When I first heard news of a new Journey to the West series, I was thrilled since I enjoyed the first two that TVB produced. But when I saw the poster hanging on the walls of the video store, I became skeptical. On the poster, it shows Dicky Cheung in a white costume with silver armor, Edmund Leung as the monk, and Eric Kot with Sam Lee as the other two disciples. Behind them was a plain cloud with Twins, Nicholas Tse, William So, Kristy Yeung, Sammi Cheng and other major Hong Kong stars. This reduced my high expectations for the serial.
Though I had much hesitation at first, I decided to give this serial a chance to prove it's worth. A few weeks later, I regretted that decision.
Just to be clear, this review is not meant to be an in-depth analysis of the plot and characters (if there's even enough to search for depth) nor is it an episodic guide to the series. However, there are spoilers within so discontinue reading if you have not watched the serial.
For those who do not know, Monkey King: Quest for the Sutra is a Taiwan serial thats distributed by TVB. TVB is known for their reputation in creating really appealing serials and it's one of the bigger competitors in TV serial productions. So it was a wise choice to ask TVB to help distribute the serial in order to promote it.
This series had a budget of over a million dollars, making it the most expensive produced. With a million dollars, TVB would kill the ratings if they used it on a series. Heck, even ATV could! However, the Taiwan production company failed to make this series any good despite the great budget. Why, you ask? For one thing, most of the money was used on Asia's hottest superstars for cameo appearances, which brings up my first point as to why this series was such a disgrace.
This series was star-studded. The only other series in my mind that contained so many celebrities was Chor Lau Heung 2000 and that was a big flop. I can't understand why Taiwan keeps doing this. They always get big name stars to play cameo roles (Ekin Cheng, Dicky Cheung, Joey Meng, Kristy Yeung in Chor 2000) whereas any other no name actors could do the same and would have been much more cost and screen effective. Now many of you may ask, how can Nicholas Tse, Twins, William So, Sammi Cheng, and Andy Hui be a bad thing? They're so hot! Well that's the thing: looks are all they have. Over half of them have no acting experience and those who do, are mediocre (Twins in those mediocre teeny bopper movies). In addition, they're singers, not actors. That alone should already be logical enough to not hire them. Also if big name celebrities were to be cast, they should be given appropriate roles, William So does not strike me as the Dragon King of the Eastern Seas. Basically, all this money is wasted on stars whereas small name actors wouldve cost less and could've had the same if not better result.
Which brings me to my second point: the visual effects. They were just plain horrible. The spirits were in the form of colored balls of light. Any animal in the form of the demons were done by CGI; and even the final villain, the almighty, powerful and utmost evil Demon Lord was CGI. Most of the set was just a green screen and the stars (yes, I refuse to call them actors) just let the computer do all the work. And these poor effects were the result of low budget. But what happened to the million dollars, you ask? Well, I think hiring Nicholas Tse for the twenty minutes of screen time probably cost more than the effects combined. You get my point.
Another poor factor: costumes. Dicky's costume was a white jumpsuit with silver armor. The monk's costume was not much different in colour. Even his special toga is plain and not appealing to the eye. And there was one thing that really irritated me. The Monkey King's weapon, the Golden Baton; its not even gold, its silver. Half the time it's CGI and what's even more ridiculous is that it can transform into nunchucks. Although I must say, the costumes of the Gods were impressive.
Lastly, the plot and the pace of the story are disgusting. It took four tapes to explain the Monkey King's origin. Plus, those four tapes gave us a summary of La Ja's story from TVB's Gods of Honour. Some of the chapters moved so fast since it was practically a repeat of the chapters done in TVB's Journey to the West I and II. There's nothing interesting or refreshing about this series that keeps me wanting to watch. Some criticized that the Monkey King falling in love with the Purple Orchid is ridiculous since he's supposed to be hard on the subject of love. However, the way it's done here made it somewhat acceptable. The Moneky King is supposedly in his early stages of learning the ways of Buddha and the three hairs falling off of him before gaining enlightment justifies his love interest. Although the chemistry between Dicky and Charlene Choi is good, it's still not the same seeing the Monkey King all gushy. Remember Dicky's portrayal in JTTWI with Rain Lau???
The fight sequences were below average except for the fight in Heaven between Monkey King and La Ja. This was pure hand-to-hand combat, with very little magic used and no weapons. There were so many chances for great fight scenes that could've satisfied our questions regarding which God will prevail in a fight or which demon will take down which God etc. One such example was La Ja versus the Ox King but that fight was cut down to mere seconds showing next to nothing worth or fighting footage. Even the most interesting fight between Monkey King and the Yeung Jien, the Three Eye God consisted mostly of CGI.
The theme song was stupid for such a serial. Andy Lau and Dicky rapping to a mythical legend...enough said. The sub-theme was pretty good but not great. Mind you, I love that song and it's great for those who like easy listening but it's nothing special compared to other themes by artists such as Gallen Lo, Jacky Cheung, or William So.
And this pretty much summarizes the review. This serial was a disaster due to misuse of a large budget, horrible acting, mediocre CGI, unappealing costumes, slow plot that was repetitive, and some bad fight sequences.