The Monkey King (film)

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The Monkey King
Theatrical release poster
MandarinDà Nào Tiān Gōng
CantoneseDaai6 Naau6 Tin1 Gung1
Directed byCheang Pou-soi
Produced byKiefer Lyhrywgraiu[1]
Michael Wehrhahn[2]
Robert Harris[2]
Screenplay bySzeto Kam-Yuen
Edmond Wong
Lola Huo
Dali Chen
Story byWu Cheng'en
StarringDonnie Yen
Chow Yun-fat
Aaron Kwok
Joe Chen
Peter Ho
Kelly Chen
Zhang Zilin
Gigi Leung
Xia Zitong
Louis Fan
Music byChristopher Young
CinematographyArthur Wong
Ardy Lam
Yang Tao
Daniel L. Symmes
Filmko Entertainment[1][3]
Mandarin Films[1][3]
China Film Group[1]
Shenzhen Golden Shores Films[1]
Zhejiang HG Entertainment[1]
Dongguan Boning Entreprise and Investment[1]
Beijing Wen Hua Dong Run Investment Co., Ltd.[3]
China Film Co-Production Corporation[3]
Global Star Productions
Distributed byFilmko Entertainment (Hong Kong; International)[1]
International -Aeon Pix Studios
Newport Entertainment (Hong Kong)[1]
Beijing Anshi Naying Culture Co. (China)[1]
China Film Group (China)[1]
Wanda Media (China)[1]
Global Star Productions
Release date
  • 25 January 2014 (2014-01-25) (Beijing premiere)
  • 30 January 2014 (2014-01-30) (Hong Kong)
  • 31 January 2014 (2014-01-31) (China)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryHong Kong[1][3]
Cantonese[1][improper synthesis?]
Budget500 million yuan (82 million USD)[4]
Box officeUS$181,900,000

The Monkey King is a 2014 Hongkonger[1]-Chinese[3] action-fantasy film directed by Cheang Pou-soi and starring Donnie Yen as the titular protagonist son Gouku. Yen also serves as the film's action director. Production began in Beijing on 18 October 2010[5] and was filmed in 3D.[6] The plot is based on an episode of Journey to the West, a Chinese literary classic written in the Ming Dynasty by Wu Cheng'en. It was released on 31 January 2014.[7] A sequel titled The Monkey King 2 was released in February 2016.


The film is based on selected chapters of Wu Cheng'en's classical novel Journey to the West, and tells the story of how Sun Wukong rebels against the Jade Emperor of Heaven.[8]

The film opens with the Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) waging war on Heaven. Much of Heaven is destroyed during the battle, and the Bull Demon King faces off against the Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-fat), the ruler of Heaven. The Bull Demon King is defeated but before the Jade Emperor can kill the Bull Demon King, his sister and Bull Demon King's lover Princess Iron Fan (Joe Chen) intervenes. She begs her brother to spare his life, saying that deities and demons can coexist peacefully. The Jade Emperor agrees to spare the Bull Demon King for the sake of his sister but he feels the Demon King must still be punished for his actions, and banishes him, Princess Iron Fan, and the rest of the demons to Flaming Mountain. Distraught over the destruction of Heaven, the goddess Nüwa (Zhang Zilin) sacrifices her body, turning it into magic crystals which rebuild Heaven as well as re-enforce the entrance into Heaven— the Southern Gate— so that it would destroy any demon who tries to pass through it. In the aftermath of the battle, the Jade Emperor appoints his nephew Erlang Shen (Peter Ho) to guard the Southern Gate. Erlang Shen finds the task beneath him and an insult to his abilities and resents his uncle for being given the duty.

One of Nüwa's crystals falls to Earth, landing on Mount Huaguo. Over time, life forms in the crystal, taking the shape of a monkey. A nine-tailed fox approaches the crystal, and befriends the monkey inside. The fox attempts to touch the crystal, only to have its paw burned before a mysterious force whisks it away.

Several years later, the monkey has grown up (Donnie Yen) to be very mischievous and playful. One day, he is approached by a man named Subhuti. Earlier, Subhuti had been tasked by the Guan Yin (Kelly Chen) the Goddess of Mercy to train the monkey. The monkey agrees to be trained by Subhuti, who takes him in and names him Sun Wukong. Wukong learns several mystic abilities such as being able to shape-shift himself, others, and even objects. Subhuti tells Wukong his training is complete, and there is nothing else to teach him. Wukong thanks his master before returning to Mount Huaguo.

