Notable Cast: Eddie Peng, Ni Ni, Shawn Yue, Oho Ou, Zheng Shuang, Faye Yu Fei-Hong, Quao Shan, Yang Di, Wang De-shun, Quentin Zhang, Zhang Yi-Qian
The recent explosion of various Monkey King films from China’s film industry can be a bit overwhelming to keep straight. It’s not that there hasn’t always been an obsession with the Monkey King (and Journey to the West) stories in the market, but lately it seems even more intense. Animated films and two major franchises have seen releases in the last handful of years, so when a potential new franchise was announced for the character it was a bit yawn inducing. The Monkey King franchise covered the family friendly aspects of the character for his mischievous adventures and Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West films covered the more traditional stories nicely and with plenty of pizzazz in blending comedy, action, and heart. So what could the latest film Wu Kong, directed by Derek Kwok and starring A-lister Eddie Peng as the titular Monkey King, really bring to the table? As it turns out, much more than expected. Based on a popular online novel, Wu Kong forgoes the traditional dynamics of the Journey to the West story and goes for more of an origin of the character and the result is actually quite impressive. It’s executed in striking fashion and the film takes a more humane and emotional bent for the character that’s much more adult oriented than The Monkey King, which tried to pull off the same concept. For films that feature the Monkey King as one of the lead characters, I have to admit that Wu Kong just might be my favorite of recent memory which comes as a huge surprise to me.