Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back

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Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back
Journey to the West The Demons Strike Back poster.jpeg
Poster
Traditional 西遊伏妖篇
Simplified 西游伏妖篇
Mandarin Xī Yóu Fú Yāo Piān
Cantonese Sai1 Jau4 hFeok6 Jiu2 Pin1
Directed by Tsui Hark
Produced by Stephen Chow
Tsui Hark
Nansun Shi
Written by Stephen Chow
Tsui Hark
Si-Cheun Lee
Based on Journey to the West
by Wu Cheng'en
Starring Kris Wu
Lin Gengxin
Yao Chen
Lin Yun
Music by Ying-Wah Wong
Cinematography Sung Fai Choi
Edited by Lin Li
Hark Tsui
Jason Zen
Production
companies
Distributed by Lianrui (Shanghai) Pictures[1]
Release date
  • January 28, 2017 (2017-01-28)
Running time
108 minutes[2]
Country China
Language Mandarin
Budget $63.9 million[3][4][5]
Box office $248.8 million[6][7][8]

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (Chinese: 西遊伏妖篇)[9] is a 2017 Chinese fantasy-adventure-comedy film directed by Tsui Hark. A sequel to Stephen Chow's 2013 film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, it was produced and co-written by both Tsui and Chow.

The film follows the adventures of Tang Sanzang and his disciples Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing after the events of the first film; all four roles have been recast. The film was released in China by Lianrui Pictures on 28 January 2017 in MX4D, 4DX, IMAX 3D and 3D.[1][10]

Plot[edit]

The monk Tang Sanzang (Kris Wu) finds himself as a giant in a city in India. His master congratulates him on reaching India and retrieving the Sutras, and gives him a halo as a reward. The halo, however, malfunctions and Tang awakes from his dream to find himself in an alley in a village of circus performers with his three disciples: Sun Wukong (Lin Gengxin); Zhu Bajie (Yang Yiwei); and Sha Wujing (Mengke Bateer). Tang encourages Sun Wukong to perform for the villagers, but the disciple refuses. Angered by this stubbornness, Tang provokes Sun Wukong by calling him a "bad monkey", which causes Sun Wukong to smash the village and damage the villagers' homes in his temper. The terrified villagers present the group with money and food for their travels, but Sun Wukong continues wreaking havoc, sending Zhu Bajie and Tang flying through the air. That night, Tang whips Sun Wukong for his disobedience.

The next morning, Tang goes to find water for their breakfast congee and comes across a house. Its host, a beautiful woman in a splendid outfit (Wang Likun), welcomes them all in for breakfast with her companions. Sun Wukong, however, sees through their disguises as spider demons; he purposely provokes them, until she and the others show their true form. During the subsequent battle, the demons come together to form one huge spider. After being poisoned by the spider, Sha Wujing falls ill and slowly bloats into a fish-like creature. Sun Wukong defeats the spider and Tang attempts to exorcise her, but Sun Wukong smashes in the demon's head with one blow. Once more, Tang is annoyed at Sun Wukong's disobedience and whips him again that evening. Later that night, the enraged Sun Wukong discusses with the other disciples his plans to kill Tang, but the others fear Tang's mighty Buddha Palm powers. Tang overhears this conversation and prays to Buddha to help him and also confesses that he actually does not know, or have, Buddha Palm powers. Zhu Bajie overhears this admission and tells Sun Wukong, who challenges Tang to a fight. Just as Sun Wukong is about to strike, a blinding ray of light shines from the heavens and he retreats.

The next day, the group pass into the capital city of the Biqiu Kingdom and a minister (Yao Chen) comes out to greet them and bring them to see the king: an immature and childlike man who likes to play games. The king orders Tang to perform for him but the monk doesn't have anything to showcase. Sun Wukong therefore pastes an "obedience sticker" on Tang allowing Tang to copy his actions and perform stunts for the king. Sun Wukong, however, goes too far and makes Tang slap the king continuously, who throws them all out. Tang orders Sun Wukong to return and apologize, but it is revealed that Sun Wukong purposely provoked the king to make him reveal his form as the demon Red Boy. They fight and Sun Wukong defeats Red Boy, also freeing the true king of Biqiu (Bao Bei'er) from his cage under the throne. As a reward for helping him, the king presents them with a beautiful girl, Felicity (Lin Yun), to accompany them on their travels. As Felicity dances for them, Tang is reminded of his deceased lover, Ms Duan (Shu Qi).

