THE MONEY KING 2
(Xi You Ji Zhi: Sun Wukong San Da Baigu Jing)
If the first Monkey King was China latching onto the 3D and CGI visuals of Avatar (2009), then The Monkey King 2 feels like it is they jumping aboard the success of Man of Steel (2013) Sun Wukong has now developed a Superman-like ability to fly through the sky at sound barrier-breaking speed, while slamming into the ground with physical impact. The film leaps into its superheroics within minutes, showing Sun Wukong engaged in battles with CGI tigers and sea monsters. There are some dazzling set-pieces Aaron Kwok battling Gong Li in the forest where she appears as a billowing cloud of long white cloth; or her appearance in the throne room of the King of Yun Hai Xi, creating a forcefield that bends away arrows that are fired at her, stilling everything in motion and creating black tendrils that attacks guards and fill the room. Not to mention a climactic scene that starts off as a variant of the skeleton fight from Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and ends with Monkey battling a massive torso of Gong Li comprised of skeletons. The end of the film also does a fairly good Obi-wan Kenobi sacrificial death in which director Soi Cheang takes every effort to pile on the emotion.
I had mixed feelings about The Monkey King but by the time of The Monkey King 2, which is altogether a far more confident film, returning director Soi Cheang has gained a huge assurance with the CGI, animation and digital realm. This is a film that is substantially made in an artificial environment and yet Soi has command of all the elements, creating something that flies with a genuinely fantastical flair. This is, if you like, the apotheosis of what lushly fantastical films of the latter days of the Hong Kong Wu Xia cycle such as Green Snake (1993) and Zu Warriors (2001) were aiming towards.
Other adaptations of Journey to the West and the tales of the Monkey King 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); Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013) directed by and starring Stephen Chow; and the Chinese animated Monkey King: The Hero is Back (2015).