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journey to the west movie chinese

The Hit New Film Pushing Chinese Sci-Fi Into Unexplored Territory

In Kong Dashan’s hit new movie “Journey to the West,” the aliens aren’t hiding in the corn fields of the U.S. Midwest. They’re lurking in the villages of northern China. 

The film has become a sensation on the festival circuit in recent months by offering audiences something rarely seen before: a science fiction tale with a distinctly local flavor. 

Tang Zhijun, a middle-aged magazine editor from Beijing, travels to a remote village to investigate the mass sighting of an unidentified flying object. There, he meets a local poet who says the answer to the mystery lies at a distant mountain.  

As the tension mounts, the pair embark on a road trip that turns into a journey of self-discovery. It’s a quirky, often comic narrative that echoes the original “Journey to the West,” the classic Chinese novel about the monk Tang Sanzang’s quest to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India.

Last October, the film scooped an unprecedented four awards — including best film — at the Pingyao International Film Festival, China’s leading platform for independent cinema. It has since played overseas at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Osaka Asian Film Festival to more acclaim. 

With a Chinese theatrical release pending, film industry insiders say the buzz building around the feature is palpable. Kong, the film’s 32-year-old director, says the movie’s low-budget, down-to-earth style has proved to be an asset.

“We have given people science fiction within a story that might feel familiar to aspects of their own lives,” says Kong. “That is something new.” 

Leading figures in China’s science fiction scene have hailed “Journey to the West” as a step forward for the industry — and a sign it’s finally ready to step out of the shadow of star author Liu Cixin.

Chinese sci-fi has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, propelled by the breakout success of Liu’s “The Three-Body Problem.” The novel, which transcends time and space as it charts humanity’s war against an alien civilization, became a global sensation after winning the prestigious Hugo Award in 2015.

The Chinese government, once wary of sci-fi movies, began to actively embrace the genre as a soft power tool over the following years. This has opened the door for a string of big-budget science fiction productions, many of them drawing inspiration from Liu’s work.

In 2019, “The Wandering Earth” — an adaptation of a Liu novella about a group of astronauts trying to save the planet from destruction — became a box office smash, generating 4.4 billion yuan (then $638 million) in ticket sales and winning a slew of local awards.

Other Chinese sci-fi films to attract big audiences that year included the wacky comedy “Crazy Alien” — also based on a story by Liu — and the special effects-heavy alien invasion movie “Shanghai Fortress.” 

Though the pandemic has caused major disruptions to film production in China, a big-budget sequel to “The Wandering Earth” is set for release in 2023. Streaming giants Tencent and Netflix, meanwhile, are currently putting the finishing touches on a TV adaptation of “The Three-Body Problem.” 

Liu continues to loom large over China’s sci-fi scene. His style of fiction — speculative, epic in scale, and informed by hard science — has influenced an entire generation of Chinese writers. 

“Currently, I see a lot of physics, astronomy, and space — natural science stuff,” says Chen Qiufan, a leading sci-fi author and honorary president of the Chinese Science Fiction Writers’ Association. “It’s pretty much like America back in the ’50s. Like (Isaac) Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, those ‘golden-age’ authors.” 

But there are signs this is starting to change. Some creators are starting to experiment with a folksier style of sci-fi — one that draws more heavily on China’s cultural heritage and current affairs. For Chen, it’s part of a movement to explore “what are the Chinese characteristics of sci-fi.” 

“Maybe in the future, there’ll be something different,” he says. “I might also do some exploration myself to connect with some ancient Chinese philosophy and mythology … so the work is using a different kind of language.” 

Filmmaker Kong appears to be ahead of the game. “Journey to the West” turns on the travails of its relatable main character and his search for answers: not only about what might lie in the great beyond, but also about how his own life has panned out. 

It’s a work that comes steeped in the traditional themes found in science fiction, such as the search for redemption and humanity’s fascination with the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Kong says his inspiration came from the hours he spent poring over sci-fi magazines as a child growing up in 1990s Shandong, a province in eastern China. 

