Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

新年快乐! Since it’s Chinese New Year’s weekend and there are actually quite a few movies playing in the theatre near me, I decided to go see The Monkey King 3. I think this was the most people I’d seen in the theatre for a Chinese movie, attesting to the popularity of this story and the actors in it. It stars Feng Shaofeng (“The Starry Night, The Starry Sea”) and Zhao Liying (“Princess Agents”) and continues the story of the monk and his disciples traveling West.

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The Monkey King movies are based on a Ming Dynasty novel called Journey to the West. For those of you who may not be familiar with the premise of this popular tale: A monk, Xuanzang, (Feng Shaofeng) travels west in search of the Buddhist scriptures so that he can bring enlightenment to the world. Traveling with him are his three disciples:

-The Monkey King, Sun Wukong (Aaron Kwok, Cold War), is a troublemaker with supernatural powers and often at odds with his master, but who ultimately wants to protect Xuanzang and help him complete his journey.
Zhu Bajie (Xiao Shenyang, Detective Chinatown 2) is a pig demon who is a notorious flirt and can change his appearance to that of a handsome man when he is flirting with women.
Sha Wujing (Him Law, Mob Sister) is a muscle-bound, blue-skinned, water buffalo demon whose strength can not be matched.

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This movie starts with the four travelers floating down the River Oblivion, wondering what might happen if the monk ever falls in love, when they come upon a part of the river that is littered with the remains of several boats and ships. There is a depressed and grumpy river god (model Lin Chiling) living in this part of the river and, when the group attempt travel through, they end up being chased by the god in the form of a giant sea monster. Just when it looks like they may be eaten by the creature, Buddha opens up a portal to another realm to help them escape.

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The crew finds they have crash landed in the Womanland of Western Liang, a land populated by only women and protected by a magic force field to prevent anyone entering or leaving. The Queen, played by Zhao Liying, is immediately attracted to the monk. Unfortunately there is a prophecy that says when these men arrive, they will bring about the end of Womanland. There is also a belief that men infect women with a love poison that has no cure and they must be executed to eliminate the danger. The group quickly find themselves under arrest.

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The Queen’s guardian, Madam Preceptor (Gigi Leung, Sisterhood) is insistent that the men be executed and is worried that the Queen may have fallen in love. The Ancestor Queen had fallen in love and then was betrayed by a man which led to the creation of this land as well as the warning about the dangers of men. Despite the warnings, though, the Queen decides to help the monk and his disciples escape and find a way through the magical barrier that protects her kingdom from the outside world.

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I’d seen the previous movie, The Monkey King 2, as well as another take on the story, Journey to the West: The Demon Strikes Back with Lin Gengxin as Sun Wukong, and enjoyed both, but I was disappointed by this sequel. Though you’re supposed to believe that the Xuanzang faces a dilemma choosing between his pilgrimage and living happily ever after with the Queen, there just wasn’t a lot of chemistry there. Zhao Liying’s emotions seemed much more sincere so it felt more like the Queen had a one-sided crush and that her prediction that men just make you fall in love with them, have babies and then ignore and leave you for another woman would come true.

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The bulk of the movie is spent with the group trying to figure out the secret to leaving Womanland, which is interrupted when suddenly some of the guys find themselves pregnant from drinking enchanted water. As Wukong tries to find water in the Miscarriage Cave to help end the pregnancies, suddenly the movie changes to a PSA about aborted babies. (I’d just seen a special about the effects that the one child policy as well as the preference for boys over girls has had in China so I’m assuming that influenced this section of the movie.)

Given how Womanland was first introduced, I’d at first thought that Madam Protector was the bad guy and that the Ancestor Queen’s broken heart would turn out to be due to some plotting by the Protector. But we never get the full story on what happened to the past queen and it’s not until the last thirty minutes of this two hour movie that a villain finally appears, giving Wukong an opportunity to use his powers to fight the baddy before the monk brings out the big guns (aka prayers to Buddha) to help save the day.

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There were some great comedic moments when the disciples meet women who are their equals and then try to escape execution, but ultimately there was very little tension and conflict, and it was easy to figure out how the story would ultimately resolve itself. The fight scenes are alright and the CGI okay, but nothing really striking or memorable.

If you really want to see this movie, I’d suggest waiting until you can watch it at home and watch the previous movies instead or wait for the Monkey King 3 TV series (which was licensed from this movie, but with a different cast including Bai Lu from “King Is Not Easy”).


A second trailer with most of the best scenes:

And some behind the scenes of filming. Yikes, the extras went through a lot!

  1. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

    Some spoilers ahead!

    I was really excited to see this film because it would be my first time seeing ZLY on the big screen and they really hyped her up alot. I was a bit disappointed with her character but also understood why she played the Queen too. Grown up sheltered and only surrounded by women, while meeting her first love is a actually a tough character to act without being annoying and stupid. ZLY is casted perfectly for the role, reminded me of how she portrays Shan Shan and in The Journey of Flower too.

    Sometimes when ZLY and the monk were together I got a bit bored, but how do you develop their relationship when it’s so impossible to develop? I like how they portrayed the Monk’s feelings in the end. Especially the usage of the red robe slipping off the monk, no matter how hard they tried to put it back on him it kept falling because he has fallen for her. Now that I think back when ZLY was on the bed crying about her dream to the Monk “I dreamed you tied your hair up and we grew old together…but you weren’t happy”. That really got to me, gah I feel sad thinking back again.

