Wu Kong 悟空传 (2017): A Movie Review

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Journey to the West, or 西游记 in Mandarin, is an extremely popular folktale. It has a long history of being adapted for both TV and movies and has even been an inspiration for several video games such as 2003’s Between Good and Evil and 2010’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. And since it has stayed within the public domain for such a long time, the character Sun Wukong, the Great Sage That Equals Heaven, has also been appearing in video games unrelated to the stories such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and even in Warriors Orochi, a spin-off series that mixes the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises.

The point is that the story has seen so many remakes that it’s pretty much ‘remade’ every few years or so due to its popularity and Sun Wukong has appeared all over popular media. Is Wu Kong (2017) a good retelling of the well-known story? Let’s find out.

Introduction

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Rating: 1/10. I have to be honest, the story within the movie is a adaptation of a novel with the same name and its plot. It sets up a new story in which Sun Wukong’s home mountain was destroyed and he was later adopted by some sort of old sage instead of the story we’re familiar with.

“Why the low rating? We should encourage creativity with the source material!! Grrr!” I can see a few readers saying to themselves but the film itself has a long exposition scene in which it is mainly text and a narrator going through it. And that’s a huge no-no when the aim is to quickly recap the events prior to the movie itself. There is some accompanying animation but it’s so poor at assisting anyone to understand this new story that it is confusing the whole time for me.

And personally, I had to struggle to kind of understand the plot as events take place within the movie. So I felt like the introduction with the narration sucked.

Plot Development

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Rating: 6/10. Wew, this is where I really need to address the plot for the film. The movie takes place in a strange reimagination of the events of the Journey to the West story.

Pros:

  1. Sun Wukong is given a lot more character this time around, actually showing more recklessness and brashness over his other depictions. Oh, and he falls in love with a fairy too.
  2. Well, the story plays out much more like an anime or video game. It feels like Asura’s Wrath married with Journey to the West. And it’s actually a lot of fun to watch at some points.
  3.  The fight scenes. CLEARLY THE MVP OF THE FILM. Like I said, the movie plays out a bit like an anime and that translates to its almost anime-like depictions of fights, where balancing on one finger or showcasing feats of strength throughout the fight. It is glorious to watch and it’s most importantly, fun as hell to watch.

Cons:

  1. Ugh… the romances. It feels like EVERYONE except our big bad villain has some sort of romance subplot or in some cases, the romance is their character development, which actually kinda sucks and hurts the character.
  2. The super confusing plotline kinda hurts the show as well but this burden does come with the retelling of an already popular folktale. Just making this film a 2-parter might have benefited the story a lot more. And having so many romance subplots along with the generally confusing plot = not helpful.

 

Overall rating: 4/10.

Would I recommend Wu Kong (2017) to other people? Yes, but not because it’s a good film but because it’s an interesting one, because it combines other tropes from other genres and tries to make a strange salad of sorts – it doesn’t taste good, but it’ll be interesting to gauge their reaction to it.

As a film that is doomed to fail as it targets a niche audience (people that have actually read the novel it was based on) and immediately offends diehard fans of the original story (read: a lot of people), it does try to create a new perspective to the popular folktale. Just the Hercules retelling in 2014 where Hercules’ backstory is reimagined, Wu Kong (2017) does indeed bring something new to the table and we’re not obligated to like it either.

But hey, at least this film has hella amazing fight scenes. Until next time!
Sherman

 

Images taken from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6513406/

 

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