Monk's love story core of new Monkey King movie

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-18 08:01:03

Monk's love story core of new Monkey King movie

The Monkey King 3 that is slated for release in 2018 will star Chinese A-lister Feng Shaofeng (left) and actor Shen He, well known for his comic roles. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A chapter in the 16th-century Chinese classic, Journey to the West, depicts an exotic kingdom inhabited only by women.

Such a fictional wonderland will now come alive on the big screen, thanks to The Monkey King 3, the third movie in a scheduled series of seven.

Filming for the latest installment will start in November, its director Cheang Pou-soi announced in Beijing on Tuesday.

He also said that some 1,200 female "extras" are being selected from across the country to play the residents of the kingdom, which the novel's author Wu Cheng'en named the Women's Kingdom. The selection process in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu will be broadcast live on the web from September to mid-October.

Cheang, a Hong Kong-based director, had directed the first movie that revolves on the Monkey King's fight against celestial beings as well as the second, which is about the mighty hero's conflict with a female demon. While the first was out in 2014, the second was released earlier this year.

"Unlike the first two movies, the third shows human beings, too," says Cheang.

The movie is adapted from the 54th chapter of the voluminous Journey to the West, which fictionalizes Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) Buddhist master Xuanzang's adventures during his travel from China to India to collect sutras.

In the novel, Xuanzang is escorted by the Monkey King and two other followers with special powers, a pig known as Zhu Wuneng and a former water monster called Sha Wujing. When they arrive in the all-female kingdom, the land's ruler falls in love with Xuanzang and seeks to marry him.

"But their love is doomed to fail. To keep his focus on his faith, Xuanzang-despite suffering inner struggles-has to ignore his chemistry with the queen, which makes for the most attractive part of the story," Cheang says.

Despite receiving mixed reviews, the previous two Monkey King movies directed by him made more than 1 billion yuan ($150 million) at the box office. The movies were not only among the highest-grossing features in their release years at home, but also they sold widely in overseas markets, a success very few pure Chinese titles have achieved.

But Cheang's journey forward isn't easy. The Monkey King's stories have been adapted into at least 30 movies in the past few decades. And more competition is on the way.

According to the country's top movie regulator, another four movies based on the novel are currently being made.

Cheang's answer to that seems to be a celebrity-studded cast. A-lister Feng Shaofeng, known for his role in the Sino-French production Wolf Totem, will play Xuanzang in this movie as he did in the second installment of Cheang's Monkey King series.

Comedy actor Shen He, known more by his stage name Xiao Shenyang, also reprises his role as the pig.

And the director says the female lead will be played by a top Chinese actress.

Wang Haifeng, one of the main producers of Cheang's Monkey King movies, told the Chinese media earlier that two massive indoor sets in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu province, had been constructed for the latest film. The new film will have more special effects than the previous two, and more comedy elements will also be visible, he said.

Wang, the founder of entertainment company Film Ko Film, says that his firm alongside other financiers will invest a total of 3.5 billion yuan in seven Monkey King movies.

The Monkey King 3, which has Hollywood makeup veteran Shaun Smith working on the crew, will hit theaters for Chinese New Year in 2018.

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