Chaz reviews Stephen Chow‘s, ‘Journey to the West‘
Stephen Chow has been one of China’s most unique directors since the 90s. We didn’t really hear much about him in the States, until he made a huge splash in Hollywood with his film Shaolin Soccer. It was that film, that first introduced me to one of the wackiest and prolific creators of the 21st Century. Chow’s latest film, Journey to the West, continues to establish him as a creative genius, as well as a master of the craft that continues to hone his skills.
The film takes place in a world that is riddled with Demons. Our hero, Xian Zang (Zhang Wen), is a self-proclaimed hunter of these creatures who happens upon a village that is being plagued by a water demon. He does his best to take it down, but is bested by Duan (Qi Shu), a female Demon Hunter who is far more experienced in her profession. The rest of the film continues the pair’s journey across the land, fighting demons, and falling in love. What more could you ask for from a film?
The thing that makes Journey to the West so amazing, is really the characters. The main actors of Zhang Wen and Qi Shu completely sell it as the lovers to me. In a bit of a twist, the girl is pursuing the man the entire film, but it’s part of her own journey to get the man she loves. On the other side, Xian is focused on his own Journey, of proving himself a master Demon Hunter. He doesn’t have time for women and distractions, but through the course of Duan being by his side, he comes to realize that she is part of his journey as well.
You also get to meet the colorful and sometimes ridiculous Demons and other Demon Hunters. The introduction of the Pig Demon, KL Hog, is one of my favorite parts in the film. He has creepy porcelain skin and uses the humans that he lures to his lair as the main course in the food he prepares! We also get to meet The Monkey King, the most dangerous and conniving of the Demons. Chow utilizes his directing to showcase just how formidable an opponent he is through amazing camera work and special effects.
Through the whole film, Chow is present. Through the amazing framing of the scenes, to the hilarious writing of the characters, to growing as a director; but never letting go of his childlike wonder. There’s a part in the film that has a lot of over-the-top fake blood. It kinda comes outta nowhere, and keeps going. It’s a bit Sam Raimi ala Evil Dead 2, and I kept thinking about how we have this ‘Heroes Journey’ tale that can be both beautiful and funny, and blend those two elements perfectly.
If you’ve never seen a Stephen Chow film, I’d highly recommend Journey to the West. It’s a good introduction to the director on the top of his craft. I’m not slighting Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle, but Journey is an accessible film to any audience. It’s a love story, it’s a fantasy, it’s an action film, and it’s 100% Chow.
[box_light]Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.” MPAA rating: PG-13 for fantasy violence including bloody images, sexual content and partial nudity; in Mandarin with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Journey to the West is available now VOD, in limited theaters, and on iTunes. Check out the Official Page and the Facebook Page.