If ever there was an advert for crowdfunding, it should be this. Monkey King: Hero is Back is a 2015 CGI animated, Mandarin Chinese language film with a running time of 89 fantastic minutes. It is the highest-grossing Chinese animated film and the highest-grossing animated film in China and it deserves these titles.
If you have the time, you must watch this.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the viewing of a foreign language film without the inclusion of subtitles. Therefore, the author’s review may contain some misunderstandings.
Review does not contain spoilers.
A twist on the classic Journey to the West, there is no monk on a pilgrimage, no Shā Wùjìng and no journey for religious enlightenment. Instead we have Jiāng Liú’er, a young boy, rumoured to be the monk Xuánzàng, who has been raised by a monk and loves everything Sūn Wùkōng. When the monsters that have been running rampant launch an attack on the historic capital of Cháng’ān Jiāng, Liú’er comes to the rescue of a little girl which leads to him taking refuge in the cavern where Sūn Wùkōng has been sealed for the past five hundred years after causing havoc in Heaven.
A review is meant to be professional, any enthusiasm is supposed to be curbed to sound professional, but I can’t do that here. This is pure fangirling. And why not? This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched it night after night after night, staying up late, glued to the screen despite having a sleeping disorder. Every time I’ve watched it I’ve laughed so hard I’ve had to curl up into a ball, shaking. Every time I’ve cried. Every time my heartstrings have been tugged.
The relationships between the characters, even those who don’t get much screen time, are portrayed beautifully. For instance, the monk who raised Liú’er, who we don’t get to see much of, still really affects you when you see him on screen.
Take the little girl, too. She doesn’t have a single line of dialogue but she’s been so beautifully brought to life that you can see her personality clearly. Not to mention that she’s the most adorable little thing ever. Except for maybe Liú’er. They have a great relationship, those two. There’s a lot of affection between them. It’s so sweet.
The most important relationship of the film, though, is between Liú’er and Sūn Wùkōng. And it is wonderful. Amazing. After being freed, Sūn Wùkōng wants to be free to use his powers and go where he wants and he ends up saddled by Liú’er and the little girl who won’t leave him alone. It’s one of those relationships, where they don’t get along in the beginning, but you’re crying for them in the end. Kind of like Donkey and Shrek, but infinitely better and funnier.
The other two major characters would be Zhū Bājiè, the pig, who brings quite a bit of humour with his transformations. He’s a great, lumbering guy who used to reside in Heaven until Sūn Wùkōng wrecked his havoc.
The other is the villain of this film. He’s my favourite villain. Of. All. Time. Because who doesn’t love a theatrical villain? He doesn’t have a name, as far as I’m aware, but he’s a hùndùn and fandom calls him that. A hùndùn, surprisingly, isn’t in Journey to the West, but Classic of Mountains and Seas. A hùndùn doesn’t have a face, is fleshy with four wings, six legs and apparently is good at dancing, hence the theatricality. Probably.
Can a take a second to talk about the soundtrack? Because you’re going to want the soundtrack. It’s beautiful, it’s haunting, it’s a bit rock-ish at times. What I’m trying to say is it’s perfect. It’s perfect. There’s not a single note out of place. But before you go rushing off to YouTube – warning; the music videos contain spoilers. If you don’t mind spoilers, go find
This movie is hilarious. The first half is more than a laugh a minute. You’ll be laughing so hard that you miss some other funny parts – unless, like me, you’ve watched it five nights in succession. Though, even then, there’s action aplenty. The action tends to take over the latter half of the movie and it is stunning.
All of it is stunning.
Watch it. Love it. Adore it. Obsess over it.
For everything. Stars for everything.