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Sun Wukong, (The Monkey King) is a monkey born from a heavenly stone who acquires supernatural powers. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain for 500 years, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang on a journey to India. Thus, according to legend, Buddhism is brought to ancient China. This much beloved story, is as much a part of Asian culture as The Iliad and The Odyssey or The Wizard of Oz are to the West. This first installment in a trilogy of live action 3-D movies is actually a prequel to The Journey To The West, the much told story of the Monkey King's adventures on the road to India. The Monkey King: Havoc In The Heavenly Palace will be released in the U.S. as The Monkey King. The first movie is the origins story - beginning with the birth of Sun Wukong and ending with his imprisonment for his crimes under the Five-Peaked Mountain. Along the way he acquires incredible powers, battling the armies of the gods and the armies of the demons to find his ... Written by
Robert Harris / Global Star Productions
Donnie Yen's highly-spirited performance and Soi Cheang's energetic direction made this a surprisingly enjoyable epic fantasy.
When THE MONKEY KING debuted the teaser trailer sometimes last year, I was doubtful whether Donnie Yen was really up for the legendary Sun Wukong role or not. Even the glimpse of the special effects doesn't look engaging enough to convince me whatsoever. However, upon finally watching it, this nearly four-years-in-the-making production proves to be a well-worthy cinematic experience after all.
WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
During an ongoing war between god and demon on the Heavenly Palace, Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) lost the battle against Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat). However, Jade Emperor's daughter, Princess Iron Fan (Joe Fan), begs her father for mercy because she loves Bull Demon King very much. Jade Emperor ends up banishing both of them to the Fire Mountain and forbids them to enter Heavenly Palace ever again. Meanwhile, a monkey spirit is born out from Princess Nuwa's (Zhang Zilin) magic stones which later grows up as a mischievous adult. Soon he is trained under Master Puti (Tian Hai Yi) and names him as Sun Wukong. After Wukong completed his master's training, he returns to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits where he originally belongs to reunite with his fellow monkey clan and calls himself as Handsome Monkey King. Trouble arrives when Bull Demon King sees Wukong as his golden opportunity to use him as bait to access Heavenly Palace, while waiting for the right moment to wage war against the god all over again.
THE GOOD STUFF
Last seen in 2012's MOTORWAY, Soi Cheang's direction is colorful and yet entertaining enough to please most of the die-hard fans of the Sun Wukong story. Speaking of story, Szeto Kam Yuen's and Edmond Wong's screenplay is a fairly satisfying combination of action, comedy, romance and fantastical elements all rolled into slick package. Christopher Young's music score, in the meantime, is simply majestic. The action sequence, which is choreographed by Donnie Yen himself, is often exhilarating and epic in scope.
As Sun Wukong, Donnie Yen has successfully delivers one of his best performances ever seen since IP MAN (2008) and IP MAN 2 (2010). And likewise, he proves to be such a nimble fighter as usual, especially when he uses his golden staff. Other actors, such as Peter Ho as the scheming Erlangshen and Chow Yun-Fat as the noble Jade Emperor, are equally acceptable as well.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
The "all-hell-breaks-loose" duels during the movie's spectacular finale.
THE BAD STUFF
Despite the hefty amount spent on the budget, the special effects are average at best. Even there are times the special effects looks like a rushed job. Some of the other cast, including Aaron Kwok's villainous turn as Bull Demon King, Kelly Chen as Guanyin and Gigi Leung as Chang'E, are sadly underwritten.
While THE MONKEY KING is far from the best movie adaptation ever seen from Wu Cheng'en's classical novel of Journey to the West, it remains a satisfying effort worth checking out for this Chinese New Year.
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