Posts Tagged ‘Exciting’

Journey to the West 2 (2017)

April 11, 2018

In 2015, I watched a little known (in this country) called Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. The movie is an adaptation of the book version originally published in the 16th century in China. The story follows a Buddhist monk who is journeying to retrieve Buddhist sutras (religious writings). On the way, he tussles with several demons. In the movie, it follows a Buddhist monk who also must contend with various monsters and demons. Many of China’s most enduring mythological characters are present in the story but especially the legendary Monkey King. The movie was absolutely wild and crazy but it was also touching in various ways. It had adventure, comedy, pathos, and so much weirdness. Although, I am not sure if the weirdness sprang from me being a westerner although I am not completely unfamiliar with Asian pop culture. The movie ended with the young monk with three new allies, walking off toward new adventures together. I had heard there was a sequel but I just have not gotten around to watching it.

As a point of order here, I should probably quickly explain what the word ‘demons’ means in Chinese culture as compared to how people in my culture talk about demons. In the West, we think of demons as related to Satan/Lucifer. Lucifer and his kin were fallen angels and dwell in Hell where they torture those who have sinned against God. While there is a whole Christian mythology that tells of the origins of demons, that is usually ignored in favor of fearmongering about Hell to keep people in line. So, this mythology is centered on Hell and the theme of punishing sins. In China, demons are known as Yaoguai and are kind of different from how we view demons. From what I understand, yaoguai are either ascended animal spirits or fallen celestial beings (which admittedly is similar to Lucifer). These creatures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but the main goal of most yaoguai is to achieve immortality and thus become a deity. They also seem to like consuming people for various reasons. For example, a pig demon who starts consuming people because humans consume pigs all the time. The fastest ticket to immortality for a demon is to consume the flesh of a holy man. So, holy men really must be on their guard when it comes to demons.

This movie picks up almost right where it left off, with Tang and his three demon assistants traveling towards India for the sutras that are Tang’s goal. (A quick note, they changed the character’s name to Tang to match the book instead of the actual historical figure). He is played here by Kris Wu and he does a great job approaching is the role similarly to the previous actor. Even though he has officially achieved monk status, he is still the same goof that he was but he also still has that huge heart that helped him win the day previously. As one would expect, he has trouble dealing with the demons he had previously defeated. The Monkey King is played by Kenny Ling and he is a hot-tempered demon who fears his master’s power but ultimately wants to do good. He is such a jerk but it is done in such an endearing and comic way that I could not help but like him. The Pig and the Fish are their companions and they are both loveably pathetic.

This one is a little bit more action/comedy instead of an action/comedy/romance like the first film. Also, the main characters are much more powerful this time around which is to be expected. All of this means that the action setpieces and fights are way more involved but not much crazier. Both films have crazy fun action. The CGI, practical effects and makeup do a great job at bringing this otherworldly adventure to life. The creature designs of the principles and the various enemies are really inventive. They lead to a lot of unexpected moments where I thought I knew how things worked and then things abruptly changed. Some of it is very natural-looking and some of it is reminiscent of live-action Looney Tunes. The latter is par for the course when Stephen Chow is involved in a production. The costumes and set design are all very pretty and feel very much like what mythical and ancient China should feel like. The stunts and fights are a lot of fun with plenty of fluid motion that reminds me of combat in anime.

Overall, I loved this sequel a lot more than I expected to. I was initially disappointed that Stephen Chow was not directing and was only producing but Tsui Hark did a great job in his place. Also, the movie is still written by Chow. The movie is very funny and exciting. I would best describe it as a combination of Mel Brooks, Jackie Chan, and FLCL. Things just happen in the fights because the filmmakers thought they would be cool and if they do not make sense then who cares? In between these awesome fights are comedy set pieces with ridiculous characters. The movie is basically a series of stories bound together by the ongoing arc of the journey and the conflict between Tang and Monkey. Amongst all of the ridiculous fun, there is real emotion and we get to know the characters even more. I definitely recommend this and the first film.


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