Film review: A Chinese Odyssey Part Three - China reboot of 1995 classic a travesty
Jeff Lau’s original two-part adaptation of Journey to the West was a postmodern masterpiece, but this cash-grabbing Chinese production runs contrary to everything those films stood for. Lau should stop besmirching his legacy
Even some of the most quintessentially Hong Kong films (McDull, Love in a Puff) have spawned sequels that are culturally fine-tuned to capitalise on China’s gigantic market. Still, it’d be very hard to think of a more pointless reboot than writer-director Jeff Lau Chun-wai’s A Chinese Odyssey Part Three, a mess of a film that relies on its title to shamelessly feign connection to his own classic two-parter, A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box and A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella.
It is worth remembering that the 1995 films were hugely inventive adaptations of the Chinese classic Journey to the West that infused its hallucinatory time-traveling narrative with inspired wackiness, including a most unlikely rendition of The Platters’ Only You. Widely considered a postmodern masterpiece in the Hong Kong pop culture canon, the Stephen Chow Sing-chi vehicle was, perhaps a little surprisingly, also a genuinely affecting tale of unrequited love so cheesy it could make Wong Kar-wai blush.
Near the end of Part Two, the fairy Zixia sacrifices her life to save her great love Joker (an incarnation of the Monkey King), who in turn regrets discovering too late his own feelings for her.
Contrary to everything that the original stood for, Part Three revolves around the resolve of Zixia (Tiffany Tang Yan) to set Joker (Han Geng) up with his other romantic interest, the demon Bak Jing-jing (Karen Mok Man-wai) – just so she can change the course of events and stay alive.
To say more about its synopsis is to bestow respect on a cash-grabbing Chinese production that doesn’t deserve any. Playing like the work of a fan fiction writer who doesn’t get the original, this boring film haphazardly recycles whole chunks of dialogue, songs and plot lines from the 1995 films, before concluding with a dreary CGI fantasy battle. For the record: Han is no comedian (let alone Stephen Chow); Tang is no match for Athena Chu Yan; and Wu Jing, as the Longevity Monk, is no Law Kar-ying.
Since his first two A Chinese Odyssey films, Lau has been stuck in a time loop – not unlike Monkey King in those films – that saw him rehash a similar premise in every other project: from the funny A Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002) to the increasingly scattershot A Chinese Tall Story (2005) and Just Another Pandora’s Box (2010). With Part Three doing well – but not extravagantly so – at the Chinese box office, it is to be hoped Lau has finally saved up enough money to stop chipping away at his legacy.
A Chinese Odyssey Part Three opens on September 22
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