Well, it really isn't fair to compare a 66-episode TV series to a couple of film trilogies (although I realize I was the one who originally made the comparison).
Zhang Ji Zhong stated in a press conference that roughly HALF of the series is visual effects ... meaning about 1400 minutes worth of special effects (that was the number he came up with), which he had ... what? 9-18 months to shoot?
I'd like to see Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Michael Bay, James Cameron (or any of the other big-name western film directors) produce a three-season sci fi or fantasy TV series in the SAME amount of time with equally demanding visual effects, and THEN we'll compare.
Also ... it's easy to get lost in the superb story, dialogue, and character development when watching Zhang Ji Zhong's 60-episode epic ... and totally lose sight of the scope of the visual effects.
However, remember the last trailer that was released just before the series first debuted last August? The long, 6-minute final trailer that really showcases the spectacular, dazzling visuals that have put all other Chinese TV productions to shame.
The trailer condenses some of the best and most impressive visual effects from the 1400 minutes into six minutes. You do the math. There's really no point in debating when the proof is in the pudding. The trailer says it all.
The trailer makes everything else look like poo!
Allow me to list all of the ways by which Zhang Ji Zhong's superior adaptation of Journey to the West (2012) has exceeded all expectations, and delivered above and beyond:
• Ground-breaking visual effects, setting a new standard for Chinese fantasy TV series
• Superb video editing skills, the likes of which never seen before in Chinese television
• Highly enjoyable soundtrack and music, as well as superb sound editing/mixing
• Beautifully-designed costumes and sets (and imaginative to boot)
• Incredibly well-choreographed action and martial arts sequences
• Insanely well-developed, quirky characters with plenty of diverse, multi-dimensional personalities (the portrayals of the core four have NEVER been more entertaining)
• Characters emote in a variety of intelligent and believable ways (subtle as well) / progressive character development
• Stupendous, smart dialogue ... witty down to every subtle line / incredible on-screen chemistry during character exchanges and interactions
• Believable, realistic, and relatable moments of pure drama and emotion
• Chock full of philosophical wisdom, from both Taoist and Buddhist sources ... accurately adapts the philosophical meaning of the novel and the lessons of wisdom derived from each story in the novel
• Undoubtedly the strongest screenplay/story adaptation of the novel to date
• Faithfully adapts a Chinese mythology epic and classic and even improves upon it in every way
• Truly lives up to the label of epic, large-scale, Chinese mythology fantasy drama TV series