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|Index||11 reviews in total|
I grow up watching Japanese anime and American cartoons in China; Chinese people seldom watched our own cartoons; we have never expected to enjoy a good animation directed and made by ourselves. We watched Evangelion; we watched Captain America, but we never have a Chinese hero in our hearts， but now we have one; There is an old word in China: Defects cannot belittle virtues; I have to admit that it impressed me, though it is worse than some Japanese anime,some American cartoons；most people in China read Journey to the West; the story is amended from the book; it has some faults, ambiguous ending for the rule of Chinese Cultural Affairs Bureau, but everyone finishing this movie says:It is the best Chinese 3-D animation I have ever watched; At least, it is a good start of Chinese animation.
I don't know if it was because I'm too sentimental or what, but I was literally tearing when I was watching the trailer with the moving song by Kit Chan. I went to the cinema with hesitation actually,thinking that I might have too much expectation on it, and was kind of afraid that it would let me down. After watching it, I would say it absolutely deserves my expectation and infinite applause. It is probably the first Chinese animation for adolescent and adult audience, comparing to childish Pleasant Goat& Big Big Wolf and Bonnie Bears. The latter actually made nearly 300 million RMB in China. The plot of Monkey King is quite common, especially in western movies: the fallen hero's rebirth, but this kind of themes still attracts large portion of audience and wins lots of tears, including those of the two little boys who sat next to me during the movie. The animations and features are just impressive, maybe not as good as many of the western masterpieces, but definitely good enough to describe it as unprecedented in China's animation history. The bad thing is that, because they almost used up all their budget on the film's creation and modification, they literally didn't do anything on marketing and advertising. Something even worse is that, although I admire the crew's courage and resolution, they chose to compete with extremely fan-based Tiny Times 4.0 and Forever Young, which are acted by a bunch of idols with tons of fans in China. The two I mentioned already made more than 100 million RMB on their first day respectively, but only about 20 million for Monkey King due to the lack of exposure and coverage. However, I always believes that one cannot evaluate a movie only by looking at how much it makes, neither an actor nor a director.
1, The character image is more mature.
In the animation image design, the film didn't use children's characters for leading roles, like Monkey King, make the characters more mature.The image of Monkey King and Pig Zhu Bajie are all adult who have a background of adult socialization, which is beneficial to the depth of the hero image, rather than the superficial adventures.
It is very distinctive that Villain the leading monster's face design for Sichuan Opera Face, and the leading monster's body feels elegant in the sky, I would like give him a name of "the beauty of evil".But after he become a big worm, disgusting, and the modeling of the worm, feel copying the image of the other films.
2, Technical level greatly ascend.
The mouth moving is more realistic;The background picture more rich layered.
1, The plot is weak.Writers had neither according to the novel, nor made innovation. The screenplay is only designed some abused poking fun which amused the audience once or twice. Even more worse, the focus is not prominent that the Monkey King turned into a hero of justice, slightly weak, it is not enough to convince me.
2, Poor continuity in action.Action before and after in a few action scene is not smooth, give me a feeling of unknown cause and effect.
3, Insert abrupt improper music.When the Monkey King, Pig Zhu Bajie, and Liu went alliance, background music style suddenly turned from the traditional Chinese opera into rock & roll, it appeared not harmonious.
Never imagine in this summer, such a Chinese 3d anime could inspire so many people in China where big screen once is full of western heroes,now we have our own hero with such a splendid debut.Thanks to this movie's cast staff,with the awesome 3d effects and well-designed music and scenes full of Chinese traditional cultural elements we regain our belief in China's anime. The last time I was touched by Chinese's anime is the Lotus lantern,but it still fails to bring the glory of Chinese anime time(1964,Havoc in Heaven,1981,The Nine-Colored Deer),now with this movie,we can expect more .May monkey king lead us to the renaissance of china's anime
The "Monkey King: Hero is back" (2015)-- And On His Way Home
TECHNICALLY speaking, "Monkey King: Hero is back" (2015) is essentially "all there"-- meaning that you can sit back and let the 3D animation take you into the story, without issues like lip-syncing or frame-rates breaking the "flow". But the frequent use of jump-cuts, fades-to-black and other cost-saving techniques (e.g "indestructible" clothes) also makes it clear that this is blockbuster film-making on a shoestring budget-- though the director can be seen burning through his budget where it matters., e.g. a cameo of the first-ever 3D-animated (available in IMAX) Chinese dragon rendered with mane, scales and all.
