Mandarin-language voice track
with English subtitles and dub.
The latest reimagining of China’s greatest savour is certainly epic. Monkey King Reborn redefines and surpasses every take I’ve seen in the past five years. I’m glad we’re not getting yet another introduction and the detail in the CGI is amazing. It’s in par with many of PIXAR’s works. Here, we see Sun Wukong (Monkey’s Chinese name) and his two friends Bajie (Zhang He) and Wujing (Lin Qiang) on that pilgrimage–on the way home from Tibet to China to return some Buddhist scriptures–with Tang Sanzang (Su Shangqing) as their leader. The English subtitle renames him as Golden Cicada or as most disciples would call him, sifu.
But instead of familiar westernized trappings in how the hero’s journey is defined, this one takes a little cue from the Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub. The baby is just as powerful when she realizes her abilities. She’s a manifestation of Qi and gets nicknamed “Fruity” (Cai Haiting). Just why this little “Miraculous” awakened is because Monkey unwittingly freed Yuandi (Zhang Lei). Subtitled, the name is Primordium, the grand-daddy of all demons. He embodies true terror and the chaos. His counterpart, Buddha, isn’t interfering when Sifu gets kidnapped. Instead, in a post credits moment, he sends Guan Yin (a herald) to provide a fitting close.
The story examines what it means to be dutiful and pious, a trait that Monkey even has problems with. When two monks get rather snooty in reprimanding Wukong while at their temple, his temper is raised, and he accidentally unleashes a terror that can destroy the world. Interestingly, Primordium has to absorb the souls of others to be strong. Along the way, we meet a small catalogue of various demigods from Hindu and Tibetan lore. This addition gives this film a lot more colour. I just find the translation strange since they’re lumped into one catch-all English word, “Demons.” A better choice is daemons since not all of them are considered evil.
Monkey best sums up what makes him different from others is with one line. This miscrent proves that sometimes you don’t have to fight all the time, but when challenged, he proves why he is China’s mightiest Avenger, not Shang-Chi. To add in Confucius and Buddhist teachings puts this film on a level that other superhero type films rarely get into. The events cumulate into a huge Endgame type moment and it’s to be expected. In contrast to the goings on in the MCU, Thanos wasn’t a beast; he saw a way to balance the universe no one agreed on. Everything comes at a cost. Sometimes, when an action is perceived good than evil (or vice versa), deciding on doing what’s right is tough. Sometimes that mad cosmic despot, be it in either cinematic universe, is just wanting to right something that went wrong in his or her life and just doesn’t understand how the action will affect others.
There’s no straightforward answer to why Primordium lacks empathy, and nor does this film try to answer that. He is pretty much your model villain from the silver age of comics. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we see Sun Wukong make one closer step to sainthood. He’s as beloved as Iron Man. Everyone can aspire to be better, and sometimes all it takes is making one little sacrifice.
4 Stars out of 5