While Stephen Chow has been a prominent in the industry for years it was his hits ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ and ‘Shaolin Soccer’ that fused comedy and martial arts together that thrust him to the forefront. For most of his latest hits he has been doing double duty both in front of and behind the camera, but with his latest Journey to the West: Conquering Demons he is sticking behind the camera. We all know he is a great director, but without him taking charge as the lead does this latest film still deliver the magic fans have become used to or will it be a journey you wish you had never taken?
Journey to the West: Conquering Demons follows a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, all while dealing with his emerging feelings for the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly, and a transformative encounter with the Monkey King. When going into a Stephen Chow film you kind of have an expectation of what you are getting into, but surprisingly it is a bit different this time around. Make no mistake all of the fun that Chow inserts into his style of filmmaking is intact, but is toned down a bit. There are some great comedic action elements here as usual, but the over the top slapstick was more minimal. Saying that there are still his usual brand of stylized comedy including a man with a giant foot that has to be seen to understand. From the moment this film kicks off you know exactly what you are getting into and it just keeps getting crazier, but feels like there is more to the overall story instead of just being funny. There have been a ton of incarnations on the Monkey King, but nothing like what he does here that is both ridiculous and a blast to watch. Sure Chow’s persona is missed in front of the camera, but his style is all over this, so it doesn’t take much too still get sucked right into his world. As with all of his films this one sports some great Kung-Fu action that Is both choreographed and executed perfectly all while being blended with the wire work and comedic nature that meshes together to continue to be some of the most unique work out there.
Stephen Chow is one of the most unique and talented Asian filmmakers out there. His brand of film isn’t for everyone, but maintains an originality to it that cannot be denied. His uses of CGI and over the top creatures and characters make for some of the most entertaining films out there and this one is no different. IF you have never seen any of Chow’s films, then you will likely not be drawn to this one, but do yourself a favor and take the leap of faith and check out Journey to the West: Conquering Demons you will have a great time.