Though it may be the Year of the Horse, The Monkey King reigns over the box offices not only in China and Hong Kong, but also internationally during the Lunar New Year. This is significant especially after a rather weak December 2013. The Monkey King is a modern visual effects-heavy retelling of the one of the more famous episodes in the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West, written in the Ming Dynasty by Wu Cheng’ en.
The Monkey King, directed by Cheang Pou-soi (Motorway), is seen as a different and more serious adaptation of the traditional story of the Monkey King whereas its counterpart, Journey to the West, directed by Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle), is more comical and has a lighter mood overall.
The Monkey King, in short, is the story of the mischievous Monkey King Sun Wukong who rebels against the Jade Emperor of Heaven due to his stubborn pride and how he has to redeem himself in order to gain his powers back.
International star from Hong Kong Donnie Yen (Ip Man) stars as the Monkey King himself. In addition, other global Hong Kong imports Chow Yun-fat (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) and Aaron Kwok (Divergence) star as the Jade Emperor and the Bull Demon King, respectively, both antagonists to the Monkey King.
What a start to the 2014 Year of the Horse. The Chinese New Year, which is determined by the Lunar calendar, tends to shift between January and February with the New Year celebrations lasting for 15 days. Usually, this two week period is a high point for Chinese cinema (along with the pre-Christmas month of December). The Monkey King was released on January 31, the first day of the Chinese New Year, to take full advantage of the holiday. And take advantage it did, as the film had the best weekend showing not only of any film in China, but globally. Contributing to that total was a record IMAX release. According to IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster, “Specifically, [this past] Friday is now our biggest IMAX day ever, for either a Hollywood or Chinese title.” The Monkey King beat out previous Chinese IMAX record holder Iron Man 3.