Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 11-Sep-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 109:57
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Chow
Chi-kin Kwok
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Wen Zhang
Shu Qi
Chen Binggiang
Huang Bo
Case ?
RPI ? Music Raymond Wong


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Chen Xuan Zang (Wen Zhang) is a novice Buddhist monk and a demon hunter, although his methods are rather unusual; he does not want to kill demons but rather rid them of their evil with the positive power of love. This is doubtful proposition at best, so he is less than successful. In contrast, sassy demon hunter Miss Duan (Shu Qi) has a nice line in weapons, is a great martial artist and is happy to destroy demons on sight. But when Miss Duan saves Xuan Zang’s life during a fight with the powerful pig demon KL Hog (Chen Binggiang) she falls in love with him and will do anything to get his attention, although trying to be seductive and feminine is something she finds very difficult. When KL Hog proves to be too powerful for them to handle, Xuan Zang is advised to travel into the mountains and seek the assistance of Sun Wukong (Huang Bo), the Monkey King, who has been imprisoned by the Buddha in a cave in the mountain for 500 years. Sun Wukong agrees to help, but there is a price that is more heart-wrenching than Xuan Zang had imagined.

     The story of the monk Xuan Zang and his travels with his companions from China to India to seek the sacred books has been part of Chinese tales since it was first told by Wu Cheng-en in the Ming Dynasty. There has been numerous film treatments of the story, and a TV series, but in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Chinese title Xi you xiang mo pian) co-writer and co-director Stephen Chan (Shaolin Soccer (2001), Kung Fu Hustle (2004)) takes a different line and provides a story that follows the adventures of Xuan Zang before he set off with his companions to the west.

     For the first three quarters of its running time Journey to the West is fabulous entertainment in the Chan mould: it has engaging leads, is very funny and includes inventive and slapstick action. The opening sequence, which lasts 20 minutes, is beautiful to look at, athletic and laugh out loud funny: a demon fish is attacking a village and the sequence involves acrobatic stunts, broad comedy, a baby in distress and a very big fish. Indeed, it is a pity that the rest of the film does not quite maintain the same heights of fun and inventiveness but while Journey to the West concentrates on the relationship between the bumbling and naïve Wen Zhang and the usually self-assured Shu Qi it is sweet and funny with good chemistry between the leads and some nice dialogue, such as when Xuan Zang confirms he is indeed a demon hunter and she responds “With skills like yours? You must have a death wish”. The film gains also from a funny turn from Huang Bo as the Monkey King.

     Journey to the West does utilise a lot of CGI, especially for the demons; most is OK although some, like the CGI boar, is a long way short of Hollywood standards. The film was made in 3D and there are also the usual tricks and effects, although they are not generally overdone. However, during the climax of the film the CGI takes over, overwhelming the characters by its sheer scale. This section of the film is pure spectacle, and quite exciting, but the human element which made the earlier part of the film so engaging is very much diluted and the film is accordingly less interesting, unless you like CGI filling the screen.

     In the main however Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is good rollicking adventure and great entertainment with engaging leads, good humour and inventive and slapstick action sequences.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Journey to the West is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     I was disappointed with the video of Journey to the West. The close ups are fine and nicely detailed but the backgrounds often had a haziness which may be related to the 3D shooting. Colours are natural except in some scenes with deliberate brightness, while others had a distinct browny tinge. Blacks are fine, shadow detail OK.

     I noticed no marks or artefacts.

     On the screen are simultaneous burnt in English and Chinese subtitles in a small white text. The English is clear and easy to read and the only slight error I noticed was at 75:56: liked to watched her dance.

     The video was slightly disappointing for Blu-ray.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is Chinese DTS-MA HD 5.1.

     The audio is great. Dialogue is clear and centred and the surrounds are frequently in use for splashes, the crashes of bodies on wood, debris, boulders and music. There are also plenty of loud directional effects in the rears. The sub-woofer rumbled with crashes, falling rocks and the like, giving a great enveloping feel.

     The original score by Raymond Wong is epic and stirring, as well as adding some light hearted and romantic cues. It supported the visuals well.

     Lip synchronisation was occasionally out, but was not distracting.

     An excellent, enjoyable audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Not a single thing, not even a trailer. The menu has only “Play Movie” and “Chapter Select”.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There is no current listing for either a Region A US or Region B UK release of Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. The Region A Hong Kong release has 7.1 audio plus a making of, music video, stills gallery and trailers as extras. The feature has English subtitles but I am unable to establish if the extras do. The 7.1 audio would be spectacular so if your set up allows Region A and 7.1 audio, the Hong Kong release could be the way to go.

Summary

     Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is writer / director Stephen Chan’s take on this classic story from the Ming Dynasty. The film is great entertainment: laugh out loud funny, engaging leads, good humour and inventive action sequences.

     The video is a bit disappointing, the audio excellent. There are zilch extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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