So even if the animation is not as detailed/fluid as the state-of-the-art Hollywood fare, you might still be able to enjoy how differently the developer of this film, October Animation Studio, chose to animate Chinese characters and landscapes.... Using old-school "motion capture"-- i.e. making animators study rehearsing actors like in "Only Yesterday" (1991)-- and manipulating space and perspective as deliberately as Chinese ink-paintings, this film accomplishes (in 3D, no less) the cinematic sweep and kinetic camera-work from kung-fu fantasy classics likes "Swordsman" (1990) and makes the likes of "Kung Fu Panda"(2008) look "cartoonish" by comparison.
But pretty moving pictures aside, now that I've established that this film is perfectly "watchable", what's the real story here? Well, a little background would be helpful.
N.B.(or BACKGROUND): More than 400 years ago, "Journey To The West" hit publishing houses in China (oldest existing print, 1592) and has never been out-of-print since-- but with all the spins-off and sequels that have been written/published throughout the centuries, not one of them has been a "true" successor worthy of re-reading or analysis.
Then some 50 years ago, with the advent of film technology, the animated film "Uproar In Heaven" (1965) hit the cinemas and showed audiences all the fantastical action and imagery described in the first major action set-pieces of "Journey To the West", such as the classic "transformation duel/pursuit" between the 3-Eyed God and the Monkey King-- and for decades, sealed the on-screen character of the Monkey King as an irrepressible rogue with a child-like sense of wonder/humor.
Then some 20 years ago, the 2-parter live-action film "A Chinese Odyssey" (1995) hit the cinemas and gave the Monkey King a "tragi-comical" love story as an alternate/added background to his journey to the west-- and so, like the young adult audiences it garnered, the Monkey King reached adulthood and began to see everything with a sense of loss and cynicism.
Then, just over a week ago, the 3D-animated film "Monkey King: Hero is back" (2015) hit Chinese cinemas and saw the character of the Monkey King take the next step of his development in film-- taking on the joys and frustrations of parenthood, and daring/struggling to care again.... With a predictably simple story that is smart enough to "show, don't tell" (go on-- get your parents to "explain" why they love you...), this film is about the emotional journey of a few lost souls on their way home... under the guise of a comic-fantasy action-adventure.
TD;DR (or REVIEW): At only 80+ minutes, the film throws in everything at breakneck speed-- so the current generation of film audiences (Chinese and international) should be able to enjoy it as mindless fun, IF they are not too concerned about "originality"... seeing as how, in their impressionable but uninformed minds, the Monkey King and Chinese dragons are based the likes of "Dragonball" (1989) **face-palm**.... "Journey To The West" was the progenitor of party-based "challenge of the week" serial storytelling-- complete with slapstick humor and witty banter-- and this film stays true to its roots and that time-honored formula, despite continuity and pacing issues (see first paragraph above).
But for the previous 2 generations of Chinese film audiences with memories of "Uproar In Heaven" (1965) and "A Chinese Odyssey" (1995)-- who have all but given up ever seeing the "true" Monkey King again (much less in 3D)-- this film is like a long-lost dream coming true.... In short, it is almost incomprehensible if you don't know enough about the "Journey To The West" universe (e.g. the Monkey King's reputation for finding and beating up dragons), but jam-packed with brilliant homages, meaningful references and clever in-jokes for the aficionado.