The group set off and on the way, Sun Wukong realizes that Felicity is actually a demon. Tang, however, does not believe him, so they set off to visit Felicity's home village. Sun Wukong becomes enraged with Tang's lack of trust in him and that night he destroys the whole village, killing everyone. Tang stops him from killing Felicity, further angering Sun Wukong, who attacks Tang, but Felicity finally confesses that she is actually the demon White Bone Spirit and that the whole village was an illusion conjured by her. Sun Wukong flares up and turns into a giant gorilla and swallows Tang. At that moment, the minister and Red Boy arrive and see that Monkey has fallen for their trick.

They had deliberately sent Felicity with the group to cause strife between Tang and Sun Wukong, so Sun Wukong would kill his master. Sun Wukong spits Tang out, however, as they had, in fact, known this all along, but played along with story, so that the minister would reveal her true form. They battle and the minister creates an illusion of Buddhas surrounding Monkey, using them to fight him. The real Buddha, however, uses his giant palm to destroy the false Buddhas and reveals the minister's real identity as the Immortal Golden Vulture.

After the battle, Tang heads back to find Felicity. He has no choice but to free her soul as there is too much demon in her. When Felicity asks Tang if he loves her, Tang replies that he has only one person in his heart. The animosity between Tang and Sun Wukong has finally dissolved; Sha Wujing sneezes out the poison and turns back to his human form. All three along with Zhu Bajie continue their journey to the West through a desert.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Principal photography began in October 2015.[12] This was the first major collaboration between Chow and Tsui. Previously, during Spring Festival 2016, Tsui Hark had only a cameo role in Chow's The Mermaid. Here, however, Tsui directed the film, which was written by Chow, who was also the executive producer.[13] The companies that produced and/or invested in the film are: China Film Group Corporation, Star Overseas, Hehe (Shanghai) Pictures, Xiangshan Zeyue Media, Shanghai Tao Piao Piao Entertainment, Wanda Media, Dadi Century Films (Beijing), Guangzhou JinYi Media Corporation, Zhejiang HengDian Entertainment, Tianjin Maoyan Media, Maxtimes Culture (Tianjin) Films, Lianrui (Shanghai) Pictures, Huayi Brothers Media Group, Shanghai New Culture Media Group, Dongshen (Shanghai) Pictures, Black Ant Shanghai Entertainment, Horgos Hehe Pictures, Horgos Lianrui Pictures, Wuxi Huichi Entertainment and Shanghai Mengchacha Entertainment Investment.[1][14]

Release[edit]

The film was released in China on 28 January 2017, the start of the Chinese New Year holiday.[9] In December 2016, Sony Pictures acquired the North American and multi-territory distribution rights to the film for the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and much of Asia outside the Mainland China (including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).[9] The film opened simultaneously with its Chinese release (28 January) in Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Australia and New Zealand. The UK and U.S. release followed on 3 February 2017, with that in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand taking place later in the month.[15]

Promotion[edit]

Journey to the West: Demon Chapter had its first teaser released in China on 8 November 2016.[16]

Box office[edit]

Pre-release[edit]

