Hello, dear readers, this week I bring you a movie that combines terrifying demons, awesome kung fu, and a sickly sweet love story. In his tradition of silly kung fu movies, Stephen Cho brings us, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which brings the beauty of this Chinese tale with a typical Cho twist of ridiculousness. If you enjoy a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still makes a powerful statement, you are going to love this one.

The Breakdown

Plot:

The movie takes place directly before the start of the ancient tale of, The Journey to the West, so if you’re familiar with that story, you’ll be happy to know you get to see where it all started. Our main guy, a Buddhist named, Xuan Zang (Zhang Wen), is trying to make his way as a demon hunter. However, instead of simply killing the demon like so many other hunters so, he is trying to change them by finding and drawing out the goodness in them. He attempts this by singing them children’s tales from a book he received from his master. The opening of the movie and his first encounter with a demon takes place in a small village by the water, which becomes plagued by a giant fish demon.

The entire beginning of this movie sets the viewer up perfectly for the type of humor and action that’s in store for them. Half of the village gets eaten, even a little girl, which lets you know right from the beginning that no one is safe. Finally, the demon is subdued and turned into a human form where Zang attempts to purify it with the children’s tales, but to no avail. This is when our main girl, Miss Duan (Qi Shu), a demon huntress that uses her fists and magic bag to seal away demons.

At first, Miss Duan finds Zang to be as helpless and sad as he is, but she soon sees that he is beyond brave for tireless going after these beasts with nothing more than a story book. She falls for him and together they must fight a bull demon and seek out the help of the mischievous, Monkey King (Bo Huang). After defeating the bull demon, the Monkey King tricks Zang in to releasing him from the prison that Buddha banished him to. After that, all hell breaks loose. The Monkey King destroys three other prominent demon hunters before turning towards Zang and Miss Duan. Unfortunately, Miss Duan is killed trying to defend Zang.

However, her death propels Zang in to pure enlightenment and he is able to beat down the Monkey King…literally, with a giant Buddha hand. I have a bit of a problem with this plot point, because I hate it when female characters are only in the story as props for the men to move forward, but I suppose I can’t fight the myths and stories of a culture I’m not a part of it. It just seemed like it made her entire part in the story trivial. Anyways, as I mentioned before this movie leads in to the beginning of the story of, Journey to the West, and the ending is Zang receiving his mission to retrieve the Buddhist sutras of Leiyin Temple.

Acting:

The acting in this movie is flawless. Everyone is so on point with their humor and each has this same knack for creating an awkward aura that adds to the comedy of the movie. Stephen Cho re-uses some of his previous actors, who know how to fit right in with his unique style of storytelling. A prime example of how wonderfully bizarre the characters are and how well they are portrayed would be the character of, Prince Important (Show Luo). I’m sure you can tell by his name that he is indeed a ridiculous persona. The way Show is able to portray Prince Important’s duel personality of an expert demon hunter and, yet, an awkward, stumbling idiot had me in tears. He plays off of the contrast so well that it magnifies the humor ten times over. There is no one in this movie that detracts anything from the story and I thoroughly wish we had more comedian actors like this in movies.

Visuals:

The first demon, the fish one, we see is beyond incredible looking. I was scared, weirded out, and in awe of the design and execution of the CGI. However, it seems they might have spent most of their visuals effects money there. The other demons are alright, but the time and detail just isn’t on the same level. In fact, the Monkey King in his final form looks like bad taxidermy. It’s not a huge detriment to the movie, but I would love to see what he could have done had Stephen Cho had the time, money, or talent that he focused on the fish demon with the rest of the visual stuff.

What Say I:

There has yet to be a Stephen Cho movie that I don’t absolutely adore and this is another one that has found its way in to my heart. It’s funny, interesting, eccentric, and beautiful in a way that I’ve only ever been able to see from Stephen’s work. It might not be your favorite movie, but it will be one you won’t forget that gives you a loving, light hearted look at an incredible tale.

Credits & Other Stuff:

Writer: Stephen Cho, Chi-kin Kwok, Xin Huo, Yun WangChi Keung FungZhengyu LuShing-Cheung Lee, & Ivy Kong
Director: Stephen Cho & Chi-kin Kwok

Trailer for, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons.

About The Author

A graduate in Creative Writing, I love horror, scifi, action, and revenge movies, but b-movies hold a special place in my heart.

One Response to B-Movie Breakdown: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

  1. Scott Gregson says:

    Wait, so he beats him with a Giany Buddha Palm? Just like in Kung Fu Hustle? I’m half saying “Aww, man, that’s lame!” and half digging the continuity between his films. I loved Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. I’ll have to check this out!