When ancient tales clash with modern animation.


Once upon a Netflix scroll, we stumbled upon a flashy new animated feature, The Monkey King. Now, Sun Wukong, the mischievous character, has been the talk of legends, finding his way into various mediums over the years. So, with tales older than your grandma’s secret cookie recipe, how does Netflix’s version weigh in? Grab your popcorn and snuggie – let’s dive deep.

Ringing Familiar Bells

So, Sun Wukong. He’s iconic. With his rich history wrapped in the pages of Journey to the West, one would expect a cinematic treat. I mean, come on, Stephen Chow – the genius behind the epic “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” – gave his nod as an executive producer. But, even with cultural big guns and the directorial prowess of Anthony Stacchi (of “Open Season” and “The Boxtrolls” fame), the film somehow felt like it was lacking the soul of its rich cultural history. Instead of an intricate tapestry of culture, adventure, and mischief, we got served a sort of ‘vanilla with a sprinkle of cliché’ sundae.

A Tale of Two Heroes

Central to this version of Sun Wukong’s story is his voice, brought to life with ‘interesting’ flavor by Jimmy O. Yang. Our cheeky Monkey King isn’t just content with swinging from trees; he’s got big dreams – immortality! And how does one achieve this mighty feat? By battling 100 demons with a magical staff, of course. But, while the idea of our simian hero battling forces of darkness sounds kickass on paper, the on-screen rendition felt somewhat flat.

Adding a twist to the original plot, the Monkey King pairs up with Lin, voiced by Jolie Hoang-Rappaport. Although the character, Lin, doesn’t trace back to the original tales, her addition attempts to bring a sense of structure to the somewhat wavering narrative. Lin and Monkey’s dynamic does give us some chuckles, but their dialogues often felt like something off a 90s sitcom – entertaining, but not compelling enough.

Dragon King: A Breath of Fresh Air

One cannot review The Monkey King without nodding at its most fabulous character – the Dragon King. Voiced by the oh-so-talented Bowen Yang from “Saturday Night Live”, this character brings the zing. Dance moves, sinister plans, and a villainous aura – the Dragon King is the whole package. This is where the movie finally finds its footing, delivering some seriously snazzy fight scenes, all thanks to the choreography magic of Siwei Zou. If only the rest of the film could channel this energy.

A Symphony of Sound and…Metal?

For a movie that carries such a rich heritage, its soundtrack was a touch…jarring. Moments that could have been graced with traditional instruments and melodies got an unexpected dose of heavy metal. Yes, loud can be impactful. But here, it felt like an ill-fitted suit on a monkey – awkward and out of place.

A Lesson…Or Just A Hint Of One?

In the grand tradition of animated flicks, there’s always a lesson to be learned. The Monkey King does venture into deep waters by introducing Buddha in its climax. While it’s an avenue for sparking intriguing conversations about spirituality and acceptance, it feels more like a teaser than an in-depth exploration.

Netflix: Hitting & Missing

Let’s be real: Netflix has been smashing it in the animation department. Titles like “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” and “Klaus” set the bar really high. So, with that legacy behind, The Monkey King had big shoes to fill. But instead of a tight, engaging narrative, we got a hodgepodge of elements that didn’t always gel well.

Final Thoughts

In the grand realm of Netflix animated wonders, The Monkey King might not find its place among the greats. Sure, it’s got moments that shine, characters that occasionally pop, and visuals that are vibrant. But when it comes to capturing the spirit of the legendary Sun Wukong and doing justice to a narrative so rich, it just about scratches the surface.

So, while it won’t go down in history as 2023’s animated classic, it’s a decent enough watch if you’re looking to kill some time and aren’t super picky about story depth. Just keep your expectations at bay, and maybe, just maybe, Sun Wukong’s antics might bring a smile to your face.

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