Director: Cheang Pou Soi
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng
Here we have the sequel to The Monkey King, released back in 2014. Whilst this film’s credentials as a manly movie are somewhat questionable, the original movie starred old-school Hong Kong action favourite Chow Yun Fat, as well as martial artist Donnie Yen in the title role. Neither have reprised their roles this time around though, and the cantankerous monkey king, aka Sun Wo Kung, is played by actor/pop star Aaron Kwok on this occasion. Hong Kong action veteran Sammo Hung is onboard as action director, however.
I never saw the first film, having been put off by the boring, CGI laden trailer and poor reviews. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I watched the sequel.
Despite my reservations, I’m pleased to say that Monkey King 2 is actually pretty good fun. The story tells how the monk Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) meets the monkey king for the first time and the pair become friends, or more accurately, master and servant. Tang also meets a couple of other important characters, Zhu, the pig-demon, and Sha, the sand-demon, and the three of them join him on his quest to find some ancient Buddhist scriptures, meeting with all kinds of adversaries along the way.
On this particular outing, the four heroes are pitched against, Bai Gu Jing, the White Bone Demon, played by the immaculately beautiful Gong Li.
The film mixes action, fantasy, comedy and a little horror. It has a few quite creepy moments including a cute little girl and her granddad being eaten by Gong Li’s monstrous servants.
The big battle with Bai Gu Jing in the final act is a touch heavy on the ol’ CGI and my attention was straining slightly, but by that time I’d more than committed to watching the film all the way to the end, and the fairly touching conclusion made up for it.
I thought all of the actors did a great job, especially Gong Li, who was able to evoke quite a lot of sympathy for her, supposedly evil character. Of course being sexy as fuck at the same time didn’t hurt. There are strong themes of loyalty and friendship, it’s basically a buddy movie, which I always enjoy if they’re done right.
Of course, the story of the monkey king is a classic of Chinese literature and has been made into numerous films and television series over the years. My favourite is Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which came out in 2013. I’m still hoping that Stephen Chow will make a follow-up to that fantastic movie (which features another beautiful asian babe, Qi Shu, who was in The Transporter with Jason Statham), but in the meantime, Monkey King 2 is a pretty enjoyable effort. It’s good to see that director Pou Soi Cheang seems to have learned from the mistakes he made with the first one and I dare say a third film is quite likely.