The Asian Lunar New Year has arrived and China Lion is presenting a most fitting way to celebrate The Year of the Monkey. The Monkey King 2 in 3D opened in select U.S. theaters last Friday. It is the sequel to The Monkey King, the 2014 film that was also directed by Cheang Pou-soi and filmed in 3D. The original film starred Donnie Yen, who also served as the film's action director, as the titular protagonist. In The Monkey King 2, Aaron Kwok plays Sun Wukong, a.k.a. the Monkey King. The legendary Sammo Hung assumed duties as action director. The cast also includes Gong Li as White Bone Spirit, a demon, and Kelly Chen as The Mercy Goddess, the Bodhisattva Guanyin (sometimes spelled Kuan-yin).
The tale is based on The Journey to the West, a major classic of Chinese literature consisting of one hundred chapters. It tells the tale of a Chinese monk named Xuanzang who is selected to undertake an arduous and dangerous journey to the West (i.e., to India) to get holy scriptures from the Buddha. He is accompanied and protected by the Monkey King, who is really the main character, and two others. For years I have owned the first volume of the four volume set translated and edited by Anthony C. Yu. By an interesting coincidence, I just got around to reading it recently. The Money King 2 is concerned with portions of the latter part of that twenty-five chapter volume.
I have not seen the original film, but it apparently ended with the mischievous Monkey King, who has achieved mystical powers and wrecked havoc in Heaven, being imprisoned within a mountain for five hundred years. He has been selected by The Mercy Goddess to travel with the monk, who frees him from the mountain. Subsequently they are joined by Baijie, a pig-man who can transform into a handsome youth and a wild boar, and Bro Sha, a mighty blue-skinned warrior. The main protagonist is White Bone Spirit, also called Lady White. She wants to devour the monk so she can become an immortal demon.
I only saw a 2D online screener of the film, but was quite impressed with it. The make-up and special effects were quite good. Ric Meyers, my "big brother" in the days when we were both columnists at Asian Cult Cinema magazine, has seen the 3D version and reports liking it.
So my plan is to make the one hour round-trip to mid-town New York and actually pay to see a film that I could have seen for free at a pre-release screening that I foolishly passed on. It seems that it's really worth seeing in 3D on a big screen with a great sound system.
So, if The Monkey King in 3D is playing near you, I strongly suggest you give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.