[UPDATE] Click here to read the full review on Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.
Stephen Chow’s new film will be releasing on 7th of the February, which is next Thursday, and I’m nothing but skeptical about it. But not without valid reasons, of course.
It’s yet another adaption of the highly popular classical Chinese novel, Journey to the West or more widely known to non-Chinese as the Monkey King. The official Chinese title is 西遊．降魔篇, which basically means Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons Chapter. Without an official English title, the film is simply known as Odyssey on IMDb and will be released/marketed in Malaysia as Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. The Longevity Monk, Xuan Zang, is written to be a demon hunter in this adaptation (I’ve got a really bad feeling about this). Instead of playing the protagonist, Chow took the role of the producer, co-director, screenwriter and will make a cameo appearance in the movie in a disguise (he challenged the fans to spot him). Honestly, without his name, I highly doubt the film would’ve gotten as much hype as it has gotten thus far because the released trailers don’t look attractive at all. Not to me, at least.
Chow’s masterpiece 1994 adaptation, A Chinese Odyssey (Part One: Pandora’s Box and Part Two: Cinderella), is one of my favourites of all time. Quite frankly, I don’t think even Chow himself is capable of beating that twisted adaptation. Any half-brained idiot would know that long-time fans will definitely compare that one with this, so the main question here is simply… why choose to produce another Journey to the West adaptation? And the follow up questions will be… did he run out of ideas or was he too lazy to come up with an original story to produce? Why reuse the theme song (一生所爱) of the previous adaptation? And of all people, why did they have to get Shu Qi, who evidently can’t sing (watch 1:24th minute of the video below), to fucking spoil the great song? By also looking at the last few films he was involved with, I can’t help but to wonder if making good movies is still within his interest because for now, with how Odyssey 2013 looks, it just seems like he only wants to squeeze money out of a quick and easy production made for the coming Chinese festive season.
The film will be a full-fledged comedy. During press conferences, Chow promised that audience would laugh from beginning until the end. Well, with that, we can expect that it’s not going to be as deep, heartfelt and meaningful as A Chinese Odyssey ’94. But the trailers released thus far have not been impressive at all. They look utterly unfunny (very kiddish humour instead of the classic “mou lei tao” style) and the CG looks very dated (reminds me of the CG quality of the cutscenes in Playstation One games). I just hope it won’t turn out as disappointing as CJ7, the last movie acted and directed by Chow. I won’t be surprised if it does because the other co-director, Derek Kwok, does not have a record of great films. Hong Kong has never failed to make shitty Chinese New Year comedies ever
since after the 90s (the golden age of Hong Kong’s entertainment
industry) and Odyssey seems like it’s just gonna continue the bad run.
Another Journey to the West film adaptation entitled Monkey King will release this year as well (October). It’ll be a 3D epic that will feature Donnie Yen as the titular protagonist and as usual, the action choreographer/director, with Chow Yun Fat playing the Jade Emperor. The film will follow beginning chapters of the classical novel where Sun Wu Kong rebels against the entire kingdom of heaven. Even without an official poster or full trailer released, it already looks more promising than Odyssey.
However, even with all that being said, I’ll still give Odyssey the benefit of the doubt and hopefully it’ll prove me wrong by turning out to be a decent Chinese New Year comedy (at least). I’m invited to the press screening of the film on Monday morning so do stay tuned on that day for my review.
[UPDATE] I’ve seen the film. Click here to go to the review.