Yeah, I like Stephen Chow's movies. Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle, God of Cookery, amongst others. I think he's a talented guy. Other people seem to agree with me. In fact, Comedy Legend Bill Murray once called Kung Fu Hustle the greatest comedy ever created by stating that:
"...Kung Fu Hustle, which is the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy." -Bill Murray (source)
Getting an endorsement from William "Bill" Murray for creating the "supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy" is a decent bench mark.
I haven't heard of anything new from Chow in a while, I think he made an alien CG movie but it looked like it was aimed at a young audience. The latest thing from him was a trailer for an adaptation he did for Journey to the West, which is a classical Chinese literature piece from history.
From the trailer it looks like it doesn't have much at all to do with the story I'm familiar with, in fact it looks pretty odd.
History of Journey to the West
Journey to the West is credited to Wu Cheng'en in the year 1592. He composed the basic text we read today but there's a little more to it than that.
The story was based on supposed actual events of a Chinese scholar traveling to India and returning with Buddhist Scriptures to teach the people back home (around the year 600) . Over the years from 600 to 1592 the story changed dramatically. At some point along the way someone found it was too boring and added in a Monkey King (based heavily off the Hindu Deity known as Hanuman), a Pig, and a Swamp Monster to spice the story up a bit. By the time Wu Cheng'en "wrote it" in 1592 it had already taken on mythical proportions.
Like many other historical Chinese classics, I believe the ruling government of the era got their hands on it and edited it heavily. If you've read Outlaws of the Marsh (another old classic), for example, the alterations to the text almost come right off the page to you, they are so obvious. You can tell where the ruling government of the era edited in-or-out parts to promote the Emperor and other authority figures. In Journey to the West there is a totally unnecessary and out of place chapter where the Tang Emperor becomes a central figure for a brief time. It is truly out of place and really sticks out like a sore thumb when you read it.
It would be accurate to say that the story was written by many people (over the course of almost 1000 years beginning in 600), including government officials who threw in pro-authority parts. Wu Cheng'en should be called the compiler of the text, I'd say. I think what he actually did was extend the text by a few dozen chapters (it gets very repetitive at times). I have the suspicion the Wu Cheng'en may have been selling this book in the 16th century as a peridiocal/serial magazine of sorts...where in order to make more money off of it he had to keep adding repetitive demon-catching chapters to it (plus each chapter ends with a "stay tuned next time" sort of "same bat time! same bat channel!" type of hook).
The text basically goes in this format:
Chapters 1-30: Setting up the characters.
Chapters 30-99: Them journeying west as you'd expect. Yeah, 70 chapters of that.
Chapters 99-100: They finally make it and it ends.
Anyway, from the time after 1592, we've invented different forms of media. A Chinese opera of Journey to the West would come next (still being performed today), and eventually TV shows, movies, and video games would come about in the modern era.
Some of the adaptations of this text in the modern era have been awful. There's been dozens of movies from China, and not many of them, if any, are good. Japan made a TV show which was pretty bad in the 1970s ..except for the theme song which was really really funk-tastic and catchy (as shown here by Godiego). The video game adaptions are the worst because they always make the Monkey King into a pretty boy (like this example from a game called "Soul Calibur V). All the games seem to present him as a pretty boy, this is the stupidest thing they do, because the Monkey King was a filthy demon-monkey not an androgynous faggo.
Sun "Monkey King" Wukong WAS NOT PRETTY. He was a fucking demon ape who got drunk all day on earth, then got bored of that shit, went up to heaven and robbed and broke all their stuff. He didn't take shit from nobody. He even urinated on Buddha himself, that takes balls. He by no means of any stretch was an emo pretty-boy like in most adaptions of him we see lately.
As for the adaptions of the monk character (Xuan Zang) who is sent to get the scriptures, they are always as equally horrible. The only thing they have to go on is that he's "pure of heart" and that seems to translate to people interpreting the text as him being really boring and depthless as a character. Some adaptions even casted a female to be the monk because he's such a wimp.
The only good modern take on this text so far is the one which strays the most from the old formula. Many might know that Dragon Ball from Akira Toriyama is an adaption of this text as well and is probably the only good one.
Chow's version is really good. Even though from the trailer it looks awful, it 100% is not awful at all. Why?
First of all, Chow focuses on the best part of the book, Chapters 1-30. He takes out all stupid references to the Tang Empire and pointless authority figures (which were never supposed to be in the text anyway). He doesn't even bother getting into the journeying part. He adds in godzilla-like monsters, computer graphics, interesting new original characters, a deep love story, some musical scenes, loads of comedy, borrows some Dragon Ball Z elements, gets some hot asian chicks in there, and best of all....HE MAKES THE DEMONS AS UGLY AS FUCK.
|Sha Wujing (as intended)|
And his Monk? Xuan Zang? He's pure but modernized. He's not a pointless wimp, he's just a nice shy guy but he's at least human. He's the only interesting Xuan Zang ever.
After watching the trailer it looked like Chow's adaption of Journey to the West would be one of the worst takes on the book. It's not the case at all. His Xuan Zang is the BEST Xuan Zang, his Sha Wujin is the BEST Sha Wujin, his Zhu Bajie is the BEST Zhu Bajie, and his Sun Wukong...is the BEST.
Finally someone did it right. He took a lot of creative liberties but you have to with material that is over 1,400 years old.
END NOTE: What actually got me thinking about this book of late was a picture I saw on the North Korean government's hacked twitter account.
Whoever did it put Dennis Rodman's best pal's head on Zhu Bajie (the hideous pig demon). Pretty cute. It got me thinking about Journey to the West.
Wait...I don't want to end on that stupid picture. So here's one of Sun Wukong in a boxing ring (I can't find the source for this though).
If anyone is ever gonna make a good video game adaption of Journey to the West they should call whoever drew this picture and let him/her design the character models for it. This is what a modernized "cooler" Wukong should look like if that's what they want....NOT AN EMO PRETTY BOY.
The Wukongs models they come up with for the games they make these days do not look like they can fly up to heaven and beat the living fuck out all the assholes up there. This Wukong? He looks like he could.
(EDIT: it states "East Monkey" on the bottom of the picture. I thought that was a title but it seems to be from this art site account: http://eastmonkey.deviantart.com/, seems the picture is from that source. His name appears to be Liu Dongzi...his Wukong pics are retarded-ass good.)
With a little bit of Monkey Maaaaagic we'll see fiiiiiiireworks at niiiiiiiiiiight!