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Many movies have been made about the monk Tang and his three disciples in their quest to conquer demons and spread Buddhism. What makes Journey to the West 2: the Demons Strike Back different?
The dream-comes-true collaboration between Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark – two big names in the Hong Kong and Chinese movie industries – is entertaining, although a few may be disappointed. There is no surprising element in the storyline and unfortunately it lacks depth compared to the first installment in 2013, which depicted Xuanzang's (Wen Zhang) spiritual journey not only to conquer demons but most importantly to become a reputable monk despite his denial of his true love, Miss Duan (Shu Qi).
This time, the monk, who is now known as Tang Sanzang – played by Kris Wu (xXx: Xander Cage Returns, Mr. Six, Sweet Sixteen) – continues his journey to the West with his three disciples, namely Sun Wukong or the famous monkey king (Lin Gengxin), Zhu Bajie or translated as Pigsy (Wang Duo) and Sha Wujing or popular as Sandy (Mengke Bateer).
During the journey, their friendship – or more teacher-disciples relationship – is put to the test as the monk is either too naïve or too patient in facing the demons while Wukong prefers to deal with them in his own way, which definitely showcases his power.
The demons in this movie appeared in the novel — the Spider Women, played by Claudia Wang (Somewhere Only We Know), the White-Boned Demon by Lin Yun (Mermaid) and the Red Boy, a kind of mechanized ping-pong ball fueled by the fires of Hell. The first two demons are supposed to seduce Tang away from his mission but the White-Boned Demon, who goes by the name Felicity, stirs up memories of Miss Duan.
From the string of flashbacks from Shu Qi’s appearance in the first film, it is obvious that Tang is yet to let go of Miss Duan.
Read also: Why Xander Cage needed to return?
The appearance of Yao Chen as the chief minister of a Central Asian kingdom gives color to the storyline. Meanwhile, best buddies in real life, Wu and Lin – they appeared in Challengers Union reality show together in 2016 – reveal a strong chemistry. The feelings of betrayal, humiliation, love-hate relationship; they show them all.
Written and produced by Chow, this movie is typical of his style despite the involvement of Tsui. As big names in the movie industry, it’s obvious that Chow’s and Tsui’s roles are very dominant in the movie, thus give less room for the cast to develop their characters.
Tsui knows no limits when it comes to creativity and as the director he has the freedom to show off and execute that in special effects. And Tsui is able to visualize Chow’s famous comical scenes.
With lots of special effects, especially in the last 20 minutes of the movie, this movie is quite entertaining. Just like any other Chow movie, The Demons Strike Back makes us contemplate today’s situation. How we often put on a mask to protect our reputation, how we often humiliate others and most importantly how we lack appreciation for other people.
Despite the minuses, the Tsui-Chow collaboration still delivers, especially for Chinese movie lovers. Bloomberg reported that this movie set a single-day record for ticket sales at about 354 million yuan (US$52.5 million) on Jan. 28, the first day of Chinese New Year.
The movie will be screened in Indonesia on Feb. 17, three weeks after it opened in China. (kes)
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