Welcome back. Now if you have not been here for a little while, you might want to go check out the post directly below, which talks about the first film in this series, as they only really work at a pair!
“A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella”, continues pretty much directly where we left off, with Joker now displaced some 500 years in the past. Desperate to return to his bride in the future, he becomes involved with yet another beautiful magical being, Zixia (Athena Chu). Even more crazy events befall him and his comrades, occasionally reflecting moments from the first film, and he learns to love, to lose, and eventually fulfil his destiny as the Monkey King.
OK, this is a great movie. It is funny, and emotionally satisfying. But, I did not enjoy it as a whole as much as I enjoyed the first film. I found a good portion of the early two-thirds of the film hard to follow and disjointed – the scenes themselves were fine, but I found the continuity hard to follow. There are once again some brilliantly hilarious set-pieces, and even the more obvious parody moments work quite well (and it helps I actually got most of them – the Chunking Express moment is especially delicious). Yet, my problem is that so much seems somewhat superfluous. For example, the 5 minutes spent with a Soul-Sucking Demon is side-splittingly funny on all sorts of levels, but I am unsure actually what it is adding to the narrative. On the other hand, the ongoing joke about the utter dullness and boring talk from Tripitaka is amusing each time it is played out.
There is a heck of a lot more action in this film, with the final battle a fantasy delight, with the Monkey King in full regalia fighting hard with his staff and duplicates as the genre demands. It is all pretty high concept and you have to seriously suspend belief, but boy is it entertaining.
I do miss the lack of kinship that I am used to in these films. The characters I am used to are very much left in the background, concentrating much more on the romantic subplots. Which is why I think I will consider these films complementary parts of the canon, rather than some kind of definitive last word.
Athena Chu is totally delightful, not only gorgeous but playful and emotional as the plot demands. It’s a hard role considering the attachment we have with Karen Mok’s character in the first film, but she totally pulls it off. Chow is also good, again actually playing things very straight, maintaining his charisma without falling on too much comic gurning. I am no expert, but I do wonder if he could have actually been very good playing more straight roles than totally concentrating on the world of comedy.
What eventually makes the film though is that final scene. It is a quiet moment, after the bluster of the final battle. The world has been put to rights and reset. And the Monkey King, now fully restored spies his alter ego and Zixia high on the city walls, not quite able to work through their attraction to each other. The Monkey King, who has had to give up all earthly and human desires, takes a moment to just push them together. It really is quite brilliant, and gives the film that emotional heart that I so often talk about on here. And that is why the films as a whole succeed, even though they take a quite different route than the normal Journey To The West adaptations – it’s really a story about learning and self-discovery, the crazy characters and complex events are but window dressing on that most complex story, life and love.