Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Chinese Odyssey

A Chinese Odyssey is a duology, by Jeffrey Lau. They are among actor Stephen Chow's most famous movies, the first one being A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora's Box and the second one being A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella . The two films together can be called a "sad comedy" showcasing Stephen Chow's comic genius while telling a sad love story. The movie is based on the Chinese classical novel ''Journey to the West'' and boasted a host of famous stars in it. Although filmed in , it has become a cult classic among young -speaking adults in most Chinese cities today.


The two films start off with an introductory scene based somewhere in the midst of the classic ''Journey to the West''. On the journey to find holy scriptures, the Monkey King, Sun Wukong , finding his master, the , too talkative and annoying, rebels and tries to get rid of him by giving him to the Bull King in exchange for marrying the Bull King's sister. As punishment, captures and decides to lock unrepentant Wukong away for eternity. Yet, she is stopped by Sun Wukong's master, who maintains that he should receive some of the blame for his disciple's faults. He willingly takes Wukong's place by sacrificing himself to give Wukong a second chance – a life for a life.

The film properly starts 500 years later, when Wukong has been reincarnated as Joker, the leader of a troupe of desert bandits, who has no memories about his previous life as Wukong. Joker and his gang encounter the Spider Woman , a demon who wishes to eat Longevity Monk's flesh and gain immortality. She hopes to intercept Longevity Monk, who is to meet the reincarnated Wukong in the desert. Spider Woman searches the Joker and his gang for Wukong, who has a unique birthmark on his sole. However, none of the men have this birthmark.

The Spider Woman's sister joins her in the hope of seeing Wukong, although the two sisters are engaged in a feud started centuries ago. When Jing meets Joker, she finds him familiar and hints a previous relationship with Wukong . Despite the resentment for Wukong, Jing begins to fall in love with Joker. Her affections are returned by Joker, even after her true demon form is revealed.

In the desert, Bull King appears and finds competition in Spider Woman for Longevity Monk. A fight ensues between Bull King, Spider Woman, and Jing . To escape the crossfire, Joker accidentally locks himself in a cave. He tries to dig a tunnel to get out, but instead finds Pandora's Box. He is teleported to the Water Curtain Cave, where he sees Sun Wukong's gold ring and golden rod. When he opens up a scroll beside the ring, Guanyin speaks through the scroll to tell Joker of his fate as Sun Wukong; he would not become the Monkey King however, until he meets the person who'll give him the three dots on the sole of his feet.

Meanwhile, Jing searches the cave for Joker, only to find that Spider Woman has given birth to a child . Out of spite, Spider Woman claims the father is Joker, news which causes Jing to commit suicide. Joker returns to find her dead. To prevent her death, Joker uses Pandora's Box repeatedly in an effort to catch Jing before she dies; however, it takes several tries as he is consistently one step too late. On his last attempt, he is successful in preventing her death and reveals to Jing that he did not father Spider Woman's child.

Meanwhile, the Bull King arrives and engages in combat with the two sisters. In the fight, Jing is killed while protecting Joker. Using Pandora's Box, Joker goes back in time to save her once again, but accidentally transports himself 500 years into the past, to the time of Sun Wukong.

In this time period, Joker meets a female spirit named Lin Zixia who confiscates Pandora's Box and gives Joker the three dots on the sole, thus enabling him to become Sun Wukong. She and her sister are immortals from heaven, where they were punished by for being too quarrelsome and are now cursed to share the same body; one of them has control during the day, the other during the night. However, neither sister knows about this; they both assume that the other sister is somewhere else in the world. To get back Pandora's Box, Joker agrees to help Zixia convince her sister that she is dead. To make the death convincing, she gives Joker her magical sword. This sword can only be drawn from its scabbard by her true love, which Joker easily does, winning Zixia's affection. However, Joker refuses Zixia, declaring his continued love for Jing.

In the night, Joker stumbles upon a curious scene. This is in fact the scene that begins the movie, where Wukong is arguing with Guanyin. Wukong explains that he had encountered Zixia in the desert and stolen Pandora's Box to escape from his master. Yet, he was caught by Guanyin before he had the opportunity. Guanyin proceeds to capture him – as in the beginning, however, due to Joker's interference, the Pandora's Box accidentally transports the Longevity Monk – instead of Wukong or Joker – before he could sacrifice himself.

After the botched teleportation, Joker is captured by the Bull King. In the Bull King's residence he meets the Longevity Monk, and . They all recognize Joker as Wukong. Joker doesn't believe it, but somewhat plays along. The Bull King has captured the Longevity Monk and wishes to eat him to obtain eternal life. In addition, there is to be a double wedding: Wukong's promised marriage to Bull King's sister, and Bull King's own wedding to his newest concubine Zixia . As a token of his love to Zixia, he offers Pandora's Box as a wedding present.