The Demons Strike Back was made on a production budget of 440 million yuan ($63.9 million) with an additional 140 million yuan ($20 million) spent on marketing (promotion and advertising) materials.[5] The film was highly anticipated in China by both industry insiders and ordinary moviegoers and was projected to emerge very successful at the box office, partly due to the robust demand and success of the first film.[2][3] Moreover, in its domestic market, the film was released during the Chinese New Year period, the most lucrative time of the year for local films. The holiday, which is also known as Spring Festival, is a coveted release period in the country in which millions of Chinese moviegoers – both casual and hardcore fans – flock to theaters in what is regarded as the busiest moviegoing period on the planet.[4][15] Since the period is a strategic time to release films with blockbuster potential, The Demons Strike Back faced competition. Nine other Chinese-made films opened on the same day and films such as Kung Fu Yoga, Buddies in India, Duckweed, The Village of No Return and Boonie Bears: Entangled World posed a box office challenge for the film.[17][18] The film pre-sold more than 100 million yuan ($14.54 million) worth of tickets, according to the film distributors and promoters, breaking the previous record held by Chow's The Mermaid.[19]

The main draw of the film has been credited to Tsui Hark who has directed some of the highest-grossing films in China, including the recent The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. Chow's involvement in the project is also considered a factor in the early momentum for the film, but the impact of the cast is seen as mixed.[4]

Theatrical run[edit]

The film opened 28 January 2017 and grossed over 345–360 million yuan ($50–52 million) on its opening day. Data from research group Entgroup showed that the movie had 103,065 screenings and registered 8.7 million admissions on Saturday, the busiest day ever at the Chinese box office. This broke the record for the biggest single/opening day for a local film in China, dethroning The Mermaid's former record of 270 million yuan in 2016. The record for all films is that of Furious 7's 391 million yuan opening day sales.[20][21] Before this, the film made an estimated 10.45 million yuan ($1.5 million) from midnight previews on Friday night.[21] It earned 209 million yuan ($30.4 million) on its second day, Sunday, bringing its two-day cumulative total to 553 million yuan ($80.3 million), with some figures going as high as $83 million. This broke the record for the biggest Saturday-Sunday opening in China, created a year earlier by the Hollywood film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[21][22] In IMAX the film broke the record for the biggest single/opening day with $4.2 million from 390 screens and the best Chinese New Year opening day for IMAX. It came in third for all titles, behind Warcraft and Furious 7. In two days, the gross was worth $7.4 million, the second best, behind The Force Awakens.[20]

After its record-breaking openings, The Demons Strikes Back began to witness significant falls in accruing revenues from its third day onwards. In three days, the film made a combined 728 million yuan ($105.9 million) compared to The Mermaid's 770 million yuan ($117.4 million) and the discrepancy widened in the following days. One major reason for the film's fall in demand was the negative reception and bad word-of-mouth from critics and audiences that took a mounting toll on the film's box office performance. Its average user ratings from China's major online film portals such as Douban, Maoyan, Gewara, and Mtime were among the lowest for such a wide release. By comparison, in Douban, The Demons Strike Back scored just 6.9/10 compared to The Mermaid's 8.0/10.[23]

Outside the Middle Kingdom, Sony Pictures acquired the rights to distribute the film in many territories. The studio released the film simultaneously across six markets with the Chinese premiere, realising a two-day weekend haul of $2.2 million from 362 screens.[20]

Its worldwide box office total now (as of 16 February 2017) stands at $239.5 million, with $232 million from China's market.[24] It also has become the highest-grossing film in Tsui Hark's career and the highest-grossing film among the Journey to the West novel adaptations.[25]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 50%, based on 10 critics' reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10.

