If you don’t know what we mean by “different” then you probably don’t know about Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle director/star Stephen Chow’s film Journey to the West. Now that you’ve checked out that other article, you may be pleased or confused to know there’s another another film based on Wu Cheng’en’s classic Chinese fantasy novel, this one titled The Monkey King, starring Hong Kong action extraordinaire Donnie Yen, and coming to Chinese theaters January 31, 2014. It’s even got a trailer of its own, thanks to twitch.The novel and the two films are all stories about the mischievous Monkey King Sun Wukong who learns magic, rebels against the gods, and must eventually seek redemption. Based on the two trailers, there are a couple differences between the Chow and Yen films. While Chow’s is a humorous take on the characters, Yen’s appears to be a straight and serious adaptation. Also, while Journey to the West is a “sort of prequel” to the novel, The Monkey King seems to be adapting at least one part of story – namely Sun Wukong’s rebellion and assault on Heaven, based on the characters that closely resemble gods popping up in the trailer.
Two films based around the same concept coming out so close together is nothing out of the ordinary – if the US can have two movies where bad guys attack the white house, surely China can have two where a monkey fights gods and demons – especially two based on Journey to the West. It’s one of the most popular novels in China and all over the world. The 2008 Jackie Chan vs Jet Li flick The Forbidden Kingdom took several characters and other elements from the novel – Li’s character was even called Monkey King. References have popped up in video games, western and eastern alike. The story is quite popular in Japan, inspiring one of the most popular comic books of all time, Dragon Ball.
Stephen Chow’s adaptation is set to receive a VOD release in the UK this March. Let’s see if The Monkey King makes its own way to the west.