Sunday, 22 February 2015

Recommended: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

A long time ago, before torrenting, the internet was mostly useful for buying cheap VCDs from the Triple D House website from Hong Kong. Back in those days, Stephen Chow was a favourite in our flat, with titles like Royal Tramp, God of Cookery, Shaolin Soccer and, eventually, Kung Fu Hustle. This film from 2013 is his most recent directing work, and marks a return to a more familiar martial arts/comedy genre after the family-friendly CJ7.

It is a prequel to the famous folk story, Journey to the West. In the story we follow a demon hunter who would rather try to rehabilitate the demons he captures rather than actually kill them. He meets another demon-hunter, a woman, who falls in love with him and together they go off on adventures.

Stephen Chow himself isn’t in this film, but the main character is one who would have certainly been played by a younger Chow. The demon-hunter, scruffy but well-meaning, is played well by Wen Zhang mixing a determination to do the right thing with a confusion over what exactly that should be. He is paired with Shu Qi, who plays the other demon-hunter who falls for him.

Just like Kung Fu Hustle, this game mixes CGI enemies and situations with physical comedy and impressive fight scenes. It's beautifully filmed and the costumes, locations and demons are always great to look at. It’s constantly inventive and funny, never letting up from the opening Jaws-referencing scene to the final epic fight.

The very last scene points towards a sequel, but I seem to recall rumours of a sequel to Shaolin Soccer, and also a sequel for Kung Fu Hustle, but nothing came of either of them. I’m not holding my breath now, either, but another film in this series would be very welcome.

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