Meanwhile, the Bull Demon King is planning to wage war on Heaven once again. Having witnessed Nüwa's crystal fall to earth years before, he realizes the monkey is the one who can destroy the Southern Gate, which would allow him back into Heaven. He also preys on Erlang Shen's anger and resentment towards the Jade Emperor. Erlang Shen agrees to help the Bull Demon King in exchange for getting to kill his uncle and take the throne of Heaven. All the while, the Bull Demon King keeps his plans secret from Princess Iron Fan, who is now pregnant with his child.

Wukong returns to Mount Huaguo to much fanfare from the monkeys. During their celebrating, he is dubbed "the Handsome Monkey King," a title he relishes. In awe of his new abilities, some of the monkeys are worried no one can protect them should Wukong leave again. Wukong agrees with this and quickly leaves to bring the monkeys of Mount Huaguo weapons. His journey takes him to the bottom of the Eastern Sea and the palace of the Dragon King. At first, the Dragon King pretends to comply with Wukong's request but tries to have Wukong executed instead. However, Wukong easily defeats everything the Dragon King throws at him. Finally, the Dragon King agrees to give Wukong what he wants. Before he departs, Wukong notices a large staff firmly planted in the sea. The Dragon King explains that it is the Ruyi Cudgel and that the sea was once harsh, violent, and constantly storming until a god placed the staff in the sea floor, calming it. Noticing the monkey's fascination, and thinking the task impossible, the Dragon King jokingly tells Wukong that the staff is his if he can remove it. Wukong removes the staff with ease, which immediately throws the sea into a violent storm. The storm unleashes a massive tidal wave which threatens to drown Flaming Mountain, but it is frozen by Princess Iron Fan.

The Bull Demon King visits a young Vixen and asks if she'd like to meet her old friend again. The Vixen shape-shifts into a nine-tailed fox, revealing she was the one who visited Wukong in the crystal, and the Bull Demon King was the one who whisked her away, claiming he saved her life— the Vixen's hand is still scarred from where she touched the crystal.

Meanwhile, the Dragon King goes to Heaven, attempting to find the Jade Emperor, only to be intercepted by Erlang Shen. The Dragon King tells him of Wukong's destruction and demands the Emperor deal with it. Erlang Shen shrugs him off, saying a mere monkey is should be no concern to the Emperor. Instead, he sends his subordinate Nezha to arrest Wukong.

The Vixen arrives at Mount Huaguo where she is greeted by her friend. Excited, Wukong spends the entire day showing her around the island. She introduce that her real name is Ruxue. As they wait to watch the sunrise that night, Wukong and Ruxue discuss their lifespans. Ruxue says that when she turns 200 years old, she will die. Wukong vows he'll find a way to make her immortal. As the sun rises, the pair is attacked by Nezha attempting to arrest Wukong. During their fight, the Bull Demon King arrives and kills Nezha. Wukong expresses his gratitude to the Bull Demon King, accepting him as a friend. The Bull Demon King appeals to Wukong's ego, calling him "the Great Sage Equal to Heaven," another title Wukong relishes. He goes on to tell Wukong that a being of his power belongs in Heaven. He continues to tempt Wukong by explaining all Heaven has to offer, including a way to make people immortal. Recalling the promise he made to Ruxue, Wukong decides to go to Heaven and learn the secret to immortality for Ruxue and his other friends, not wanting any of them to die.

The Bull Demon King meets Erlang Shen to explain his plan. Erlang Shen tells him that Wukong is in no way strong enough to destroy the gate. The Bull Demon King explains that if Wukong can consume the Jade Emperor's elixir, it will increase his power a hundredfold.

In Heaven, Erlang Shen uses Nezha's murder to convince the Jade Emperor that Wukong is a demon and must be killed. Subhuti arrives and intervenes, explaining Wukong is his former student and that's he's not evil, just misguided. The Jade Emperor agrees to welcome Wukong into Heaven. Wukong arrives at the Southern Gate, where Erlang Shen taunts him, calling him a demon, but Wukong passes through the gate unscathed. While exploring Heaven, Wukong meets the Jade Emperor caring for one of his dragon steeds. Wukong helps the steed, impressing the Emperor. While everyone is shocked by Wukong's lack of manners, the Jade Emperor is amused by his antics, welcoming the monkey into Heaven. Wukong explains he wishes to learn the secret of immortality. The Jade Emperor tells him that to learn such a secret will take a long time, but Wukong remains undeterred. The Jade Emperor gives Wukong a position caring for the stables where his dragon steeds reside.