“My generation all grew up reading science fiction magazines, books about unknown mysteries,” says Kong. “If we think carefully about what aliens represent, it’s actually another kind of system, totally different from human beings’ existence.” 

As opposed to Liu Cixin, whose work is often compared to the “golden age” sci-fi authors of the 1940s and ’50s, Kong’s work shows faint echoes of more recent classics. The central character — played by veteran actor Yang Haoyu — is fixated with outer space while his real life on terra firma falls apart, much like the protagonist in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 masterpiece “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” As in that film, too, there’s a journey of discovery that’s as personal as it is otherworldly.  

But there are also sly nods to arguably the greatest road trip of all — the one taken by Tang Sanzang and his three disciples in the original “Journey to the West.” In Kong's feature, however, the characters’ quest for fulfillment is rooted in a firmly contemporary setting. 

“In both that book and my film, you have characters looking for the ultimate answers in life,” says Kong. “I think this comes from the influence of ‘Journey to the West’ subconsciously. It’s a road trip, but inside it’s also his own mental journey. I think it’s necessary to have this kind of journey in science fiction.” 

The hope is that more Chinese filmmakers find opportunities to experiment with science fiction over the next few years. Chen, the author, says the outlook for Chinese sci-fi has never looked better, especially given the government’s embrace of the genre. 

“There have been themes of science fiction in China for about 100 years, but they’ve not been continuously developed because of wars or due to political reasons,” says Chen. “But (now) seems to be a golden age because it’s top-down. We have got a lot of support from the government and, also, the market is ready.” 

Chinese authorities are pouring resources into science -fiction-related projects. Next year, the southwestern city of Chengdu will host the influential World Science Fiction Convention. Officials have greenlit a massive $8 billion Paramount Park theme park in Kunming, another city in southwest China, which will include a zone themed around the “Star Trek” franchise.

In 2019, the government also helped launch the Chinese Science Fiction Academy at Chengdu’s Sichuan University, a facility whose stated mission is to develop “a sci-fi theoretical system with Chinese characteristics.” Last year, researchers estimated that China’s sci-fi industry was worth a massive 36.3 billion yuan in the first half of 2021.

The scene is also benefitting from the growing demand for sci-fi movies among young Chinese, Chen says. Unlike previous generations, who often didn’t have easy access to science fiction, Chinese millennials like Kong grew up immersed in sci-fi culture. 

“So many in the younger generation are so passionate about sci-fi as a genre, no matter if it’s literature, movies, or video games,” says Chen. “I think that’s been a fundamental change, because in the ’80s, or even in the ’50s and ’60s, maybe people weren’t ready yet for science fiction.” 

Editor: Dominic Morgan.

(Header image: A still from the film “Journey to the West.” From Douban)

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journey to the west

Somehow, ‘Journey to the West’ is China’s Latest Sci-fi Sensation

Kong dashan’s genre-mixing mockumentary ‘journey to the west’ is having a limited release in multiple european countries and new york city in april and may.

Amarsanaa Battulga

With a massive box office take of 598 million USD, The Wandering Earth 2 may be the Chinese sci-fi flick of the year, but one young director’s low-budget debut feature is quickly stealing its thunder.

Released in Chinese cinemas on April Fool’s Day, director Kong Dashan’s Journey to the West ( 宇宙探索编辑部 , Yuzhou Tansuo Bianjibu ) has only grossed 6 million USD so far.

However, the film has earned its place among the highest-rated Chinese sci-fi movies of all time: It received an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 on Douban, a Chinese review platform often compared to IMDb.

The film is a deeply engaging story that follows a group of alien-seeking misfits who set out to investigate reports of a supernatural incident, only to unravel something beyond their imagination.

The film’s English title is derived from the 16th-century Ming Dynasty novel of the same name , which tells the adventure of a Buddhist monk and his disciples who traveled from China to India to retrieve sacred scriptures.