No wonder then, that it has become an internet and movie industry phenomenon in China as fans of the "Journey To The West" universe, or just Chinese animation generally, flooded social media and thanked the director for "bringing back my youth/childhood!" and "reminding me who I was!" In fact, the allegorical appeal of film (much like the novel) is so "spoiler-proof", that October Animation spoiled its story in a promotional music-video and STILL attracted repeated viewings in China-- possibly because the "tour-de-force" of escalating drama and action in the final act never gets old!
P.S.: Bets are on (and vulture/venture capitalists are circling) now as to whether this film will be become the "Nausicaa of Valley of the Wind" (1984) for Chinese animation, and whether October Animation will become the Studio Ghibli of China. Hopefully for everyone who "laugh-teared" throughout the film, October Animation will be able to finance all the planned sequels to "Monkey King: Hero is back" (2015) without any more money trouble, or interference from the moneyed-interests of the Chinese film industry-- and, unlike "Nausicaa of Valley of the Wind" (1984), finish telling the story it wants to tell.
P.P.S.: In contrast, one can see how/why the "Superman" (1978) movie has yet to see a "true" successor, whether its reboots/remakes tried aping it or veering off in a different direction-- e.g. "Superman Returns"(2006) introduced Superman's son but had nothing much/new to say about the characters or their relationships, while "Man of Steel"(2013) re-introduced Superman's father but had nothing much/new to say about the characters or their relationships either...
I truly recommend this movie for all! I have long been disappointed of
Chinese animated pictures. But now they have got talents, great
animators. Great "new thinking" plot on a well exploited story, great
characters with real emotions as motivation for character development,
great camera-work, great character design, great action and so on! But
there is still one thing almost all Chinese animation lack, including
this one, and that is good sound effects. The movie feels unintuitive
and unnatural at times, because the sound doesn't match what's
happening in the screen.
In short, see this movie! If you want to see a great Chinese animated picture!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before you went into a cinema, you may need to know that this film may
not satisfy your imagination.
Is it funny? Yes, but less funny than Kongfu Panda(Dreamworks). Is it high technology? Yes, but less technological than FINAL FANTASY（Japanese). Is it a moving story? Yes, but less touching than 《UP》(Pixar). Is it a fantasy film? Yes, but less creative than 《Monstors inc.》 （Disney).
And why should you pay money to see it? Because it is the best original Chinese animation film you will ever seen. It tells simple story of responsibility and how a middle-aged hero(who has lost his power) outdo himself again. You may not understand some Chinese-background-related concept but you will still be shocked when these catching moment comes.
If you ever wanted to be a superhero, the gravity told you "NO" and life itself mock you in your face. This is the right film for you because this glory-lost monkey is you in the past. If you were ever beated down by cruel world, you still fighting on your feet to stand up. This is the right film for you because this awakened monkey is you tomorrow. It's a awosome animation film for the whole fimily. Kids may love it for the cool action characters and a lovely story telling good people defeat bad ones. Adults can enjoy the same thing as their children but some may prefer the true story hiding behind.
Someone has said that Chinese cartoon films is 20 years falling behind the Disney、Pixar and Dreamorks. Today the monkey king dramatically narrow this gap down to 10 years over one single night. I am so proud of this monkey and the team who brings its story to the big screen. I'd love to tell every one of my friends how cool this monkey is.
If been asked for spinion, I will tell him this: it's not perfect but you should check out this one.
"the best animation film of year" may probably belongs to a Disney panda in 2016 but (to me) this year it belongs to a Chinese monkey.
Within the first 15 minutes, Hero is Back realizes its goal: bring
older audiences on a nostalgia trip, and enrapture young moviegoers
with Sun Wukong, one of the most fantastic characters in Chinese
mythology. The director spent 7 years developing this movie to show his
son (a Batman junkie) the wonders of Chinese superheroes.
Serving as a "pre-sequel" bridge between his two most famous adventures, the flick gives us a VERY interesting take on Wukong's struggles with self-doubt 500 years after he wreaked havoc in heaven.
