Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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The Monkey King 3
I’ve always been fascinated with different mythologies from differing cultures, but I’ve always taken a strong bent towards Greek, Norse and Chinese mythology, as they have had a huge influence on our modern cinematic culture. The “4 great novels” of ancient mythology have been adapted and retold a myriad of times in Chinese film history, but none is more popular than the ever enjoyable Monkey King. A god with a selfishly conflicted heart and a penchant for mischief, he has had a great run in cinema, with actors like Donnie Yen, and Aaron Kwok taking stabs at the wacky god of Chinese mischief. I’ve really enjoyed this latest iteration of his works, and Well Go USA has done a faithful job of bringing the films across to America. I did my review of The Monkey King 2: Havoc In Heaven’s Palace last year, and had to do a little backtracking, as it was the 2nd in the series, but there was no domestic release of The Monkey King (which actually came out on Blu-ray a few short months AFTER Well Go USA released The Monkey King 2). Now with both films out on Blu-ray and available for purchase, it naturally follows that the powers that be would continue on with the series and give us another wacky adaptation of ancient poet Cheng’en Wu’s sprawling source novel.
The new Monkey King series of the last several years has taken a more whimsical and fantasy inspired taken on the titular character, adding in a bit of the old stop motion classic vibes as well. There’s no stop motion here (just tons and tons of CGI and prosthetics), but it has that sensation of being in the ancient world like those movies inspired aback in the 60s due to the number of beasts, and animalistic obstacles that come into the path of our hero. The story begins with Xuanzang, Sun Wukong (the Monkey King, played by Aaron Kwok), the pig demon Bajie (Shenyang Xiao) and the blue sand devil Wujing (Him Law) traveling down a large river on their way west to find the Buddhist scrolls they were looking for in the last film. Only they get sidetracked by a river demon who sends them crashing into a hidden land known as “womanland” which is…..wait for it….. populated entirely by women (ala Amazonians).
It doesn’t take a long time for The Monkey king to fall head over heels in love with a hot little princess named Nu’erguo guowang (Zhao Liying), but there’s a catch. Nu’erguo is under the influence of an evil sorceress that has warped the young princess’s mind to believe that all men are evil and must be purged from this earth. Which kinda puts a damper on their relationship, if you know what I mean. The sorceress tries to get the princess to kill the intruders immediately, but Nu’erguo has already gotten a flutter in the tummy and is mildly infatuated with the charming (if not mischievous) Monkey King. Showing mercy to the Monkey king and his cohorts, the princess allows the group to escape, which brings on a bevy of wacky adventures, ranging from random pregnancies, a bizarre miscarriage, and Asian Reindeer (you read that right), all while trying to cross the Sea of Suffering alive.
The movie still has a few issues though. The romance between the King and the Princess could have been trimmed down a good bit, and the necessity to frame a lot of shots for the OBVIOUS 3D conversion (something the U.S. doesn’t get sadly) is a bit off putting in 2D. Being focused on simple “act” vignettes, the story line isn’t some massively cohesive affair, but rather gives us little instances to focus on small stories, which allows for simple lessons to be taught, but also keeps the film from being as impressive as it COULD have been. Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed the fantasy romp, but there are minor issues that seem to plague Chinese films of modern day creation that keep it from being great.
Not Rated by the MPAA
The Monkey King series (this new trilogy at least) isn’t anything special in it’s retellings of “Journey to the West”, but it is a FUN series that places a lot of emphasis on style over substance. This is not a detracting statement, but rather just a declaratory one. The Monkey King 3 focuses on “ooh shiny!” moments and creates a vignette driven film that works well as a movie that you can just sit back and relax to while watching fantastic adventures in ancient mythological China. Aaron Kwok elevates the movie past where it should be, with a fantastic performance and some great physical stretches of the famous King. Well Go USA has once again delivered a knockout Blu-ray with great technical specs, and the obligatory lack of any substantial extras. Definitely worth a fun watch (and a reminder that the first 2 Monkey King films are out on Blu-ray for a rather low price if you haven’t dived into the franchise yet).
Starring: Aaron Kwok, William Feng, Zanilia Zhao
Directed by: Soi Cheang
Written by: Ning Wen (Screenplay), Cheng'en Wu (original novels)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS:X, Mandarin DTS Headphone:X, Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonese, Mandarin DD 2.0,
Subtitles: English, Cantonese
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 114 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 15th, 2018
Recommendation: Fun Watch