RogerEbert.com gave the movie a glowing review and a 3/4 rating. They called the collaboration between Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark a "worthy fusion of two of the film world's most brilliant stars" and praised the film saying, "it's got more imagination in one nimble limb than a Fast & Furious sequel or a Star Wars prequel can lay claim to in their whole battered chassis."[26] The Hollywood Reporter gave a mixed review, praising the film for its action sequences and special effects, but criticizing its screenplay, narration and weak character development.[27] South China Morning Post also criticized the performance of its leads.[28]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
37th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Art Direction Yoshihito Akatsuka, Liao Huei-li, Guo Zhongshan Nominated [29][30]
Best Costume Make Up Design Bruce Yu, Lee Pik-kwan Won
Best Sound Design Kinson Tsang, Yiu Chun-hin Nominated
Best Visual Effects Park Young-soo, Kim Wook Nominated
23rd Huading Awards Best Supporting Actress Lin Yun Nominated [31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "西游伏妖篇(2017)". cbooo.cn (in Chinese). Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Wei Xi Source (January 18, 2017). "Stephen Chow's new Journey to the West film fails to live up to its high anticipation". Global Times. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Zhang Rui (January 17, 2017). "'Journey to the West 2' aims to lead golden box office season". China.org.cn. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Jonathan Papish (January 26, 2017). "On Screen China: Out with the Monkey and in with the Money". China Film Insider. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Clarence Tsui (January 27, 2017). "Why China's Lunar New Year movie market is a tale of two cities". South China Morning Post. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  6. ^ http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Xi-You-Fu-Yao-Pian-(China)#tab=summary
  7. ^ "Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back". Entgroup. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Patrick Brzeski (December 7, 2016). "CineAsia: Sony Takes North American Rights to Stephen Chow's 'Journey to the West 2'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 7, 2016. 
  10. ^ "西游伏妖篇 Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back". Gewara (in Chinese). Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "西游伏妖篇 (2017)". movie.douban.com (in Chinese). douban.com. Retrieved October 3, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Film in Production". english.entgroup.cn. EntGroup Inc. Retrieved October 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark's upcoming Monkey King film". China.org.cn. China Internet Information Center. Retrieved October 24, 2016. 
  14. ^ Zhang Rui (January 17, 2017). "'Journey to the West 2' aims to lead golden box office season". china.org.cn. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Nancy Tartaglione (January 27, 2017). "Know Your Chinese New Year Pics: 'Journey To The West 2' & More In Box Office Hunt". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Stephen Chow, Tsui Hark's blockbuster releases teaser". China.org.cn. China Internet Information Center. Retrieved November 9, 2016. 
  17. ^ Vittorio Hernandez (January 18, 2017). "Will 'Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back' Set New Box-Office Records in China?". Yibada. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  18. ^ Patrick Brzeski (January 22, 2017). "China Box Office: 'Arrival' Leads Quiet Pre-Holiday Weekend". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  19. ^ "《西游伏妖篇》预售票房超1亿元!打破中国影史记录". Global Times. January 26, 2017. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b c Nancy Tartaglione (January 29, 2017). "'Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back' Sets China, IMAX Records". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 30, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b c Jonathan Papish (January 29, 2017). "'Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back' Sets Records". China Film Insider. Retrieved January 30, 2017. 
  22. ^ Patrick Brzeski (January 29, 2017). "China Box Office Roars Back to Life as New Year Holiday Kicks Off". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 30, 2017. 
  23. ^ Jonathan Papish (January 31, 2017). "China Box Office: A Record Set, A Scandal Brews, and Accounting Rules Change". China Film Insider. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  24. ^ "'Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back' summary page". Boxofficemojo.com. February 16, 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2017. 
  25. ^ "《西游伏妖篇》 破13亿周星驰路演称为了观众我会越做越好". China Youth Daily. February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  26. ^ Scout Tafoya (February 3, 2017). "'JOURNEY TO THE WEST: THE DEMONS STRIKE BACK (2017)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved February 13, 2017. 
  27. ^ Clarence Tsui (January 31, 2017). "'Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back' ('Xi You Fu Yao Pian'): Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  28. ^ "The great glass ceiling of Chinese cinema: pretty young men and few females in the top roles". South China Morning Post. February 24, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Hong Kong Film Awards nominations 2018: Ann Hui's Our Time Will Come leads race with 11 nods". South China Morning Post. February 6, 2018. 
  30. ^ "Our Time Will Come wins five awards, including best film, at star-studded Hong Kong Film Awards". South China Morning Post. April 15, 2018. 
  31. ^ "第23届华鼎奖提名:《战狼2》、《芳华》双雄逐鹿". Sina (in Chinese). March 20, 2018. 

External links[edit]