Newest Reviews
Black Water: Abyss
Wild Blue Yonder, The
All Hail the Popcorn King
Muriel, or the Time of Return
Great Locomotive Chase, The
American Anthem
Lion and the Horse, The
War of the Wizards
Doctor Faustus
Spite Marriage
Mask, The
Letter to Jane
Quick Millions
Dream Demon
Max Havelaar
Glastonbury Fayre
All Dogs Go to Heaven
Shoot Out
Da 5 Bloods
Kung Fu Monster
Secret Agent Super Dragon
Saint Frances
Boiling Point
Golden Stallion, The
Dragon Force
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Luck of Ginger Coffey, The
Junkers Come Here
White, White Day, A
Strong Medicine
Bitter Springs
Centipede Horror
Physical Evidence
Fanny Lye Deliver'd
Newest Articles
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
Star Wars Triple Threat: The Tricky Third Prequel and Sequel
I Can See for Miles: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Blu-ray
Too Much Pressure: The Family Way on Blu-ray
The Alan Key: Alan Klein and What a Crazy World on Blu-ray
A Japanese Ghost Story: Kwaidan on Blu-ray
The Zu Gang: Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain on Blu-ray
Reality TV: The Year of the Sex Olympics on DVD
The Young and the Damned: They Live By Night on Blu-ray
Mind How You Go: The Best of COI on Blu-ray
Der Kommissar's in Town: Babylon Berlin Series 3 on DVD
The End of Civilisation as We Know It: The 50th Anniversary
The Whalebone Box: The Andrew Kotting Interview
  Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back Monkey see, Monkey kick ass
Year: 2017
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Kris Wu, Lin Gengxin, Yao Chen, Lin Yun, Yang Yiwei, Mengke Bateer, Wang Likun, Bao Bei'er, Wang Duo, Da Peng, Cheng Sihan, Shu Qi, Tsui Hark, Stephen Chow Sing-Chi
Genre: Martial Arts, Romance, Historical, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: On an epic journey seeking sacred Buddhist sutras, pious monk Tang Seng (Kris Wu) has his hands full coping with three unruly animal disciples. Girl-chasing Pigsy (Yang Yiwei), foul-tempered fish monster Sandy (Mengke Bateer) and especially mischief-making super-simian Sun Wukong the Monkey King (Lin Gengxin) land him in one fine mess after another. That is when they are not busy trying to save Tang from various ravenous demons intent on eating his flesh, including a sect of seductive spider-women. When the travellers reach the capital city of the Biqiu kingdom, Sun Wukong's antisocial antics wind up offending the childish King (Bao Bei'er). Things take a turn for the even worse after the King's suspiciously feminine-looking minister (Yao Chen) asks them to add another pilgrim to the group whose presence dredges some bad memories for poor, long-suffering Tang.

Back in the early Nineties visionary Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark tried to get Francis Ford Coppola to back a proposed Monkey King movie with creature effects by Jim Henson. Now, more than two decades later, Hark finally delivers his take on the enduring Chinese legend albeit via a sequel to Stephen Chow Sing-Chi's record-grossing Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013). On top of that the film arrives hot on the heels of sequels to two other big-budget Monkey King franchises: The Monkey King II (2016) and A Chinese Odyssey - Part Three (2016). This did not seem to bother the Chinese audience given Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back now ranks as the highest-grossing film of Tsui Hark's career despite more than a few observers noting its artistic merit pales besides Chow's groundbreaking original.

With Chow on board as writer and producer the surreal, anime-influenced style of slapstick comedy here bears the unmistakable stamp of the Cantonese comic genius even though Hark's direction is heavy-handed, often labouring for the obvious gag. Which is strange given past works have proven him an inspired comedy director in his own right: e.g. All the Wrong Clues... For the Right Solution (1981), Working Class (1985), The Chinese Feast (1995) and more recently All About Women (2008). Whereas Chow's Journey to the West was near-Spielbergian in terms of how meticulously he crafted its set-pieces, Hark goes for his endearingly familiar hyper-kinetic pacing, bombarding viewers with a dozen crazy ideas a minute. Lush production values fuse Disney with Bollywood for a unique take on Chinese mythology with eye-popping computer graphics although, as with a few recent Monkey movies, the make-up effects are sub-par. As Chow did in the original film Hark plays the monster sequences for genuine skin-crawling horror. If the meandering narrative takes too long to settle on a definitive direction the set-pieces remain more eye-catching, exciting and creative than in many recent Hollywood blockbusters. From the creepy spider-women sequence influenced by imagery found in the anime Wicked City (1987) (which Hark adapted as a live-action movie in 1994), Monkey's video-game style sky-battle with the clockwork toy redesigned Red Boy to the epic climactic kaiju stand-off between the gigantic rock-skinned super-simian and a golden Buddha.

Once the pilgrims reluctantly adopt a new travelling companion in the fetching form of courtesan Felicity, played by Lin Yun, star of Stephen Chow's record-grossing (this happens a lot with him) The Mermaid (2016), the movie finally gains much-needed momentum and thematic weight. Hark finally comes into his own interweaving his trademark complex layers of emotional, philosophical and psychological angst. Felicity's beauty stirs memories in Tang of his lost love Miss Duan (Shu Qi in a too-brief though still heart-rending cameo) who of course - SPOILER WARNING! - met her end at the hands of a then-villainous Sun Wukong. Unlike the first film Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back reverts back to tradition by focusing on an ideological conflict between the pious monk and mischievous Monkey. However Hark darkens the relationship pitting the gentle, well-meaning if ever-so-slightly hypocritical Tang against a scowling bad boy Sun Wukong who seethes with anger and resentment, humiliates his master at every turn and seemingly wants to get him killed. Interestingly for a film sourced from a text extolling traditionally Buddhist values, the script's moral message is Christian: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Former boy band member Kris Wu brings a charming wide-eyed naivety to the role of Tang. Meanwhile Lin Gengxin's hunky, swaggering bishonen reinterpretation of the Monkey King takes some getting used to at first but proves by turns ingratiating, terrifying and highly charismatic. The plot contrives to set Monkey down the dark path once again before an abrupt twist sets the stage for a crowd-pleasing special effects climax that while aptly mind-blowing proves too cavalier in resolving some complex themes.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1574 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Tsui Hark  (1950 - )

Hong Kong director, producer, writer and actor and one of the most important figures in modern Hong Kong cinema. Hark majored in film in the US, before returning to his homeland to work in television. Made his directing debut in 1979 with the horror thriller The Butterfly Murders, while 1983's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain was a spectacular ghost fantasy quite unlike anything in HK cinema at the time. Other key films of this period include Shanghai Blues and the brilliant Peking Opera Blues.

Hark established the Film Workshop production house in 1984, and was responsible for producing such groundbreaking films as John Woo's action classics The Killer and A Better Tomorrow, Ching Siu-Tung's A Chinese Ghost Story and New Dragon Gate Inn, and Yuen Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey. In 1991 Hark revitalised the period martial arts genre and launched the career of Jet Li by directing the hugely successful Once Upon a Time in China, which was followed by several sequels.

Like many Hong Kong directors, Hark gave Hollywood a go in the late nineties and directed Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team and Knock Off. He returned home soon after to continue directing and producing movies like Time and Tide, the epic effects-fest Legend of Zu and romantic adventure Seven Swords.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
  Hannah Prosser


Last Updated: