Tsui Hark’s Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back was a hot hit on the mainland over the holidays. We’re not sure why. It’s pure CGI with zero script decorated by pretty faces and dubious dialogue. Maybe a lot is lost in translation. Monk Tang Sanzang – played by Canadian-Chinese pop star Kris Wu – and his three disciples are penniless and join a circus as a freak show just to get something to eat. That should be easy, given that his disciples are the Monkey King Sun Wukong (Lin Gengxin), Pigsy (Yang Yiwei), a man who literally turns into a pig-human hybrid, and Sandy, a monster played by former NBA player Menteke Bateer. Sandy can shape-shift but doesn’t seam to have much choice in the shape he takes and he spends most of the film as a giant fish which often is the best thing on screen.
The constant bickering between the four men is irritating and infantile. The story is vapid – four travellers head to India to conquer demons. And guess what: they find demons. The characters are one-dimensional so the audience never really feels anything for them except ever-growing irritation.
The stand-out is Jelly Lin Yun (of The Mermaid fame) who plays a songstress with beauty and grace against an otherwise maniacal cacophony of over-acting slapstick humour and unbridled special effects.
Lin Gengxin does a passable job in the title role but really he’s hampered by the script, too.
Because the film is obviously about demon hunters, it’s not long before you understand that pretty much everyone you’re going to meet in the film is a demon who needs to be slain in the most spectacular way possible. By the time we reach the boss fight, we’re bored and wondering if the elderly folks next to us would mind if we trampled over them to catch up on some er ... studying.
But, who cares, right? At least it’s raking in the money. Should it rake in yours? Nah.