At first, Wukong is excited by the prospect, but he quickly grows bored when he finds the tight schedule the dragon steeds are kept on to be far too restricting. Erlang Shen shows up and taunts Wukong by whipping the dragon steeds, telling Wukong that animals should know their place. A brief scuffle erupts between the two before Wukong releases the dragons. Erlang Shen chases Wukong through Heaven. Wukong temporarily loses him in the Emperor's peach grove. Enticed, Wukong begins to eat the peaches, only to be scolded by the maidens tending them, as consuming the peaches is forbidden. The maidens surround Wukong, continuing to yell at and scold him until Wukong uses his powers to freeze them in time and flee. Having witnessed the entire scene, Erlang Shen unfreezes the maidens and convinces one to paint Wukong in an extremely negative light, by claiming the monkey assaulted her. The Jade Emperor intervenes, but Erlang Shen quickly realizes it's Wukong in disguise before he vanishes again.

In Flaming Mountain, the Bull Demon King is making the final preparations for his war on Heaven. Princess Iron Fan walks in on him and realizes he had no intention of ever keeping the promise she made her brother. He tries to console her, telling her he wants to get her to Heaven once more. When that doesn't work, he angrily tells her that he's destined to wage war on Heaven like his ancestors before him. Unable to change her husband's mind, Iron Fan watches heartbroken as the Bull Demon King goes through with his plan.

In Heaven, Wukong comes across a large kiln. A maiden explains that that's where the Jade Emperor's elixir is made there. The maiden then leaves, warning Wukong that just being seen there will get him into trouble. Unknown to Wukong, the maiden was actually Erlang Shen trying to tempt Wukong as part of the Bull Demon King's plan. Curious, Wukong approaches the kiln, only to be tied down and restrained by Subhuti. Subhuti tries to convince Wukong to leave this place before he gets into any more trouble. But it's too late; Erlang Shen arrives. Wukong realizes that Erlang Shen had set him up. As he beats and tortures Wukong, Erland Shen taunts him, challenging him to take the Elixir, but Subhuti tries to dissuade him, saying the flames of the kiln would kill him before he could try. Wukong jumps into the kiln anyway. Wukong travels through the flames to the core of the kiln and consumes the elixir. Now more powerful, Wukong bursts through the kiln and fights Erlang Shen once more. The fight is stopped as Erlang Shen flees. Wukong quickly regains his senses and sees all the damage he's done. Ashamed, he leaves Heaven. Subhuti attempts to go after him but is stopped by the Jade Emperor.

Wukong returns to find Mount Huaguo in ashes and all his friends dead. He finds Ruxue's body with a strange, shadowy substance around her neck. The Bull Demon King arrives and tells him that Heaven's soldiers slaughtered everyone. Wukong flies off in a rage and heads for Heaven once more. A flashback reveals that the heavenly soldiers were actually demons in disguise. The Bull Demon King explained to Ruxue that it would be Wukong's love for her that will lead to Heaven's destruction before killing her.

The Jade Emperor readies his armies for battle as Wukong arrives at the Southern Gate and destroys it as he enters Heaven once more. He engages the heavenly army, pulling out his hairs and transforming them into copies of himself. He takes out the heavenly army and faces the Jade Emperor. Seeing how enraged he is, the Emperor tries to talk sense into Wukong, who refuses to see reason.

The Bull Demon King arrives in Heaven behind Wukong and begins laying waste to it. Suhuti attempts to fight him, only to be killed. As he watches his master die, Wukong notices the Bull Demon King conjure the same shadowy substance that was around Ruxue's neck and realizes he was the one that killed his friends. With newfound fury, Wukong attempts to fight the Bull Demon King, only to be knocked out. He has a vision where he's approached by the goddess Guan Yin and he realizes his mistakes.

