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'Monkey King' stages ambitious premiere

2014-01-20 15:24 China.org.cn Web Editor: Gu Liping
A poster of The Monkey King [China.org.cn]

A poster of "The Monkey King" [China.org.cn]

Leading actors Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok appeared at the world premiere of the star-studded live-action fantasy epic "The Monkey King" in Beijing on Sunday, which is set to be a blockbuster in China's lunar New Year film market.

"The Monkey King," directed by Hong Kong director Cheang Pou-Soi, is the newest adaption of the Chinese classic ancient novel "Journey to the West." It will hit Chinese screens from Jan. 31, having taken three years and 500 million yuan (US$82.6 million) to produce. The production team lavished money on special effects, making it one of the most expensive film ventures ever in China.

"It was my dream when I was very young to become the Monkey King Sun Wukong, "Donnie Yen said, "I'm so happy my dream has come true and I'm proud to be a part of this project. This film is stunning when it is shown on IMAX screens and is very suitable for all ages; you can bring your children to see it, and I will be bringing mine." Yen revealed that he has not yet brought his children to see any films that he has starred in.

Besides playing the role of Sun Wukong, Yen was also the kung fu choreographer for the film. Aaron Kwok, the Hong Kong singing and acting megastar who played the villain "Bull Demon King" in the film, said Yen's choreography was very challenging for him. Chow Yun-fat also revealed that Yen sometimes lost his temper during the filming, but said Yen is "the most powerful Monkey King in the universe."

The film's Chinese title is "Havoc in Heaven." It is an adaptation of the first eight chapters of the classic novel, telling the story of how the monkey Sun Wukong learnt to be immortal and rebelled against the Jade Emperor of Heaven, before accompanying the monk Xuanzang on a journey to collect the Buddhist sutras from India during the Tang Dynasty.

Sun Wukong, a household name and childhood memory for generations in China, was seen by the creative team of the film as an oriental superhero, capable of competing with America's Spider-Man and Superman. Special effects veterans from six countries and from Hollywood, such as Daniel L. Symmes, Shaun Smith and Kevin Rafferty lent their hands to bring the fantasy to the big screen. The film has more than 2,400 scenes, 98 percent of which use special effects, engineered and implemented by the 1,900-memeber team.

Though the film studio Filmko expects the film to take in 1 billion yuan (US$165 million) at the box offices, producer Liu Xiaoguang admitted that the pressure is huge, "We will not earn any money until it grosses more than 800 million yuan (US$132 million) in the Chinese mainland."

"The Monkey King" also ran into trouble when the lawyers of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio sent a plagiarism warning letter to the studio last week, asking them to forbid using the font design of the Chinese character title of the film, which belongs to the Shanghai studio and designer Yan Dingxian. The Shanghai Animation Film Studio also sent letters to several major Chinese theater chains asking them to temporarily suspend the scheduled nationwide debut of "The Monkey King" until the dispute is resolved.

Producer Liu responded to the controversy at the premiere, "The animation came out in 1964, and its 50 year copyright should now have expired. We were inspired by the cartoon and using their font design is a tribute not plagiarism. We are communicating with them, and hopefully this will not affect the film's screening schedule."

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