Friday, June 13, 2014

Review of Journey to the West

  Okay, let me start off saying that I have a soft spot for bad movies that don't take themselves seriously.  That's probably the 80's influence on me.  Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons pretty much falls into that genre.  It is the latest movie from Stephen Chow who brought us such interpretive classics as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer.
  The opening scene of a water demon terrorizing a village sets the mood for the rest of the movie.  It is both slapstick and horrendous.  A family gets picked off individually throughout the scene, including their 5 year old daughter, but the transitions to the comedy aspects keep the dark aspects in check.  The opening scene is a very strong homage to Jaws.  There's a direct rip off of the scene, where the fishermen catch a shark, and Richard Dreyfuss tells them this isn't the shark they're looking for.
  I described this to friend as a combination of Kung Fu Hustle and Big Trouble in Little China.  How can you go wrong with that?  In the same way you don't take Jack Burton seriously (come on, the Pork Chop Express?) the main character of Zhang Wen, played by Xuan Zang is more of a caricature than a character, but at the same time, the movie plays with the idea that these are gross caricatures.
  In the movie Xuan Zhang is a Buddhist Demon Hunter who uses a beat up copy of children's nursery rhymes to try to convince demons to become good again.  Hint: It doesn't work.  This is balanced by the beautiful, competent demon hunter Miss Duan, played by Shu Qi (The Transporter).
  The first overall impression of this movie for me is the special effects.  Perhaps because I've come to expect low-budgets from Kung Fu movies in general, but this movie would be a rival for most Hollywood made films.  Watching, even my wife said "Wow, looks like Stephen Chow got a bigger budget for this one."  Even though the scenes and story are ridiculous, the acting is superb, and you end up feeling for the characters.
  Overall I'll have to give it 4 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  I liked the movie, and laughed throughout the whole thing.  The story was good, though it does seem a bit repetitive from Stephen Chow's other movies.  The story was a bit heavy in Buddist teachings, but the method of showing it was at least interesting.  As I said the special effects were surprisingly good, and done in interesting ways.  Wait for the restaurant scene to see what I mean.  The acting was great.  The main characters were all expertly played with both seriousness and comedy.  The secondary character, even though they were mostly absurd, were all played as if they were real people. The martial arts in the movie is more supernatural, flying people and superhuman type stuff, but when you're dealing with demons and demon hunters with 20 foot long legs, I guess that kind of comes into the territory.

P.S. Watch out for Giant Space Buddha

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