Donnie Yen's 'Monkey King' woos mainland film buffs, breaking box office records

While many viewers were impressed by the film's top-notch special effects, others lamented its deviation from the original story

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 2:17pm

The Monkey King in 3D, a cinematic rendition of Wu Cheng'en's 16th-century epic tale Journey to the West, has wooed Chinese movie goers after an extremely successful debut, grossing 400 million yuan within four days of its opening, Chinese media reported.

The record-breaking film was sold out in many cities and film lovers were forced to buy tickets one day in advance, news portal Netease reported.

Directed by famed Hong Kong director Cheang Pou-soi and with action star Donnie Yen as the protagonist Sun Wukong, the action-driven plot traces the path that led the Monkey Sun to become the disciple of the monk Xuanzang. 

In addition to its 3D animation and its beautiful illustration, the film's star-studded cast is believed to have played a part in its success. Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok Fu-shing stars as the Buffalo Demon King, and Chow Yun-fat takes the role of the Jade Emperor. Both actors enjoy soaring popularity in the mainland.

Yet despite its success at the box office, reviews were mixed. While many said they were impressed by the dazzling special effects, others lamented the film's deviation from the original story.

"By making the Buffalo Demon King the major enemy of the Jade Emperor, the film really has betrayed the original book," one reviewer noted.

The Buffalo Demon King, the major antagonist in the film, played a less significant role in Wu's original narrative. Many had perceived him as a powerful demon with an aversion to troubles.

"Watching the film felt like eating kung pao chicken in America," one viewer wrote, "The dish might look OK, but it tastes completely different. "

Others defended the film and said it was a success.

"It's a happy movie to watch during Chinese New Year, and [the] kids loved it," one wrote.

On Douban, a popular online community where movie buffs gather and exchange opinions, the film received a rating of just 4.7 out of 10. On the same site, Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow’s recent Journey to the West: Conquering the Demon a film that addressed Monk Xuanzang’s early life, was rated at 7.1.

Read more: Donnie Yen talks about the challenges of his latest role in ‘The Monkey King’