot together to a certain degree.

Other then that.... Yeah this is not a very good movie. Almost every visual aspect of it is subpar, The CGI is incredibly bad, the lighting and composition looks worse then Kung Fu Hustle from 10 years ago and some of the prosthetics......whooooo boy....... just.... look out for a certain panda character...

also i wanna chime in on some of the ridiculous generalizations in this thread... how old are you to have to list a whole country's creative industry as some sort of buzzfeed top ten list. is this your thought process, "hmmm, in my list, JAPAN and Korea is better then China, so EVERY film from those countries better then EVERY film from China. fuck Jia Zhangke, this Sushi Typhoon 4000 dollar sexploitation flick is better then A Touch of Sin" BECAUSE IT IS FROM JAPAN !!! give me a break.

Also just one last thing, look at Young Detective Dee, It had a a smaller budget compared to this movie, but looks better and is bigger in scale then this film. The SFX and 3D for Detective Dee might not be the next WETA showreel, but it has a uniform sense of coherence that suited the film, unlike Monkey King. Both films are from China, what does this explain ? That it is the talent of the individual filmmakers that matter, not where they are from. Even better yet, Rigor Mortis had great cinematography and SFX, and that movie probably only cost 20 percent of the budget that went into Monkey King .

TheAngryInternetFebruary 2, 2014 1:27 PM

There's a classic feature-length animation from 1964 (known in English as either Uproar in Heaven or Havoc in Heaven) that adapts the same sections of the story, though interestingly that version eliminates his imprisonment beneath the mountain and ends with Wukong's revolt actually succeeding. It's basically a celebration of the rebel aspect of the character that the new version downplays by turning him into a dupe of the Bull Demon King.

Amusingly, the rights holders of the animated version threatened a lawsuit against the makers of the new one, on the grounds that its title logo is a straight lift of theirs. Not sure how it played out, but I'm guessing there was a settlement.

GinkomanFebruary 4, 2014 2:50 AM

now that you mentioned it, there definitely is a lack of mischief in WuKong in this movie, actually after stewing on it for 2 days. I am begining to hate any good bits i thought was enjoyable in this movie, it is downright just a horrible movie out and out.

Yeah the original animated feature will remain my go to for Havoc in Heaven. Theres a bluray of the wide screen remake from 2012, i should have wasted my 20 bucks on that.

Vincent OuYoungMarch 25, 2014 2:02 PM

No, being culturally hybrid and have read both LOTR and Journey to the West several times in my life time (in their original language of course)
The Monkey King 「大鬧天宮」 was crap-tastic on pretty much all levels. From acting to special effects, it was pure amature hour.

osarumen erhunmwunseeMarch 31, 2014 12:44 PM

monkey king is the worst movie of all time. the CGI effect looks like the effect they use in 1980s. i can't even watch the movie at all, because the movie is idiotic. sorry

JohnnydeepApril 5, 2014 11:01 AM

I am chinese from Malaysia and my friends from Singapore. Our honest views on the film are rather similar to marshy and vincent's. It is hard to really stay awake till the end of the movie. the plot is rather sketchy, under develop, doesn't develop till full potential (compressing a long story into a over time movie). Other than main characters in the movie, the rest are just like mechatronics or for background population purpose (getting the family weekend drama type of feeling). Stephen chow's JTTW is rather well develop character wise, well encompassed everyone in that movie, although it deviated much from traditional story. He chosed a small part of the JTTW story and sort of amplified its full potential. So if you ask our views again, anytime i would rewatch Stephen chow's JTTW and even LOTR as compare to this one. Things stand out in this Monkey king's movie are the outstanding background, certain mega fighting scene but once we see those comical costumes, it is like urghhh, what happen with this - out of budget? Sorry this movie doesn't make the cut for us, but maybe for others as no one is the same in this world. So cheers!

Brian EastwoodApril 14, 2014 12:57 PM

I really enjoyed this movie. I'm not comparing it to over polished hollybud movies. I expected high cheese factor and something dashed with Jap anime and bollywood over colour. as a child I watched the monkey series which was shown by the BBC. This was a Japanese show and extremely outlandish. Only thing really irked me about the movies was the George of the jungle like tunes in the upbeat scenes.

Monkey Magic!

annoynimousMay 17, 2014 12:01 PM

Dicky Cheung for series, Stephen Chow coming close second for cinema.

Why oh why?

Both executed the monkey role flawlessly,

The audience will capture every emotion of their characters, from mischief, to laughter, to anger, to sadness, to regrets, and to redemption.

