Movie Review – Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2014)

Journey to the West
Directed by Stephen Chow
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: May 27, 2014

journey

If you’ve never experienced a Stephen Chow movie, then you are truly missing out. Chow has a knack for combining drama with zany comedy while throwing in some nifty martial-arts action alongside. This might sound like a common combination in today’s movie place, but I assure you: Chow’s movies take these genres to the next level. JOURNEY TO THE WEST is his latest release, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have his previous films, it’s still a heck of a good time and worth checking out.

If you are not familiar with JOURNEY TO THE WEST, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one’s self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them must embark on a journey to the West that’s full of challenges.

Some reviewers have called Chow ‘visionary’, and I can see why. His directing technique is definitely unique, and the way he tells stories is visceral compared to many. But he is also an acquired taste; some viewers will not like his over-the-top style.

JOURNEY TO THE WEST is shot well and has the same flamboyant flare as Chow’s previous films. Visually, the movie is a feast for the eyes; Chow likes to use CG for backdrops and even showpieces, and as a result, the audience gets an aesthetic overload. This movie does not disappoint at all in this aspect.

The acting is a bit below par for what I would expect from a Chow-caliber movie. There were really no performances that stood out, and a couple of the characters were even a bit annoying (The Monkey King, in particular). This could be in part due to the horrible dub-over that was used for the English version. I’ve heard some bad ones in my time, but wow…this was one of the worst. I would recommend watching this film in its native language.

The special effects are good for the most part, however I feel I have to voice my displeasure of The Monkey King once again, but this time about his make-up. I’ve seen Halloween masks that look more realistic. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it didn’t work for me.

Still, with those complaints aside, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is a fun film, and fans of Chow’s work should be pleased. I liked it for the most part, and I recommend giving it a look so as to decide for yourself. This is definitely one of those films that will prompt conversation afterwards, so make sure you come back here and let us know what you think after you watch it. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

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