Aaron Kwok goes from the original film’s villain to playing the titular character himself in this superior sequel to the 2014 story of one of China’s greatest legends.
It has been 500 years since Sun Wukong was banished to Five Finger Mountain, where he is imprisoned. When the monk Tang Seng goes on a quest to India to collect the scriptures of Buddha. En route, a tiger forces Tang into the mountain where Wukong convinces him to take the imprisonment charm off. Reluctantly, Tang does so and Wukong is once again freed. However, it comes with a price as Wukong must become Tang’s protector and to ensure he makes no mistakes, Wukong is bound by a golden crown. Along the way, they meet and befriend Zhu Bajie, a pig demon; and Sha Wujing, a sand demon and the group heads to India.
However, the group soon finds trouble in the form of the White-Boned Demon, who has an interest in taking the soul of Tang Seng to gain immortality. When Wukong is able to stop the demon due to his power of seeing demons, Tang thinks Wukong acts recklessly. As for the demon herself, she finds trouble in someone who has been kidnapping children and framing her for the crimes, causing more chaos. Will Tang Seng be able to lead the charge and make things right as they seem to be pre-destined? Or will the unlikeliest of heroes be able to save the day and at what cost?
When 2014’s The Monkey King was released, the film was a box office hit with Donnie Yen in the titular role. However, there had been complaints that there was no ample story and was nothing more than a visual effects show. When a sequel was announced, Yen decided not to return due to the physical demands of the role. Enter Aaron Kwok, who played the villain Bull Demon King in the original, who makes for a worthy replacement. The physical demands for the role was helped by Kwok’s background in not only martial arts, but his original dance background as well.
The film does have a story that drives the film, one in which introduced the character of Tang Seng, played really well by William Feng. Feng brings a little humor at times and works well with Kwok as well as Xiao Shengyang and Him Law as fellow good demons Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing. For Law, notably a TV actor, the role of Sha brings massive redemption points after his abysmal portrayal of the iconic Chan Ho-Nam in the awful reboot Young and Dangerous Reloaded. Kelly Chen makes the most of her extended cameo as the Goddess of Mercy, a return for her from the original film. She would be the only one from the original film to reprise the same role.
There are not one but two major villains of the film. Gong Li once again shines in terms of acting as the deadly White-Boned Demon, who sees Tang as the key to her being immortal. Accompanied by fellow animal demons, Gong goes to great lengths to make sure she gets what she wants despite having reservations about reincarnation to some aspect. Taiwanese-American singer and actor Kris Phillips makes a surprisingly good villain himself as the King of Persia, who holds a very deadly secret and does the unthinkable to not only hide his secret but like Gong Li’s demon, seeks to find himself somewhat of an immortal, thus crossing not only our heroes, but the White-Boned Demon as well. While Phillips has not made many films, this is one where he really showcases some talent.
Sammo Hung choreographed the action and yes, this a fantasy film so there are plenty of visual effects and wirework, but they look so good here. Kwok does well when using the signature Golden Staff along with Xiao and Law performing their action scenes really well. Law and Xiao have a pretty nice fight scene against a skeletal army in a pivotal scene of the film. Overall, the film’s action for this genre is quite a delight to watch even if at times, it may look a bit crazy.
The Monkey King 2 is an improvement over the original with Aaron Kwok making a worthy titular character and Gong Li making for a great villainess. William Feng, Xiao Shengyang, and Him Law provide excellent support and it is safe to say that Kwok and company will return in 2018 for The Monkey King 3: Kingdom of Women.
WFG RATING: A-
Well Go USA Entertainment presents a Filmko Pictures production. Director: Soi Cheang. Producers: Agan and Wong Hoifung. Writers: Elvis Man, Ning Wen, and Ran Ping; based on the novel “Journey to the West” by Wu Cheng’en. Cinematography: Yang Tao and Cheung Man-Po. Editing: Angie Lam.
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, William Feng, Xiao Shengyang, Him Law, Kris Phillips, Kelly Chen, Giselle Chia.