I was so excited for this unique premise that I flew to China to catch the premiere. The theaters were PACKED, as the trailer generated a lot of hype for domestic audiences. Everyone left with a smile on their face, and some with tears in their eyes, having seen their childhood hero brought to life with 21st century technology. The vibe in the theater lobby was amazing, and we all had a great time afterwards.
Hero is Back's main failure is to move WAY too fast. After being introduced to our main cast, we barely spend any time with them at all before being moved right to the finale. Indeed, Hero is Back does a good job of establishing character motivations, and develops good chemistry. But the audience needs a few slow scenes here and there to appreciate the gravity of their journey, and to reflect on Wukong's growth!!!
Overall, definitely DO watch Hero is Back, especially if you're a Wukong fan. Although it may feel rushed, you will laugh and marvel at the animation, and the insights to Wukong's character make it a unique experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I must warn you that this review may hold some nostalgic bias.
After last year's Frankenstein's monster of a movie adaption ( Da Nao Tian Gong), 'Journey to the West' or 'The Monkey King' gets not the adaption we need, but the adaption we deserve.
Though Sun Wukong's heaven-slaying conquests and prideful persona are skimmed over, 'The hero is back' requires prior knowledge of the original tale in order to have that emotional punch to the stomach we all want. Those who are new to the story though, can still enjoy it just fine.
This is a nation's childhood re-imagined- the righteous monk (Tang Seng) is now an energetic young boy, while our hero is a lackluster ghost of his past self. The story delves into the toll of being imprisoned under a mountain for 500 years, as you know. Typically, this is a story of resurgence and finding oneself after having lost the way: a fun romp for children that resonates with adults too. Though rather clichéd, the story is a welcome departure from the traditional telling of Monkey King's adventures.
What wins loyalties however, are the characters rather than the mostly one-dimensional story. The casting of the child actor for the role of Jiang Liu'er ( I watched it in mandarin dub) is something to be applauded- it really bought out a charming innocence that never once became annoying. Liu'er is a delight.
The one that carries the movie is of course the Monkey King himself, who mainly went by his title, The Great Sage equal to Heaven. The voice acting is phenomenal here; with everything at a minimal, the Monkey King delivers his conflict to the audience brilliantly. Gone is the squeaky high-voice , gone is the corniness of line-delivering in previous incarnations, this Monkey King is genuine and ridiculously endearing through his relationship with the boy. When his voice breaks in high-stirring emotions, my heart breaks with it :)
Animation wise, this is the best animation that has come out of china so far, period. All of those people who accepted that eastern animation would forever be inferior to the west need to re-evaluate their life choices-like the Monkey King. This movie looks about not far from big blockbusters out of dreamworks. Unlike the mostly easy-going tone between conflicts, the fight scenes elevated the movie to a whole new level- expect well choreographed, quick-fire action and an intensity that keeps both adolescents and adults invested. Beware the tear-jerker scenes, they sneak up on you unexpectedly.
However, keep in mind that 'the hero is back' is first and foremost a children's fantasy story, and falls back on slap-stick humour most of the time; though in my screening it got quite a few good laughs too, just not me. Other than the two main leads, the secondary characters are a shambles.The villain did all the villainous things expected. It seems like Pigsy is purely here for cringe-worthy comic relief, though the kids seem to enjoy it. The pig is demoted here more than ever before. More glaringly is the fact that the third disciple Sandy ( Sha Wujing) is completely omitted, meanwhile, even the white horse-dragon has a happy cameo. But no matter I guess...
The resolution, though satisfying, was somewhat lacking compared to what was an equally rash, but spectacular, build up.
beware mild spoilers: The ending suffers from a deus ex machina feeling, though it made sense in terms of the Monkey King's emotional journey. The fight seemed to have ended just as audience blood pressures began to peak. In the end, removing the Monkey King's powers from the equation made perfect sense- all the fights would have lasted mere seconds had he had them from the get-go.
