JOURNEY TO THE WEST: THE DEMONS STRIKE BACK

The Chinese film industry doesn"t produce stars so much as legends. Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Sammo Hung—they may once have sầu been ordinary mortals hailing from Taiwan, Hong-Kong và elsewhere, but when they started appearing in and creating blockbusters, they left our atmosphere, riding on the raw power of otherworldly charisma and imagination that most of us could only dream of possessing. When these titans come together, it"s always an event. So when Vietnamese-born director Tsui Hark finally teamed up with Stephen Chow, the mad cinematic scientist who gave sầu the world live-action "Looney Tunes" like "Shaolin Soccer" and "Kung-Fu Hustle," it was bound to be an sự kiện. Their collaboration, "Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Baông xã," is a fittingly gargantuan affair, huge enough khổng lồ fit the ambitions of both auteurs. Chow, the director & writer of series curtain raiser "Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons," wrote and produced this sequel & ceded the director"s chair lớn Tsui, the man who"s been sweetly infecting the daydreams of Chinese audiences for 40 years. The result is both a madcap success on its own bizarre terms and an informative sầu distillation of each auteur"s sensibility.


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When last we left monk Tang (Kris Wu), he had chosen to lớn team up with three vanquished demons to vì chưng something productive with his grief over the death of his secret beloved Miss Duan (Shu Qi). It"s been a while since they joined forces và the dynamic between Tang the Monkey King (Kenny Lin), Pigsy the horny hog detháng (Yang Yiwei), and Sandy the fish demon (Mengke Bateer) has grown strained. The Monkey King has little but contempt for his captor/master, và, when we join them, they"re attempting to lớn raise a little money by putting on a sideshow at a carnival (the ADR và the elaborate phối bring Fellini khổng lồ mind). Monkey resents being used as an attraction & deliberately sabotages the performance, but his displays of inhuman strength still dazzle the circus crowd enough that Tang và his crew are allowed to lớn continue unharmed on their way west.

Tang"s mission in life is lớn tame demons and come closer khổng lồ a Buddhist ikhuyễn mãi giảm giá, và his three traveling companions are ultimately his way to lớn enlightenment. He has to lớn learn how to best take care of and manage these rampaging monsters of id và misaligned humors. Monkey"s disrespect for Tang is just one more way for the monk to lớn come khổng lồ terms with his personal failures, but it takes hyên a while to lớn figure out that the Buddha doesn"t just h& out burdens idly. The four wayward souls encounter several challenges (including a house full of spider women, a petulant king và a tricky minister"s temptations) that serve sầu as lessons in cooperation, selflessness and trust.

From an opening dream sequence that references "The Three Worlds of Gulliver," it"s clear how well Chow và Tsui underst& each other. Chow"s more fluid storytelling is occasionally missed in "Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back," but Tsui, who directs lượt thích Bill Bruford plays drums, takes stylistic leaps that not even Chow would have dared. The world is a playground and a canvas upon which lớn finger paint for Tsui. His demons rampage through one gorgeously colorful digital tableau after another, passing otherworldly skies, dizzying parades of mix kiến thiết, and gorgeously icky special effects every few seconds. It"s all escalation all the time, finishing with three mountainous false Buddhas rising from the sea lớn combat the Monkey King, transformed inkhổng lồ a roông xã monster. Tsui rightly sees nothing as an obstacle khổng lồ his creativity, and the film feels appropriately monumental và boundless. It"s also very funny khổng lồ see Tsui taking khổng lồ the deliberately cartoony sensibility of Chow"s writing, as when characters pummel and kick each other so fast their hands turn into digital clouds, or when arms stretch like rubber bands during combat. Chow integrated this with more sly humor & emotion in the first "Journey To The West," but Tsui"s clamorous direction makes these flourishes feel like magic tricks, emerging from nowhere and vanishing just as quickly.


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What "Journey To The West: Demons Strike Back" misses và can"t trang điểm for is a woman"s touch. Shu Qi makes a few welcome appearances in dreams & flashbacks, but they last seconds at most. Tsui doesn"t give Yao Chen as The Minister nor Jelly Lin as Felithành phố, Tang"s fleeting love sầu interest, enough time on screen for their personalities lớn develop beyond "agreeably crazy" & "beautiful, sad and submissive." Shu Qi"s forceful and charming Miss Duan rose above sầu the ludicrous dictates of the character, namely that she found Tang so desirable as a mate that she"d giả murders and kidnappings to lớn be near him. Chen and Lin can"t vì chưng much with their characters and Tsui doesn"t leave his camera on them for more than a few seconds per cut, which cuts down on the opportunities to lớn vày the kind of ingratiating work Shu did in the first film. Chow lingers longer on his performers as a general rule. Tsui has skies and monsters to lớn conjure; he doesn"t have sầu time for development that isn"t broad và easy lớn follow. Which may explain why those three female performances, undercut as they are, are the most appealing in the film. The rest of the cast is caught up flailing for the sake of physical comedy bits that are destined lớn fail, as Chow"s humor is mostly stymied by Tsui"s heavier presence behind the camera. This isn"t an issue when there are demons on screen, as he"s one of the greakiểm tra conductors of on-screen chaos alive sầu (just look at his previous feature, "The Taking of Tiger Mountain," a non-stop delight, if you don"t have sầu time khổng lồ traông xã down his whole joyous oeuvre). The repeated attempts lớn tell Chow"s jokes (lượt thích the repeated duplicated motion spell from the first movie) in incongruous grammar result in many a joyless pratfall.

Nitpicking aside, moviegoers owe it lớn themselves lớn kiểm tra this movie out. It"s got more imagination in one nimble limb than a "Fast và Furious" sequel or a "Star Wars" prequel can lay clayên lớn in their whole battered chassis. When the score kicks in and the combatants take lớn the heavens lớn wage inventive battle, "Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back" truly soars. It"s a worthy fusion of two of the film world"s most brilliant stars.


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Scout Tafoya

Scout Tafoya is a critic & filmmaker who writes for & edits the arts blog Apocalypse Now and directs both feature length & short films.