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Film / Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

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A 2013 loose reimagination of the Chinese classic Journey to the West directed by Stephen Chow. It contains Chow's trademark mix of drama, kung fu, and slapstick comedy. Taking place before the eponymous journey west, the film shows a younger, less enlightened Tang Sanzang as he tries to protect people from demons and learns much about the world. Along the way he meets other demon hunters, learns much about himself, and gets hit. A lot.

A sequel called Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back was released in 2017.


This Film Contains Examples Of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Duan can't read well. So in trying to put back Tang's book of nursery rhymes, she mixed up the words and accidentally created a sutra that summoned the Buddha to strike the Monkey King down.
  • Action Girl: Duan is a very capable fighter, and something of a ladette.
  • Action Prologue: The opening of the film shows Tang helping some villagers fight a fish demon.
  • Action Survivor: Tang has no real useful skills, and tries to take demons on with nothing but a book of nursery rhymes. This causes Duan to fall for him, as she thinks it's incredibly brave.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Unlike most other lighter adaptations of the original novel, the new interpretations of Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing are more or less portrayed as they appear in novel, in terms of the level of the atrocities committed. In Monkey's case, this is a subversion, as he's first introduced claiming that he's reformed, and now a good guy who wants to serve Buddha.
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  • And the Adventure Continues: The last shot is the beginning of the Journey to the West.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Tang tells Duan he loves her, and always loved her as she lay dying from wounds she took trying to protect him.
  • Animal Battle Aura
    • One of the demon hunters uses animal style kung fu. The animal whose style he's using appears behind him, though when he was first introduced it simply looked like it was a tiger fighting.
    • The Monkey King at one point charges and looks like a giant feral monkey. While he can turn into one, that scene was merely done to represent his ferocity.
  • Bald Mystic: After spending the entire movie with long hair, Tang has his hair ripped off by the Monkey King. It's only in this bald state that he reaches enlightenment and take a level in badass.
  • Batman Gambit: How Sun Wukong tricked Sanzang into removing the actual seal that freed him, which is not far away from how the original character rely on his wits to overcome the odds. Initially, he deliberately put on airs of a suspicious behavior by asking Sanzang to remove some conspicuous object in his space. When Sanzang refused, he raged, which convinced Sanzang that had to be the seal that trapped Wukong for the past 500 years. After further drama and action mostly on Sanzang and Miss Duan's end, Wukong casually requested Sanzang to remove some innocuous looking lotus (The actual seal) so that he can have a better view of the night. Sanzang who by that time had let down his guard, did just that.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: One demon-hunter attempts to kill the Monkey King by moving like an animal himself. It doesn't work.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Miss Duan (and all the other hunters) are killed by Sun Wukong, but in the process, Tang achieves true enlightenment and binds the Monkey King to Buddha's will, starting his journey of redemption.
  • Bond One-Liner: "It seems the Mighty Foot has stepped on a nail."
  • Bullying a Dragon: When the Monkey King breaks free, the Demon-Hunters who were hunting KL Hog earlier all mock him for his height and his flamboyant dress. Safe to say, none of them survive their battle with him by the end of the fight.
  • Canon Character All Along: The fish demon is actually Sha Wujing
  • Celibate Hero: Tang categorically rejects Duan's advances, stating that he's looking for "greater love," rather than lesser, romantic love. He doesn't change his mind until it's too late.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Duan's flying ring becomes Wukong's Restraining Bolt. Not to mention, the fish demon and KL Hog become Sandy and Piggy respectively.
  • Death of a Child: The little girl from the opening is eaten by the fish demon.
  • Defiant to the End: Even when Buddha casually presses a palm the size of a continent onto the Monkey King, Sun Wukong is too full of rage against him to back down.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Tang doesn't profess his love for Duan until she's dying. Since Tang doesn't have a girlfriend in the original story, this was bound to happen.
  • Doomed by Canon: Miss Duan didn't show up in the original tale, which takes place after this movie. She dies in the climax.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Duan regularly beats and harasses Tang along the movie, but it's all Played for Laughs. When Tang raises his hand to Duan in an emotional moment, everyone freaks out.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Duan attempts to trick Tang into having sex with her by getting her people to pretend to be bandits forcing them to have sex. Once Tang learns of the deception, he's angry but ultimately dismisses the matter.
  • Enlightenment Superpower: The Deus ex Machina that saves Tang is triggered by him gaining enlightenment (and a golden glow to boot).
  • Expecting Someone Taller: The demon hunters expected the Monkey King to be taller. He still kills them all.
  • Extremity Extremist: Almighty Foot solely attacks with a grossly oversized foot.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Sun Wukong repays Tang for unintentionally freeing him by ripping his hair out when he prays (having a personal grudge against the Buddha) and killing and vaporizing Sanzang.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sun Wukong. Befitting a trickster, of course. When trying to trick Tang, he was pretty helpful and nice, but the second he was freed he became a petty jerkass.
