Wu Kong (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Based on the legend of the Monkey King, Wu Kong is a retelling of Sun Wu-kong’s story where he is born and sent back to his mountain where he is raised and trained by a monk to then go create some mayhem and cause some changes in the realm of Heaven. 

Written by Hai Huang, Hezai Jin, Derek Kwok, Fan Wenwen, and Henri Wong, with Kwok directing, Wu Kong is a crazy fun film with some insane fight sequences.  The writing team together with the directing take a story fans of Chinese cinema know well and make it their own here making it modern, yet setting it in the correct dynasty period.  The characters they create with the actors are not particularly deep, but deep enough to care to see them succeed or be defeated.  The good vs bad angle is interesting in how and who falls into which category by the end of the film.  There are few twists in the story, most a touch predictable, but nothing that will keep from the film’s enjoyment as it’s loaded with fun bit and exciting fights. 

The cast here is excellent in terms of mixing fights and emotions.  In the part of Sun Wu-Kong, aka the Monkey King, is Eddie Peng who has a cheekiness to his performance, especially as the Monkey King side of his character shows.  He uses some nuances between the two sides of his part to make them distinctive yet the same being.  His acting is good, playful, and full of life.  His fighting, though some of it may have been with a stunt person but we don’t know how much, is entertaining and even exciting at times.  Playing the female lead, Wu Kong’s possible love interest, is actress Ni Ni as Zi Xia, another cheeky, fun character brought to life just right for the film’s mood and direction.  The rest of the cast composed of Shawn Yue, Xiao Bai, Hao Ou, and crew does well and they all mix together in a cohesive way, playing up and down to their characters’ stereotypes and archetypes.  Shan Qiao as Juan Lian does give one of those performances that steals scenes and doesn’t give them back.

The effects may they be practical or digital, but look fantastic.  The visual effects team did a fantastic job here with effects that range from the simple with backgrounds to the complex with a structure that is reminiscent of the crazy spinning doom clock in the Thirteen Ghosts remake.  That thing is magnificient and totally wicked.  The rest of the effects work great, especially the way they are mixed with stunts including aerial fights that are fascinating and sometimes breathtaking.  This film does not shy from effects and fights, making it one of those to see on a big screen if possible.

Wu Kong is a fun film with some over the top violence, almost cartoony at times but it works.  The film is exciting and like an adventure with familiar characters for those who know the Monkey King.  For others, it’s a discovery of a character they will want to see more of.  It’s not a perfect film, but it’s so entertaining and fun (yep that word again) that it’s a must see.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.