Op-Ed: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

Give me a desert island choice between a thousand overblown, high-budget, franchise driven, Hollywood action flicks – with beats and explosions so predictable that you could set a pacemaker to them – and a copy of Stephen Chow’s new film, Journey to the West, and the choice is easy.

Chow wins in a pirouette leap off a charging demon pig snout, round-house kick with a giant foot to the face knock out! (Just watch the film, and that will almost make sense.)

I just had the genuine delight of watching this film, and it left me giddy. I’m a long-time Stephen Chow fan (check out Kung Fu Hustle first, if you’ve not had the pleasure, and Shao Lin Soccer soon after, and you can thank me when you’re done). Chow gleefully busts and bends genres into a truly unique confection of action, comedy, sentiment, music, dance and four or five other ingredients. Throughout it all runs a sweetness, which at times can reach sentimentality but works because it is so genuine. He recognizes that humans are, in general, a hot mess. And loves them exactly because of it.

In Journey to the West, Chow has reached a whole new level of film making. It isn’t just an amazing ride, in my opinion, it is a genuine master piece. All the humor is there, and influences from Chinese opera, Road Runner cartoons, martial arts epics, Chinese mythology, Harold Lloyd, spaghetti westerns, golden era MGM musicals, vaudeville, etc. However, Journey to the West takes on weightier fare by tackling the 16th century Chinese novel of the same name. The story a fictionalized account of real life Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who journeyed to India to obtain sacred texts. Among the brilliant set pieces of physical comedy is woven a tale of suffering, love and enlightenment, capped off by the biggest, baddest Buddha the world has ever known!

Stephen Chow embodies the upside of cultural globalization. He honors his cultural background while joyfully sampling all the creative traditions made available to him. Perhaps this weekend, take a moment’s break from The Dark Super Captain Thor X-Hobbit Games, and see a film that might actually surprise you. Don’t worry, there will be ten more of those on the screen by next week.

– Harold Moss

Harold Moss is Founder/Creative Director of FlickerLab. He has spent his career fusing storytelling, technology and a passion for change-making media. Notably, Harold created the three-minute cartoon "A Brief History of the USA" in Michael Moore's Academy Award–winning Bowling for Columbine (2003), and was a producer of the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize–winning and Oscar-nominated documentary, Trouble the Water. – See more by visiting the Team page.