In the mid-16th century, scholar Wu Cheng’en (1500-1582) brought to life the story of a Tang Dynasty monk named Xuanzang who set out to bring sacred Buddhist scriptures back from the West. On his journeys, Xuanzang encountered many perils, only to be saved time and again by the strength, cunning and magical powers of a certain princely primate. Now, nearly 500 years later, a new chapter is beginning in the story of Xuanzang and his super-simian compadre.
With the opening of his highly-anticipated animated adaptation of the Journey to the West in theaters nation-wide today, filmmaker Wang Tung hopes that this ape for all seasons can deliver once again. Chairman of the jury committee for the Golden Horse Awards of Taiwan, Wang addressed a Beijing audience yesterday and declared unequivocally: “The Chinese Monkey King should not fear Hollywood’s Shrek!”
Yes, the Monkey King has thrown down the proverbial guantlet, and this time he steps into the arena with a revamped image, thanks to Wang and 300-plus others who brought the force of their creative energy to bear on the project. Wang tells us to expect a few modern touches, such as Xuanzang droppin’ knowledge in English or a bull-headed devil trying his hand at the Sevillida, but also warns viewers not to let our imaginations run too wild. Wang remains firm: “I shall never let the Monkey King ride a motorcycle.”
What?! No motorcycle? How are they going to make it to the West in the span of a feature film without a motorcycle? Perhaps Wang fears the ride would be a little too easy for the motley J.T.T.W. crew. With this film, Wang wanted to “always focus on loyalty, friendship, filial piety and environmental protection, yet avoid moral teaching in a rigid way.”
With a thrilling focus like that, Monkey King will surely be the animated blockbuster of the summer (sans motorcycle) — might just be the perfect oppurtunity to check out half-price Tuesdays at the local cinema.