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Lost Empire, a VERY strange title for a retelling of the old Chinese
adventure "Journey to the West", is a mixed bag of a film. David Hwang's
screenplay is in many respects a sequel to the original story, as opposed
being a modern rendition of the original story. I regard this as a mistake
as I believe Mr. Hwang lost more by giving up on the original characters
than he gained by having a modern setting.
Good points: The lovely Ling Bai did a good job as the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Kwan Yin). Some scenes with Monkey and the "Scholar from Above" went well (mainly the scenes when Monkey rescues his subjects on Flower Fruit Island). Some interplay between "Sandy" and the "Scholar from Above" was funny. Some of the art design for the palace of the Jade Emperor was good (but NOT the throne room, yuk!).
Bad points: Too many explosions. A really ugly and totally wrong portrait of Confucius (I could go on for some time but I'll stick with this key point: Confucius was a materialist. He had no interest in religion and spirits. He was only interested in how a good state was run. The depiction of Confucius in this movie is totally at odds with EVERYTHING that Confucius stood for.) The last half-hour of the movie was anti-climactic, over-wrought, and uninteresting.
Deeper problems: Journey to the West is, at its core, at Buddhist story about the quest to attain enlightenment (along with the fun stuff about beating demons). This story (Lost Empire) takes place AFTER Monkey and Sandy have achieved their ultimate state. They are both "supposed" to be enlightened beings. The problem with this is that a) they don't act like enlightened beings, and b) there isn't much drama possible when you are enlightened. You can really tell the weakness in the writing when Kwan Yin has to tell Monkey's old teacher that "Monkey HAS been blessed by the Buddha". If you need a 3rd party (a goddess no less) to convince other people that you have become enlightened and have been blessed by the Buddha, well, its clear to me that the story is saying one thing, but doing another.
In fact, none of the characters behaves "in character". At least not like the characters that you enjoyed when reading "Journey to the West".
Deepest problem: the story (Lost Empire) is trying to both be and not be "Journey to the West" at the same time. Its trying to both be true to original ideas and be "modern" and up-to-date at the same time. Its trying to be a sequel that retells the original story. It is, in short, a total mess at a very deep level. -- Colin Glassey
The Lost Empire is a excellent updating and play off a an ancient Chinese
novel entitled "Journey to the West".
For viewers who have some knowledge of Chinese myths and stories this movie is a real treat. It brings back all the wonderful characters of one of the most beloved novels of childhood.
On the other hand if you don't have a clue who the Monkey King was, let alone the celestial Kingdom and the Jade Emperor, than you might not get the underlying story elements, but the movie should still be a great deal of fun simply as a great adventure story with wonderful special effects and some very amusing characters.
This movie can be enjoyed by young and old. Think of it as an Asian version of Wizard of Oz, Ben Hur and Indiana Jones all rolled into one.
Some other commentators have bemoaned the historical faults, others the romantic interest. To which I say this - first off, it was a made for TV movie. What is the first role of such a movie? To entertain. Perhaps the History Channel will do a more accurate documentary, if that's what people want. As for the romance, where would the movie "Titanic" have been without the love story? Similarly, this movie needs the romantic interest to move the very 21st Century "Scholar" into a position to want to get involved with people that are more the stuff of Myth, Legend, and to a great degree, Hope. Otherwise, why should he bother? "The Journey West" is a story I'd not heard of. Now, even with this fanciful introduction, I think I'll go look it up and read it. To bring me to do this, both the movie, and other comments here, have thus been successful. Microwave up the popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. Just don't take it too seriously, just enjoy it for the entertainment that it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Recap: Chinese scholar Nicholas Orton is most unhappy. His wife has
left him and he feel like he has betrayed himself by taking a position
with a tourism corporate that wish to turn relics into a tourist
attraction. But one night he is whisked away by a Chinese goddess. The
world is threatened. Oppressive demons are trying to erase the story
"The Journey into the West" from history and by doing so erase free
will in the human world. Only Nick can save the world by going on a
Comments: A movie made for TV it tries to enter a land of magic and fantasy. However it seems to suffer from a meager budget as the special effects lack in quality. But not enough money can't explain a bad story. I am not familiar with the original story or myth but as it is presented in this movie it is childish, simple-minded and quite boring.
The characters are stereotypic, arrogant and also childish in appearance. The monkey king resembles a human, that's true. But Pigsy, however true to the original story, is just too much. A walking, talking pig that can't resist eating all the time. He is worst, but every other character is almost as simple-minded and shallow as him. Or why people keep on driving as they crash through market stands just because the red light disappeared (because no one would ever use the brakes if the traffic lights weren't there? Sigh).
Also the story is easily predictable, but not only predictable. Boring. Who will fall in love with whom, what someone will do when he is challenged and so on. When the story is too simple, the effects doesn't support the magic elements in the story and the characters are too shallow, the entire story becomes hard to believe in. Not accept as truth, but to believe in its own context. It doesn't carry it's own weight. It doesn't even seem the characters or actors believe in it.
Why it must run then for more than two and a half hour is beyond me. If it can't develop some chemistry in an hour, two doesn't make it better. Only worse.