Just before the wedding, the Bull King's wife Princess Iron Fan appears and interrupts the ceremony. However, her intent was to stop Wukong from marriage. She recounts the past romantic affairs between Wukong and herself. Although he is able to escape Iron Fan, he is confronted by an Zixia, who is angered with Joker's acceptance of Iron Fan's affections. Joker convinces Zixia that he lied to Iron Fan, and the two plan to steal Pandora's Box that night to escape as a couple.

That night, Joker waits for Zixia. However, she has been stabbed by the Bull King's sister, who is jealous of Zixia's relationship with Joker. Joker manages to escape with an unconscious Zixia, with the assistance of Pigsy and Sandy. They are pursued by the Bull King and his sister. In the confusion, Bull King's sister performs a body-exchange-technique. As a result, Pigsy now shares the body with Zixia. Meanwhile, Zixia's sister has been moved into Pigsy's body. The Bull King's sister has with Sandy. Everybody, except Zixia/Pigsy, manages to escape from the Bull King. However, Iron Fan manages to find Joker. He tries to escape by pretending to fall off a cliff, but in his hurry to stage the scene, he actually falls off. She stops her pursuit, thinking that Joker would rather commit suicide than to be with her.

Joker's fall manages to kill several officers and save three robbers who were about to be executed. They carry the unconscious Joker back to the cave where he first found Pandora's Box and met Zixia. One of them reports to him that he muttered the name of "Jing" 98 times in his sleep. Joker happily replies that she is the person he loves. Nonetheless, the robber mentions that he muttered the name of "Zixia" 784 times. Joker is stunned and confused.

Jing happens upon the cave and meets Joker. Since she is of the past, she knows nothing of their romance. Joker, with the help of the robbers, reenacts the whole story of what happened and convince her that their love is true. She agrees to marry him. However, she changes her mind just before the wedding, leaving him with a letter imploring him to go save Zixia. Spider Woman, in a search to kill her sister , shows up and slaughters the robbers and Joker.

The dead Joker's spirit is now reformed; he understands that he is Sun Wukong and the importance of the Longevity Monk's journey to help spread wisdom to the suffering people. After a short conversation with Guanyin, he accepts his destiny by putting on Sun Wukong's signature gold ring. In doing so, however, he must let go of all wordly desires, including love.

Meanwhile, the Bull King's sister and Sandy are trying to save the Longevity Monk and Pigsy while restoring everyone to their original bodies. The procedure succeeds for all except Bull King's sister , and Zixia's sister . With bodies restored, the Bull King resumes his marriage plans for Zixia. Zixia and her sister make amends when they both save each other .

All try to fight against the Bull King, but he is simply too powerful. However, Wukong, appears fully restored in his monkey form and fights the Bull King. Zixia is sure that he is her lover Joker, but Wukong tries to deny that identity. Furthermore, he acts spiteful towards her since he is not allowed to love.

Wukong quickly gains the upperhand, but the Bull King destroys the city in desperation . While trying to hold the floating island together, Wukong is left vulnerable. Zixia sacrifices herself to protect Wukong from the Bull King's attack. Unable to save Zixia, Wukong kills the Bull King in a fit of rage. Zixia's sister decides to go back to Heaven, now that her sister is dead. Wukong, Pigsy, Sandy, and the Longevity Monk use the recovered Pandora's Box to escape destruction.

They turn up 500 years later and renew their journey to India . Upon leaving the city, Wukong notices the reincarnations of Joker and Zixia. Apparently, both have been standing on top of the city wall for days, locked in a lover's quarrel. Unwilling to accept this display, Wukong possesses Joker's body temporarily and kisses Zixia, promising to never leave her anytime in this life. He leaves Joker's body satisfied, and continues with his companions into the distance, toward the west.


** Nomination – Best Screenplay
* 2nd Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
** Best Actor
** Best Screenplay
**Recommended Film
* Ranked #19 of the Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures during the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards

Box Office

It grossed HK $25,093,380 in Hong Kong.

Cast and roles include

* Stephen Chow – The Monkey King /Joker
* Athena Chu – Lin Zixia
* Ng Man Tat – Pigsy /Assistant Master
* Law Kar-Ying – Longevity Monk
* Ada Choi – Princess Qishan
* Lam Kit Ying – Spider Woman
* Karen Mok – Pak Gwut-Jing
* Jeffrey Lau – The Grapes


A restored and remastered DVD version was released, integrating both Part 1 and 2 together. It supports Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1, Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks and removable English and Chinese subtitles, and includes a director's interview and a 64 page photo album as extras.

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