  • Flying Weapon: Prince Important fights by flicking tiny swords, which then become full size and he can control.
  • Improbable Weapon User: KL Hog's weapon of choice is a nine-pronged rake, as it is the in original story.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The village works together to save the infant in the opening sequence.
  • King Kong Copy: When faced against a summoned Buddha bigger than the planet, the Monkey King takes on the form of a giant gorilla.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: One of the Monkey King's most common attacks. Interestingly, the attacks aren't just concussive but also can incinerate the target.
  • Make Way for the New Villains: KL Hog is the antagonist for most of the movie. He's easily defeated by the Monkey King even while he's imprisoned, who becomes the final boss.
  • Mama Bear: After her daughter is eaten by the fish demon, the woman from the opening grabs a Blade on a Stick and jumps in the river. She's clearly terrified, but demands the fish give her her daughter back. She just ends up its next meal.
  • Meaningful Rename: Tang is given the Buddhist name Tripitaka at the end of the movie.
  • Mind Hug: Under Tang's direction, instead of imprisoning him again, the Buddha brings the Monkey King to a place of absolute tranquility where he's so overwhelmed by peace and beauty that he loses the will to fight any further.
  • Mood Whiplash: In true Stephen Chow fashion, the movie goes on a wild chase from wacky slapstick to strikingly depressing. An example is the final battle, which goes from funny-awesome-action scene to Tear Jerker very abruptly.
  • No-Sell: After achieving True Enlightenment, Tang becomes completely immune to all of demonic Monkey King's attacks.
  • Non-Indicative Title: While there is a trek in a westward direction, the movie takes place before Tripitaka's true journey to the west featured in the novel.
  • Overly-Long Gag: One of Prince Important's petal-throwers chastises him, "You should have told me sooner!" about twelve times in a row before the gag is dropped.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: The Monkey King is smaller than any of his opponents, but is unstoppable.
  • Power of the God Hand: Tang Sanzang manages to defeat the Monkey King by summoning the Buddha himself (who is revealed to be larger than the planet, his hand the size of China itself) using the Buddha Sutra from his reassemble the Nursery Rhyme book, whereupon he crushes Sun Wukong beneath his palm.
  • Prequel: Could be seen as one to Journey to the West, but the original literature does tell the stories of the pilgrims from the beginning, making this more of a re-telling of their origins instead.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: A rare heroic example with the Hunters, all minor characters with their own trademark. They're all killed by the Monkey King.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The Monkey King is pissed at Buddha.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Five-hundred years ago, Sun Wukong was imprisoned beneath Wuzhi Mountain by the Buddha for the chaos he waged in the Heavens and there he stayed. The seal prevents him from leaving the only way out, the lotus roots snagging him and whipping him if he ever tried, until he achieved enlightenment. After helping imprison KL Hog, he tricks Tang into removing the one lotus flower in the garden above the entrance (the real seal), freeing the Monkey King from his imprisonment.
  • Sequel Hook: The Journey to the West begins!
  • Shout-Out: One famous scene in the movie ( where Buddha becomes the size of a planet and crushes Sun Wukong with his Palm) is direct shout to Asura's Wrath, right down to nearly identical camera angles and character actions, to the point of getting quite a plagiarism controversy when it first premiered in China.
  • Sunken Face: When demons are hit, their faces dent in the shape of the attack.
  • Superpower Lottery: The Monkey King is supremely strong, can incinerate things with a thought or shout, can shapeshift, and is Nigh-Invulnerable
  • Temporary Love Interest: Like Stephen Chow's original movie adaptations of Journey to the West, Miss Duan dies at the end to complete Tang's character development into a monk.
  • Too Important to Walk: Prince Important insists that he needs to be carried around because walking would make him the same as all the normal peasants.
  • True Sight: Tang sees through the illusions at KL Hog's inn. The audience is first shown a glimpse of the illusion, then what Tang sees.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Monkey King can turn into an ape-like form. Given the source material, he can probably turn into more.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • The Fish Demon was a man who was mistaken for a kidnapper while rescuing a child and transformed into a demon after the angry villagers killed him and threw his body into the water.
    • KL Hog was murdered by his wife and her handsome lover and then changed into a pig demon after swearing to kill all women who lusted after handsome men.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Duan's crew and sister vanish from the movie with no adequate explanation.
  • Yandere: Duan, full stop. She stalks Tang constantly after their first meeting, tries on multiple occasions to blackmail him, and will not under any circumstances accept "no" for an answer.
  • Zombie Advocate: Tang thinks demons can be rehabilitated and calmed through song.

Video Example(s):


Sun Wukong [Asura's Wrath]

One famous scene in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (where Buddha becomes the size of a planet and crushes Sun Wukong with his Palm) is direct shout to Asura's Wrath, right down to nearly identical camera angles and character actions, to the point of getting quite a plagiarism controversy when it first premiered in China.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShoutOut

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