While Wukong is unconscious, the Bull Demon King fights the Jade Emperor once more. This time, the Bull Demon King savagely beats the Emperor, knocking him unconscious as well. Erlang Shen suddenly shows up to land the killing the blow on his uncle, but the Bull Demon King brushes him aside. As he watches the Bull Demon King sit on the throne of Heaven, Erlang Shen realizes the demon was never going to keep his promise. He attempts to fight the Bull Demon King as well only to be killed.

The Jade Emperor is saved once again, this time by Wukong who has regained his senses. Wukong and the Bull Demon King engage in a fierce battle which destroys much of Heaven. In a last ditch effort to kill the monkey, the Bull Demon King transforms into a giant, bull-like monster. Wukong counters this by using his newfound powers to turn into a giant, golden monkey. Wukong rips one of the Bull Demon King's horns off and throws him from Heaven, sending him crashing to earth. Some time later, Princess Iron Fan gives birth to hers and Bull Demon King's son, Red Boy. They find the Bull Demon King who, having lost all his power, has been turned into a regular bull. Iron Fan explains that this is the fate of evil men. But despite this, they're still going to care for the bull because he's family and they love him.

Back in Heaven, the Jade Emperor and Wukong observe the damage done to Heaven. Without Nüwa, the Emperor says that the repairs will take much longer. Wukong decides to help the Emperor rebuild Heaven, but he is stopped by Buddha. While Buddha agrees that Wukong must atone for his sins, but rebuilding Heaven is not his responsibility. Buddha tells Wukong that his chance to atone will come 500 years into the future. Until that time, Buddha will turn his hand into a mountain, and Wukong will remain there asleep. Wukong agrees to this and is sealed into the mountain by Buddha. A short scene shows a white fox chasing a butterfly in a forest clearing.

The film ends 500 years later, with Tang Sanzang approaching the mountain before cutting to black, setting up for the sequel, which was released in 2016.


Main cast[edit]

Other cast[edit]


When the film was first announced, both Jet Li and Donnie Yen were eyed for a role.[9] On 18 May 2010, Yen was confirmed to be playing the title role of the Monkey King.[10] Later, it was announced Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok will be playing the Jade Emperor and Bull Demon King respectively. Kwok's role is said to be breaking traditions for being handsome, stylish and fighting for love.[11] The film was originally budgeted at 300 million yuan but later was raised to 400 million yuan. Production companies include Filmko, Mandarin Films, China Film Group, Shenzhen Golden Shores Films, Zhejiang HG Entertainment, Dongguan Boning Entreprise and Investment, Beijing Wen Hua Dong Run Investment Co., Ltd., China Film Co-Production Corporation, and Global Star Productions, Inc. Michael Wehrhahn, President of Global Star Production, Inc, has joined forces with former Imagine Films President / Universal Television Icon Robert Harris in producing and releasing high end features for the U.S. and Asian markets.[12][13][14]

Additional cast members were later announced including Cecilia Cheung, Gigi Leung, Kelly Chen, Peter Ho, Joe Chen and Liu Ye.[15] On 17 May 2011, Zhang Zilin, winner of Miss World 2007, confirmed that she joined the film, playing the role of Nüwa, replacing Cecilia Cheung, who was originally[citation needed] announced in the role. However, Zhang claimed that she never heard that Cheung was to be in the film.[16]

For the 3-D shoot, Filmko recruited Hollywood talents. The crew includes David Ebner (Alice in Wonderland, Spider-Man 3), who will serve as visual effects supervisor for the film and Shaun Smith (The Forbidden Kingdom, 300, I Am Legend) who will be the special make-up supervisor.[17]


The original poster released had a release date of February 2012, but it was postponed.[10] Later it was announced that it would be released on 7 July 2012,[18] on 4 July 2013,[19] and finally on 30 January 2014 in Hong Kong and 31 January in China.[20] It was released in the United States in 2015.