If you did not shed a tear on any of these 2 monkeys during their journey you have no emotion.

Siev Raj Yalam RablibJune 15, 2014 6:22 AM

As a Literature teacher i would say that the effort of the film maker is remarkably high,..for it is a challenge and yet he portrayed what really appeared on the novel,..with a little modification on some parts, but all i can say is both The Monkey King 2014 and Journey to the west are all nice.i would rate both 4.75/5

condorx2November 7, 2014 5:18 AM

I love this movie for the scenery (it was well done imo), the martial arts and the movie actually followed the original story of Journey to the west. It wasn't perfect but it work for me. I was like "show us the part where wu kun go to hell and erase all the names of his friends!"

I also didn't even know about the CGI until I accidentally stumble upon this review while Googling on who was playing the Monkey King.

Being a Lotr fan, star wars fan and the walking dead fan, I can tell ya that every movies or tv show is worth watching if you just forget about being a negative Nancy and just enjoy the show ; )

condorx2November 7, 2014 4:40 PM

I love this movie for the scenery (it was well done imo), the martial
arts , compressed everyone in one movie and the movie actually closely followed the original story of Journey to the West. It wasn't perfect but it work for me. The only thing I miss the most was not having WuKong travel to hell and erase all the names of his friends!"

I also didn't even know about the CGI until I accidentally stumble upon
this review while Googling on who was playing the Monkey King.

Being a Lotr fan, star wars fan, game of thrones fan and the walking dead fan, I can tell ya that every movies or tv show is worth watching if you just forget about being a negative Nancy and just enjoy the show.

More importantly: If you think like garbage, you'll feel like garbage as well ; )

condorx2November 7, 2014 4:48 PM

I like it. I remembering watching old Chinese Kung Fu fantasy films where the actors still had strings on their back while they're flying xD

All those new special effects is a welcoming change, especially the Harry Potter and it black smoke villain use to travel with. I wonder if that was inspire by WuKong flying cloud? ; )

May ChenNovember 14, 2015 12:41 AM

These western websites are really bad and nasty, you are just jealous of the Monkey King 2014 being a decent movie that deserves an 8/10 or at least a 6.5/10. Soi Cheang’s, The Monkey King 2014 movie is a much greater movie than the Wizard of Oz. The western people or other people who evaluated this IMDB rating of 4.7/10 is ridiculous and highly unreasonable at The Hollywood Terminator movie is a 4.5 out of 10!!. Why don't you say that the Wizard of Oz should get a 2/10 and is the Wizard of Oz is the WORST movie of all times!?!. It is really rude of western people to initiate these incorrect insults first against the new Monkey King 2014 movie.

May ChenNovember 14, 2015 12:59 AM

Journey to the West is a different show from the new 2014 Monkey King movie but the new movie is not bad either. Even though you incorrectly call the new movie a hot mess, that has nothing to do with the amazing and magnificent original novel that was written in the 16th century by Wu Cheng''en. Journey to the West is one of the four great classical novels of China. Martial arts and kungfu which were invented and created from China is very impressive. The beautiful ancient Chinese costumes of Asian Chinese men and women, great Chinese mythology and the Bhuddist monk are excellent in the high quality TV series. Journey to the West is my favourite TV series Bhuddism and my favourite novel about Bhuddism and what great things it has to offer !!!

May ChenNovember 14, 2015 1:00 AM

Even though the new Monkey King 2014 movie is being badmouthed by you westerners, please note the fact that the special effects and CGI that you complain about have NOTHING to do with the really good TV series. How about complaining that Hollywood movies in the 20th century, including Harry Potter have PLAGIARIZED and COPIED the Asian Chinese concept of the original Monkey King flying in a cape with this magic staff that was invented first in the 16th century!!! When you complain and whine about the new Monkey King movie with Chow Yun Fat who did a great job, the other guy, Soe Cheang did a good job with the 2014 movie!!! Westerners do not even know how to judge and do not know how watch the Monkey King unless you followed the subtitles provided by Asian Chinese people who helped you. Please stop writing excessively negative and sad articles to sabotage the new 2014 Monkey King movie. You are lucky that you are not getting sued for slander and libel because you are directly and indirectly badmouthing and sabotaging the good reputation of the literary genius, Wu Chengén and the magnificent Journey to the West novel.

Nishi HundanFebruary 20, 2016 4:41 PM

You are an idiot. That's why China will always be second rate. You guys don't have the guts to honestly grade yourself, so you live in a delusional bubble where China is the best.