JOURNEY TO THE WEST: DEMON CHAPTER
JOURNEY TO THE WEST: THE DEMONS STRIKE BACK
Journey to the West: Demon Chapter is a sequel. While Conquering the Demons acted as a prelude to the saga, this brings the series more in line with the traditional adventures in Journey to the West. Here Stephen Chow has stepped back from directing, although co-writes the script and produces. He has given the directorial chair to Tsui Hark, one of the legends of Hong Kong cinema. Tsui essentially created the flying swordsman genre with Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) and has directed and produced numerous other works (see below). It is a surprise that Tsui and Chow have not worked together before, although Tsui did make a cameo acting appearance in Chows last directed film The Mermaid (2016).
Tsui Hark and Stephen Chow make for an uneasy mix. Tsui delivers one of his usual films, filled with wildly over-the-top fantastique moves. There are some eye-catching sequences a battle between the party and a household of women transformed into spider beings; the slapstick nonsense around the throne room of Bi Qui, climaxing in a battle with a series of sinister clockwork creations that look like they have stepped out of a Tim Burton film and sky filled with hundreds of flaming horses alongside a palace that is torn out of the ground and levitated up into the air. The film reaches an especially epical climactic battle with the Monkey King transformed into a giant ape made of rock that is cracked open to reveal veins of lava inside, fighting off the Golden Vulture and tearing mountains up from the ground as multiple Buddhas appear, creating massive tidal waves.
On the other hand, while this results in a much more fantastical film that Conquering the Demons, having to take on board Stephen Chows slapstick tone makes for a very silly Tsui Hark film. Chows brand of comedy that plays on frenetic slapstick and simple-minded caricatures (not to mention poking laughter at fat and ugly people) is not something you ever find in any of Tsuis other films. The plot is also on the episodic side. Moreover, the film suffers from the problems that beset much modern Chinese-made fantasy and that is that an incredible amount of money is lavished on the sets and costuming but the CGI effects look very obviously like CGI effects.
Tsui Harks other genre films as director are:- The Butterfly Murders (1979), Were Going to Eat You (1980), Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), Aces Go Places III: Our Man from Bond Street/Mad Mission III: Our Man from Bond Street (1984), Green Snake (1993), Butterfly Lovers (1994), Zu Warriors/The Legend of Zu (2001), Black Mask 2: City of Masks (2002), Missing (2008), Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010), Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011) and Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013). Tsui Hark has also produced A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), The Laser Man (1988), Roboforce/I Love Maria (1988), A Chinese Ghost Story II (1990), Swordsman (1990), A Terracotta Warrior (1990), A Chinese Ghost Story III (1991), The King of Chess (1991), New Dragon Gate Inn (1992), Swordsman II (1992), Iron Monkey (1993), The Magic Crane (1993), Swordsman III: The East is Red (1993), Wicked City (1993), Burning Hell in Paradise (1994), Black Mask (1996), A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation (1997), Master Q (2001), Vampire Hunters/The Era of Vampires (2002) and The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (2017).
Other versions of Journey to the West include:- the Japanese film Monkey Sun (1940); the Chinese animated Princess Iron Fan (1941); the Japanese film Songoku: The Road to the West/The Adventures of Sun Wu Hung (1959); the Japanese anime Alakazam the Great (1961); the Chinese animated film The Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven (1965), which is the best adaptation of the story to date; a trilogy of live-action films from Hong Kongs Shaw Brothers Monkey Goes West (1966), Princess Iron Fan (1966) and The Cave of the Silken Web (1967); the popular the Japanese tv series Monkey (1978-9); a South Korean tv series Journey to the West (1982); a Japanese tv series Journey to the West (1993); a Japanese anime tv series Monkey Magic (1998); the US tv mini-series The Monkey King/The Lost Empire (2001) starring Thomas Gibson; the Hong Kong tv mini-series The Monkey King (2002); Jeffrey Laus A Chinese Tall Story (2005); a Japanese tv series Saiyuki (2006), which had one film spinoff with Saiyuki (2007); the US-made Jackie Chan/Jet Li vehicle The Forbidden Kingdom (2008); the modernised Emperor Visits the Hell (2012); while not long after this was the CGI-heavy The Monkey King (2014) starring Donnie Yen and its sequel The Monkey King 2 (2016) with Aaron Kwok; and the Chinese animated Monkey King: The Hero is Back (2016).