By Jason Lin
Despite the meticulous approach engaged by the filmmakers and studio executives, the end result culminates in technical mediocrity under this opinion. A few VFX sequences having jarring frame rates aside (it literally looks like a system with an incompetent graphics card rendering the visuals), there are also a couple of CG elements appearing to be pixelated (particularly blatant when this opinion viewed it upfront in 3D). When almost every sequence is designed with visual effects in mind, it frustratingly causes a significant distraction from other merits that the film may have.
The Monkey King begins with the birth and origins of Sun Wukong (Donnie Yen), whose commencing life journey is of interest to watch. As a third party, one gets to understand Sun's good nature that is eventually convoluted by external influences of both good and evil. Sun is born with vast potential of greatness, which is acknowledged and subsequently exploited by many. This serves as a classic case example of the impacts of exploiting talent and power for good and wicked intentions.
One is also able to comprehend the devastating effects of uncontrollable anger and rage that may be triggered by even the purest and kindest source of goodwill cultivated within us. For this instance, it is the very example of the exploitation of good to wreck havoc when Sun is tricked into unleashing hell upon heaven (literally).
With the exception of the magnetic screen presence of Chow Yun-Fat as the Jade Emperor, most characters tread in and out of Sun's story as mere plot devices - mechanisms to progress the film. This also includes its lead antagonist Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) with an intriguing side romance story with Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen), both key characters in the classic novel, that didn't materialise in any manner. Even the romance plot tread between Sun and his childhood love interest Silver Nine-Tailed Fox (Xia Zitong) sizzles out in exchange to emphasise the primary plot.
The Monkey King will not have been a watchable film and protagonist if not for the lively performance of Donnie Yen as Sun, which entails the various behavioural traits of the legendary Monkey King. Make-up in this case has indeed surpassed expectations as few will have recognised the stature of Yen (since many symbolises him as an action star) under Sun's quirky physique and personality.
Uncertain if a sequel will follow particularly when the film stems off with a visual motif hint at a key character from the popular Chinese novel Journey to the West, The Monkey King will have been a greater film if not for lost opportunities in better supporting character development and the irritable visual spectacle that constitutes an expensive film budget blunder.