Monkey King, The (Xi you ji: Da nao tian gong) (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 18-Jun-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Alternative Version-3D and 2D versions of the film
Teaser Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 119:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Cheang Pou-Soi

Madman Entertainment
Starring Donnie Yen
Chow Yun-Fat
Aaron Kwok
Hai Yitian
Peter Ho
Xia Zitong
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Christopher Young

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Mandarin Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
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 Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† The story of the monk Xuan Zang and his travels with his companions, including Sun Wukong the Monkey King, from China to India to seek the sacred books has been part of Chinese myth since it was first told by Wu Cheng-en in the Ming Dynasty. There have been numerous film treatments of the story, and a TV series, and recently the film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons gave us the back story of Xuan Zang. The Monkey King (Xi you ji: Da nao tian gong) gives us the back story of Sun Wukong and how he came to be imprisoned by the Buddha in a cave under Five Finger Mountain for 500 years. It includes well know incidents such as Sun Wukong gaining his golden-banded staff under the ocean, his appointment in charge of Heavenís cloud horses, and his stealing of the sacred peaches.

†††† In Heaven the Jade Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) was attacked by the Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) and the palace destroyed. The Jade Emperor won the battle and banished the Bull Demon and his followers to the Flaming Mountain. A Goddess used magic crystals to repair the Palace of Heaven, but one crystal fell to earth from which was born the Monkey King (Donnie Yen). He was a demon who could embrace either good or evil and he was trained and counselled by sage Master Puti (Hai Yitian). But the Bull Demon saw in the Monkey King a chance to escape Flaming Mountain and attack the Jade Emperor again, and enlists the help of the disenchanted Yang Jian (Peter Ho), commander of Heavenís armies, and the beautiful fox Ruxue (Xia Zitong), to trick the Monkey King into helping. The stage is set for another battle in Heaven.

†††† This version of The Monkey King is a colourful, fantasy adventure of CGI creatures and effects that, despite the M rating given here in Australia, is very much for family audiences. Almost every scene is replete with digital effects, some better than others; there are monsters, creatures that transform in flashes of smoke and light, dissolving black smoke, people fly through and above the clouds, buildings disintegrate and integrate, CGI mountains, waterfalls and underwater effects and a whole lot more. The end credits, which run for in excess of 12 minutes, list about twenty or so digital effects companies which worked on this film and it is easy to see where a lot of the massive RMB$500 million budget went. However the effects frequently overwhelm the human performers; Donnie Yen looks almost unrecognisable and his fighting skills are not utilised to any extent and Chow Yun-Fat looks stoic although Aaron Kwok does at least make something of his bad demon role.

†††† The Monkey King was directed by Soi Cheang whose action film Motorway (2012) I enjoyed. That film featured exciting vehicle action done for real and great Hong Kong locations; The Monkey King is almost the antithesis, with artificial action and artificial locations. The Monkey King did receive lukewarm reviews from critics but it was a gigantic smash hit at the local box office during its Lunar New Year release, so there is obviously an audience for the ambition, colour and pure spectacle of this film. I found it hard to get into The Monkey King due to the human element being secondary to the CGI. However, if you donít mind that The Monkey King is spectacular and colourful.

†††† The Monkey King was made in 3D and both 3D and 2D versions are available on this Blu-ray.

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Transfer Quality


†††† The Monkey King is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

†††† This was a heavily manipulated print. The close ups are nicely detailed but the backgrounds often had a haziness which may be related to the 3D shooting. Colours vary Ė those in Heaven are overexposed, the Flaming Mountain is dark, the undersea looks dull while the mountains and trees of the monkey kingdom have a more natural look. Brightness and contrast also vary, depending on where we are, but blacks and shadow detail are fine.

†††† I noticed no marks or artefacts.

†††† The white English subtitles are easy to read. I noticed only a slight error at 57:56: ďfriends dye one by oneĒ.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† The audio is a choice of Mandarin DTS-MA HD 5.1 or Mandarin LPCM 2.0.

†††† This is a loud and enveloping audio track. Dialogue is clear and centred and the surrounds are constantly in use for music, horsesí hooves, whips and weapons, the crash of buildings or other impacts. There are plenty of directional effects in the rears as people flash or fly by. The sub-woofer rumbled with crashes, falling stuff, music and just general bass, giving a nice enveloping feel.

†††† The original score by Christopher Young is pretty much over the top for most of the film, which supports the visuals well.

†††† Lip synchronisation was out fairly often; I suspect that some actors were recorded in Cantonese, and redubbed for this Mandarin track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


3D and 2D Versions

†††† Either the 3D or 2D version of the film can be selected.

Teaser Trailer (0:37)


Eastern Eye Trailers (7:08)

†††† Trailers for The Protector 2, Badges of Fury, The Wrath of Vajra and Motorway.

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 The Monkey King. The Region A Hong Kong release has both Cantonese and Mandarin audio but nothing substantial by way of extras.


†††† Any film with Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-Fat and Aaron Kwok in the cast is worth a look but this story of the origins of The Monkey King and how he came to be imprisoned by the Buddha in a cave under Five Finger Mountain for 500 years relegates the humans behind wall to wall visual and digital effects. I found it hard to get into however if you donít mind CGI The Monkey King is a loud and spectacular two hours.

†††† The video is OK, the audio loud and enveloping. A short teaser is the only relevant extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, July 10, 2014
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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