Although the film draws inspiration from this adventurous tale, Kong reimagines the story with a journey to Southwest China’s Sichuan province instead of to India. Additionally, the movie unfolds in five chapters instead of 100.

journey to the west

When Journey to the West had its world premiere at the Pingyao International Film Festival in October 2021, it proved to be a resounding success. Recognized as a standout film by jury members, critics, and audiences alike, it took home an unprecedented four awards , including the Fei Mu Award for best film.

The film then went on to tour the international film festival circuit throughout 2022, screening and winning awards at the prestigious International Film Festival Rotterdam , Jeonju International Film Festival , and many others.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by CMC Pictures 华人影业 (@cmc_pictures)

Editor’s Note: Spoilers ahead; you’ve been warned!

The movie starts with a VHS recording of a 1990s TV interview in which Tang Zhijun (played by Yang Haoyu), an editor of Space Exploration magazine, speaks firmly and romantically about his belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life. The editor has a grand vision that the discovery of aliens would set off the next great human evolution — one that would see all of humanity set aside their kerfuffles and band together.

journey to the west poster

Fast forward to 30 years later, however, and we see Tang making a living by giving lectures at a psychiatric hospital. His family has tragically fallen apart, and the magazine is on the brink of bankruptcy, operating from a messy Beijing office whose radiators haven’t seen any warmth for a while.

Character Tang speaks about the alien civilization at a psychiatric hospital

However, Tang’s optimism has remained intact, albeit more in the form of an obsession. When a collective sighting of a glowing alien is reported in a Sichuan village, he convinces his skeptical deputy Qin Cairong (played by Ai Liya) and alcoholic weatherman Narisu (played by Jiang Qiming) to join him on –— you guessed it — a journey to the west.

Two locals later join the ranks of the alien civilization seekers: Xiaoxiao (played by Sheng Chenchen), an insomniac fangirl of Tang, and Sun Yitong (played by Wang Yitong), an eccentric poet who claims to have received a mission from the aliens.

The motley crew of five characters can be seen as a reference to the classic novel: the matching surnames with the monk Tang Sanzang and his protégé Sun Wukong , and a pot that Sun wears on his head that reminds one of the Monkey King’s iconic headband.

journey to the west

Kong’s film is an eclectic mix of genres that seamlessly weaves together elements of sci-fi, mystery, comedy, and road movie into a cohesive narrative. The film’s faux-documentary style is characterized by talking head interviews, direct addresses to the camera, and a plethora of visual gags.

The unique sense of humor in Journey to the West owes much to its actors. Impeccable in his deadpan humor and comedic timing, veteran actor Yang, who also performed in The Wandering Earth and Cathy Yan’s Sundance-premiering Dead Pigs , offers his career-best performance as the single-minded pseudoscientist.

Matching his brilliance is Inner Mongolian actress Ai Liya, who delivers an outstanding performance as a cynical and down-to-earth partner in the film. Ai’s exceptional acting talent was also recognized at the 2020 Asian Film Critics Association Awards, where she won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Wang Xiaoshuai’s So Long, My Son .

Actors Ai Liya and Yang Haoyu are the primary sources of humor in the movie

But it’s not all just for laughs. What starts as quirky fun eventually takes on a poetic, existential tone as audiences discover that there’s a method to Tang’s madness, and that his journey of discovering the other is also that of finding the self. As with any absurdist comedy, there’s a tragedy at the core of Journey to the West : humanity’s existential crisis.

One Douban user summarized the film as “an absurd masterpiece of romanticism, a wonderful ode to idealism, the peak of Chinese soft sci-fi, and the highlight of domestic pseudo-documentary.”

Another impressive highlight of the film is its young and talented crew behind the camera. While the film is Kong’s feature debut, he has prior experience from his graduate program at the Beijing Film Academy making a mockumentary short that has gained a near cult following among Chinese arthouse cinephiles.

Kong co-wrote the idiosyncratic story of Journey to the West with Wang Yitong, who plays the poet Sun in the film. And the handheld, shaky-cam style was executed seamlessly by Belgian cinematographer Matthias Delvaux, who also lensed Tibetan auteur Pema Tseden’s upcoming Snow Leopard .