    The CGI was pretty good in my opinion, especially when they all turned to rock. However the underwater scene had me laughing, like so unrealistic they didn’t even bother. I thought why not do all this above water instead or something so it’s more realistic.

    If I remember right in one of the behind the scenes, this film has used the most female extras in any Chinese movie history. I could be wrong but it’s something along those lines.

    I thought of the villan along the same line too! However when they started showing the young girl and the river god I had a inkling it’d be the Madam Protector, and then river god would go crazy. I find it interesting they would choose the female taiwanese actress to portray the water god. You’d expect it to be more male like in human appearance but it wasn’t. Maybe they wanted to keep the female mythology/world consistent within the film?

    I loved the pregnancy part haha it was my favourite. Absolutely loved it when ZLY said it’s his child so he should have the right to decide the fate of it. That’s quite western thinking in my opinion even though its something simple. Because of all the implications abortions have in China.

    I really enjoyed the film and now I’m watching the previous film with Gong Li as Bai Gu Jing. She’s such a queen in the film! I quite enjoyed the adaption for what it was, well I didn’t expect anything groundbreaking, but just a simple film about the gang and their encounters. The next film I’m guessing will be about Niu Mo Wang, the demon bull king? Since they are encountering the fiery mountain, but my memory of the original story is fuzzy.

    If you guys have time it would be so good, if you could do a review on The Legend of The Demon Cat.

    Sorry for the spazz of words, just had to get it out haha

    • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

      I’ve been wanting to see The Legend of the Demon Cat, but never saw it showing near me.

      • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

        Yea it wasn’t in my theaters either but I decided to watch it online. I wish I could’ve seen it on the big screen, as the visuals of the film is stunning.

  2. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

    Thanks for the spoiler Nessie! After reading all the reviews, I’ll wait till it goes online to take a peek.

    I actually disagree and am quite bittered the monk is in love at the end. It would have been alright if he was in love in the middle part only, if he was only wavering to want a beautiful wife for a while but then soon realizes his goal again and set off to the West happily then that is ok. Because falling in love at the very end just makes it seems as if, well the people he need to save all failed him and he’s just sacrificing himself for everyone’s sake though he doesn’t wish to but he gotta do it.
    If his body is doing his job, but his heart does not want to do his job, he can just forget about going to the West because after he acquired the book, what can he pass on and teach everybody anyway? “Everyone…give up having a family, you would not want to do it and you won’t be happy doing that, but just do it because the scripture say so…..even I don’t want to do it myself…” I don’t think that was the meaning of the real story. And makes other people with different culture misinterpret Buddhism. The real story has a lot to do about the teaching of Buddhism, monks and nuns give up their attachment because they are willing to do so, and they are happy to be free from worldly things. If a person does not agree, they should not disguise themselves under the name of monks and nuns, they should be true to themselves and live the life that makes them happy. Monk Xuanzang is a highly cultivated person (glad old TV dramas were able to portray this nicely), he is happy being a monk not because he was forced to so he can save others. He wants to be a monk, and at the same time, saving people was another thing he wants to do because he can do it with his high level. That was what made him qualified and chosen to go to the West. So in the case of the Monk fallen in love and still wants to continue to the journey, I don’t think the Gods would even qualify him anymore for he is no longer his old self. That’s why I’d rather he fell in love in the middle and rise back to his old self before continuing his journey.

    I am fine with super slapstick and wacky films like Stephen Chow and Chinese Tall Story but I think Monkey King 3 made things look more in a serious fashion while it’s not exactly telling the next generation the correct story of Journey to the West. Besides this long complaining, yes good CGI for the movie overall. I still want to peek at the movie as a story of it own thing and NOT the original thing.

  3. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

    I watched all three in this series and this one falls in the middle for me. 1 was horrid, 2 was awesome and 3 is just mediocre.

    I think going from a character like Gong Li’s White Bone Demon to ZLY Womanland Queen was one of the biggest downfall the series had. They should have built momentum instead of dwindling it.

    The CGI is just as bad in thid as it was in the other two movies. I was not happy with them pushing the disciples to the background to make room for the romance. Almost everyone’s favorite character is Sun Wokong so why would they push him to the back?!

    I would give this at most a 5 out of 10.

    • 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

      I think the first one is the best one, at least the plot is more intriguing and interesting. The second one had became a little less original and the casts assigned were just mediocre in acting. This third one is the worst as almost the whole movie just evolve around the woman’s kingdom and some romantic interactions between FSF and ZLY.

  4. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

    I actually really enjoys it. Find it funny and entertaining. Great Chinese movie.

  5. 8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Monkey King 3 (Cmovie, 2018)

    I usually enjoy a majority of the monkey king adaptations as I’m a huge fan when it comes to journey to the west remakes. Naturally, with hot leads such as feng shao feng joining the monkey king franchise, I was all about it (i just love his adaptation of the monk XD). I enjoyed the 2nd movie but was kind of disappointed in this 3rd instalment. I felt they have a lot of content & contemporary issues that they could have explored in this arc such as gender roles and the concepts of abortion. however, they only scrape the surface of it. It would have been cool if the love story between the queen and the monk is only used to draw us into deeper secrets within the woman kingdom. And at the end, parental love & family love trumps all. Or something cooler than a half ass written plotline of the monk and the queen’s love story :/ . As the movie doesn’t satisfy my cravings for the monkey king franchise, I’m dying to see the monkey king 4

What do you think?