The Monkey King's trauma would have been more impactful if he was imprisoned consciously, instead of being frozen in time as portrayed. It would have been nice to see him acknowledge that Jiang Liu'er was the one who freed him, but again, no matter. How much badassery can you shove into a single moment? This movie challenges this through the Monkey King's entrance in the last act, when the all-too-familiar theme song (from Stephen Chow's incarnation I believe) plays in the background.
Edit: Did you know the director Tian Xiao Peng also worked on the 1999 cartoon series of journey to the west? Clearly it shows.
All in all, this is the resuscitation of a literary classic and, for me at least, a childhood (and adulthood!) hero that I will gladly follow re-envisaged again, and again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With an almost Pixarian flair that marries perfectly with an
Miyazaki-type of emotional twist, "Monkey King, hero is back" is an
uproar in a usually quiet Chinese animation market. Cheap tearjerker,
well some of those who have had enough of Hollywood stuff might
grumble, but it was wrong to juxtapose "Monkey King, hero is back" to
other mainstream American animations, at least not in a Chinese
scenario. For the adaptation of the classic Chinese Novel "To the West"
this film is a bold departure from the old word- by-word translation
that nobody really cares anymore. Monkey King, portrayed as an outcast
was only able to pick himself up from words of a little monk. In some
way, this was significant as it applies powerfully to the real world.
What we are afraid of is nothing but figments of our own fears. The
movie deals courageously with the theme of lost. Donned with a old
cloth, nothing suggests even a remote element of kingness except his
occasional up-hands on small monsters. To put it another way, he was a
loser, a pariah who has lost faith in himself. There are a couple of
close-up scenes which presented an unusually meticulous and delicate
approach to the portrayal of Monkey King's mentality. Few words were
being said and yet the emotion rocked us powerfully.
For me personally, the story of Monkey King has always held a special place in my mind since I was young, which I believe applies to many other people who were born in the twenties century China where American and Japanese popular culture had yet made their strides into the quiet and sometimes monotonous Chinese entertainment market. Since all the way back, there has always been Monkey King and the story of "Journey to the West" where fable-like interplays between pigsy, Monkey King, Liuer (who in the book was called tang sen) serve as lessons to Chinese kids, where moral creeds like respecting the elder and knowing thy place insinuate into people heads and ultimately define us as Chinese. Whereas in the movie "Monkey King: hero is back" the Monkey King was the indisputable protagonist, the novel written in Ming Dynasty China focused more on the interplays between different characters where Monkey King was always portrayed as irrational. This definition would carry on in modern Chinese history till now.
There's a sense of powerlessness in the otherwise almighty character. After being locked up under a huge mountain for five hundred years, Monkey King has certainly lost his edge. Worn-out and beaten, his weariness and regret are evermore powerful to Chinese viewers just like American viewers seeing Captain America getting beaten up and driven away. Yet this powerlessness draws us ever closer to the once sacrosanct image. Gone was the Monkey King who were once inscrutable, manically irrational. What appears in front of us instead is an individual swept away in a current he was not longer able to ride on, a person just like us. I could never fail to connect Monkey King with the rest of us, swept away in a social current we had no control of. Beaten up by the mounting expectations and pressures society demand upon us. May not we haven't been locked up under mountains for five hundred years, but we were just as beaten-up and as tired. Then what could we do. Was there a way we could find our younger selves lost during our journey in life?
In the movie, the bracelet that kept Monkey King's power was a metaphor of our inner feeling of lost and powerlessness. The bracelet was shattered not by spells or powerful magics. It was shattered rather by a renewed sense of hope and drive, an edge that most of us have only when we were young, when we were carefree and fearless. The climax seems to resonate well with a sometimes cliché but nevertheless true statement: we are never normal and we have nothing to fear.
I was almost driven to tears during the movie and I rank it the best Chinese animation I've ever seen in my life. Good news is that it will come to US soon, which I anticipate a great deal of. It makes me proud to be able to introduce to my friends something that is not only Chinese but also sheer pleasure.
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