James Marsh of Twitch Film referred to it as a "Hot Mess From The Heavens", saying it has poor CGI effects and a weak script, while praising lead actor Donnie Yen's performance as Sun Wukong, but ultimately writing Wukong "a somewhat irritating character who can be difficult to sympathise with."[21] Maggie Lee of Variety calls it "a simplistic, action-driven narrative with inexhaustible energy, but little style or substance."[22] Clarence Tsui of The Hollywood Reporter writes "The Monkey King is filled to the brim with gravity-defying saints and sprites zipping across the screen in a litany of kinetic 3-D action sequences. But the stellar imagery hardly makes up for the film's underwritten narrative, half-baked characterizations and emotional gimmicks."[23]

Box office[edit]

The film had the highest-grossing opening day in China with RMB121 million (US$20.0 million), surpassing Iron Man 3.[24] It also broke three more records in China including the highest single-day box office, the first Chinese film to break RMB100 million on its first day and the fastest Chinese film to reach RMB100 million.[25] During its opening, it was the highest-grossing film at the global box office grossing RMB216 million (US$35.4 million).[26] It grossed RMB389.97 million (US$64.35 million) in the first four days.[27] With this, the film also set the record as the fastest film to reach RMB300 million in China box office.[28] In China, The Monkey King grossed a total of RMB1,028,688,003 (US$$167,840,000)[29] and becoming only the third Chinese film to earn more than a billion yuan at the Chinese box office. The film grossed a total of US$181,900,000 internationally.[30]


Filmko Entertainment announced Louis Koo will be joining the cast as Tang Sanzang in the upcoming sequel.[31] Production for the sequel started in November 2014.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Film Review: 'The Monkey King in 3D'". Variety. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "The Monkey King: An IMAX 3D Experience". Big Movie Zone. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "THE MONKEY KING (2014)". Hong Kong Cinemagic. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  4. ^ Skipper, Ben (2014-01-20). "Monkey King: A Look At China's Biggest (And Craziest) Film Ever". Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  5. ^ "The Monkey King Starts Wreaking Havoc". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Donnie Yen to Transform Himself into The Monkey King". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  7. ^ Stephen Cremin (2013-11-07). "Mega-Vision close deals on Vegas to Macau". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
  8. ^ "Donnie Yen, Aaron Kwok Join Cast of 'The Monkey King'". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Soi Cheang Tapped To Direct 3D MONKEY KING! Donnie Yen And Jet Li Eyed Up For Key Roles!". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Donnie Yen is The Monkey King". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  11. ^ "HKSAR No Top 10 Box Office: [2010.10.12] DONNIE YEN, AARON KWOK AND CHOW YUN FAT STAR IN MONKEY KING". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Watch The Brand New Trailer For THE MONKEY KING: THE LEGEND BEGINS!". Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  13. ^ "Shanghai Film Festival: China's Ultimate Soft Power Fest". The Diplomat. June 18, 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  14. ^ King Of Kung Fu (July 15, 2013). "King Of Kung Fu Presents: The Interview With Monkey King Producer Michael Wehrhahn". AMC Asian Movie Pulse. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  15. ^ "The Monkey King Announces New Cast Members". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  16. ^ "張梓琳《大鬧天宮》演女媧 從未聽說張柏芝出演". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Filmko recruits Hollywood talents for 3D Monkey King shoot". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Monkey King will be the first Chinese 3D blockbuster". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  19. ^ ""Monkey King" Release Date Set". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  20. ^ Elley, Derek (April 9, 2014). "The Monkey King". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 2 January 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  21. ^ James Marsh (26 January 2014). "Review: THE MONKEY KING Is A Hot Mess From The Heavens". Twitch Film. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  22. ^ Maggie Lee (31 January 2014). "Film Review: 'The Monkey King in 3D'". Variety. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  23. ^ "The Monkey King (Xi You Ji Zhi Da Nao Tian Gong): Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  24. ^ Kevin Ma (1 February 2014). "Monkey King has record opening in China". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  25. ^ "THE MONKEY KING BREAKS 5 MAINLAND RECORDS". HKTOPTEN. 1 February 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  26. ^ Patrick Frater (2 February 2014). "'Monkey King' Reigns At China And Global Box Office". Variety. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  27. ^ Clifford Coonan (4 February 2014). "China Box Office Sets Single-Day Record of $41 Million, Driven by Local Films". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  28. ^ "Monkey King Breaks 300 Million". HKTOPTEN. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  29. ^ "China Box Office February 24–March 2, 2014". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  30. ^ Nancy Tartaglione and David Bloom (January 10, 2015). "'Transformers 4′ Tops 2014's 100 Highest-Grossing International Films – Chart". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  31. ^ Hsia, Heidi (2014-02-12). ""The Monkey King 2" is confirmed!". Retrieved 2014-02-13.
  32. ^ Ma, Kevin (2014-06-16). "Filmko launches RMB1 billion slate". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-06-16.

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