This movie is a contemporary take on the classic Chinese novel "Journey
to the West," which is a fictionalized account of the legends around
the Buddhist monk Xuánzàng's pilgrimage to India during the Táng
dynasty in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts called sutras.
The ministers have imprisoned the writer of the book, and are attempting to destroy it to reverse time back to traditional Chinese life, i.e. before any modernization. The modern world will be destroyed unless The Scholar From Above (Thomas Gibson) can enter the underworld and save it.
Don't make any mistake. Gibson would not have taken one step except for the fact that he was following the luscious Bai Ling, who anyone would follow to the gates of Hell.
He rescues Sun Wukong the Monkey King (Russell Wong - Romeo Must Die), and is joined by Zhu Bajie(Pigsy)(Eddie Marsan - 21 Grams, Vera Drake) and Sha Wujing (Friar Sand) (Kabir Bedi - Octopussy) to save the book and save the world. It is almost a Wizard of Oz adventure, as they all have personal issues to resolve in addition to the mission.
Of course, Kuan Yin (Bai Ling) appears any time he utters a prayer. Thankfully, for the many appearance of Bai Ling make this film worth watching. She is usually in another spectacular costume each time she appears.
Besides spectacular costumes, the sets were lavishly decorated. The special effects were magnificent, and the martial arts displays exciting.
It was overly long, but most great adventures are. Anyway. that is more time to watch Bai Ling.
Loosely based on one of China's greatest stories (A Journey to the West,
also known as the "Monkey King"), the Lost Empire was a horrible
which insulted a rich culture.
Moving past the bad acting, cheesy action sequences, and the slow, lengthy story; the Lost Empire continually butchered China's legends and heroes.
Many of China's heroes and gods were wrongly portrayed as either villains or imbeciles... most insulting was the portrayl of Confucius as a devious worm who had nothing but disdain to the heroes...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I started watching, within half an hour I heard my 11 year old son's voice echoing in my mind. "wow". That's what he says to me in response to something I've said or done, which he says it in such a flat tone and with such a blank expression on his face that its meaning is absolutely clear. Wow, this is one of the lamest things I have ever seen. It's so lame that if I were out with it in public I'd walk 20 feet behind it and pretend I didn't know it. I cringed as I watched the scholar and the monkey king "snow boarding" through the clouds. I had to stop watching for fear of seeing the goddess of mercy "snow boarding" on her cloud.
The Lost Empire, or The Monkey King, as it was called when I saw it on
the Hallmark Network, is a silly film, but a very enjoyable one. It
attempts to put a new spin on the Chinese classic, Journey to the West,
which tells the story of how a monk went on an epic journey to recover
some sacred scriptures, aided by the mischievous Monkey King, the
gluttonous Pigsy and the sombre Sandy.
In this modern version the companions are the same, but the monk is replaced by a modern American sinologist, and the "scripture" is the original manuscript of Journey to the West itself, which is about to be destroyed by the "five traditional masters", who represent the forces of conservatism. Confused? It gets worse; if the book is destroyed, all the human progress that has taken place since the book was written will be reversed and the world will revert to feudalism. To cap it all, the Jade Emperor, Confucius and Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, are all weighing in.
With a scenario like this, the film cannot help but being absurd in places, but the absurdity, intentional or otherwise, is part of the fun, as it was in the original Journey to the West, which is a comedy as well as an analogy of the spiritual journey. Viewers who have read Journey to the West will enjoy the references to it; others can sit back and enjoy the visual richness, which as well as some spectacular scenes and SFX, includes Bai Ling as Kuan Yin, looking far more sexy than a goddess of compassion ought to (but then that's one of the twists in this tale as well).
At least they changed the name of this show from its original working
"The Monkey King" (as the book "Journey To The West" is generally known),
acknowledging that it was not attempting to be remotely faithful to the
It would have been better to make a straight retelling of the book. As it is, there is about 30 minutes of compelling TV in this show -- unfortunately, those 30 minutes are spread over 4 hours.
I was frankly embarrassed by the treatment of Confucius as a petulant wisecracker and corrupt court politician, which I found offensive, and I am surprised that I haven't seen any complaints from Chinese-Americans on this score. But it's still early.
Yes, the weaknesses of this movie are numerous. The acting is, for the
most part, horribly wooden, particularly with the lesser supporting
characters. The real-world history is way off (among other flaws
already pointed out in other reviews, "Journey to the West" is,
according to what I've read at least, closer to 400 years old than 500,
and the official objection to the manuscript was its nontraditional
form rather than its content). Some of the characters, particularly
four of the Five Traditional Masters, are way underdeveloped.
Portraying Confucius as a self-serving sycophant is just *wrong.*
If you're already familiar with the original story of "Journey to the West" and can't bear to see it butchered -- which is exactly what happens here -- then follow the one-star ratings given here and avoid this movie like the plague.
For anyone else, this is a fun piece of work. It was hardly Emmy-worthy in any category (with the possible exception of Bai Ling's impassioned performance as the Goddess of Mercy) and has numerous plot holes not worthy of David Huang, but the story travels on well with only a couple of relatively minor diversions (well, I guess NBC wanted to make sure they had a good two-part miniseries), one can really care about those characters that do receive proper development, and can wonder and worry about the story's outcome.
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