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The latest release of The Monkey King is a movie redesigned for today’s generation, and as a result, loses its touch with what made this hero great. When compared to the previous take (review link), my money is on the former. Here, it feels like four studios were duking it out too for how to reinvent this character, and although some parts of the narrative is faithful, its execution wasn’t all that exciting to keep watching.
As for whom Monkey serves, it’s easy to tell. He’s independent and helps no one but himself! Surprisingly, much of his origin story is accurate. When Lin (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport) discovers him, he’s quite the rascal and eventually gets known as Sun Wukong (Jimmy O. Yang). These two somehow become friends. The way these two play off each other to learn a few of life’s lessons is good, but ultimately, I couldn’t help but think this American-Asian made film misses the point on why he’s a legend. When considering Anthony Stacchi (Better known for The Boxtrolls and Rocketeer) is most likely out of his element, perhaps that’s why the love isn’t there.
This film has more of a DreamWorks style quality to the humour and approach to introducing Monkey to Western audiences, and sadly, this work doesn’t live up to the same production values as the Kung Fu Panda series. In this franchise, we love Panda from the very beginning. In Monkey King, the furry guy is rather grating.
Also, Buddha should not be seen and maybe heard! Here, he wanders the mortal realm like he’s a Greek God, and this depiction is just wrong. While he’s treated like the good father, the prodigal son, Monkey is misbehaving. When he goes to visit the Dragon King who lives under the sea, not even this lord can do anything to teach him manners. Instead, what the little imp does is locate the magical Ruyi Jingu Bang, and convinces this magical item to become its next welder.
I would have to revisit the original tale to double-check on whether that’s how obtaining the staff happened and how sentient it is. As for becoming one with this weapon and talking to it like a best friend like in Stargirl (the television series), there are some humorous moments to like. It has a personality.
Ultimately, this work is a prequel to all the events leading up to the novel, Journey to the West. The Monkey King needs to learn patience and humility because he’s yet not a hero, but as for when he gets imprisoned and unleashed again, well, viewers will have to read the book to know what happens next. Despite getting American backers to fund producti0n, it’s safe to say any further adventures with this version of the character won’t be continued.
3 Stars out of 5