Last but not least, Hu Shuzhen, who worked on the 2021 Locarno-nominated Virgin Blue , deliberately edited the footage into an abundance of jump cuts. The resulting choppy quality feels true to the spirit of mockumentaries; however, as many watchers will warn you, you might not want to sit too close to the screen.

journey to the west

With Journey to the West , Kong provides China with a much-needed dose of soft sci-fi, especially given the overabundance of recent and upcoming adaptations of Liu Cixin’s hard sci-fi literary works.

This significance wasn’t lost on domestic audiences. A short review with more than 2,500 likes on Douban reads , “Chinese sci-fi has finally found another path.”

But Journey to the West also demonstrates that the two directions of Chinese sci-fi filmmaking don’t necessarily stand in opposition; Kong himself was even an assistant director on The Wandering Earth 2 .

Meanwhile, Frant Gwo , the director of The Wandering Earth franchise, is one of the executive producers of Kong’s film. He even has an amusing cameo role, playing himself as he looks to buy a cheap spacesuit for his own movie, The Wandering Ball , a nod to his real-life film.

journey to the west

While it’s presently unclear whether Kong will work on The Wandering Earth 3 , which won’t come out till 2027, he’s reportedly preparing an adaptation of Liu Cixin’s short story, The Micro-Age , or The Micro-Era .

The last news about the prospective film was released when the project was submitted for approval in 2019. After Kong’s success with Journey to the West , however, audiences have already started getting hyped for his future projects.

The film is having a limited release in multiple European countries and New York City throughout April and May. CineCina presented its North American premiere on April 22. The film may also hit other cities in Australia and New Zealand at a later date.

Cover image via Weibo

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  • #movie theater
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#Chinese sci-fi

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"ONE OF HONG KONG’S MOST POPULAR ACTOR-DIRECTORS EVER… STEPHEN CHOW IS BACK IN BOX-OFFICE STORMING FORM" - The Hollywood Reporter
"A BONAFIDE MASTERPIECE" - The Wrap
"SPECTACULAR" - Variety
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"(Stephen) Chow at his weirdest and most entertaining." - AVCLUB.COM
"Hilarious and oddly reverent." - FILMJOURNAL.COM
"Alluring" - NY Post
"Delightful blend of fantasy, action, comedy and romance." - NY Post
"Dazzling" - LA Times
"Jaw-dropping visual inventiveness" - LA Times
"The film finds the sweet spot between spoofy and sincere, rollicking and dark." - LA Times
"Might Be Stephen Chow’s Craziest Movie Yet." - Vulture
"It’s a pageant of eye-popping strangeness." - Vulture
"Rarely is it that a CGI-heavy spectacle such as this could be called both entertaining and inspiring in the same breath, but such is the unexpectedly special magic of Journey to the West." - Slant
"A must watch for any fans of Chinese kung fu films and Stephen Chow." - NERD REACTOR

ABOUT THE FILM

In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one’s self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them must embark on a journey to the West that’s full of challenges.

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journey to the west movie chinese

Still unbeaten: Journey to the West (1986, TV series)

Journey to the West is one of the four great novels of Chinese literature. Over the years, countless TV-adaptations have been produced. Everything from decent to mediocre to barely watchable.

One of the oldest, the 1986 version , was so strong and convincing that it achieved classical status. It seems almost all mainland Chinese people grew up watching this CCTV-production of Journey to the West and it still can be seen on Chinese television today. (It’s one of those series Chinese national television just keeps repeating.)

From today’s perspective, the special effects are obsolete and bizarre. And the story evolves much slower and more long-winded than Netflix addicts are used to nowadays. The striking thing though: China and its film industry have developed so much since then, but they never quite managed to top the 1986-series! In terms of story line, costumes, portrayal of characters, it still is considered the most original and authentic rendition of the story. As a matter of fact, some of the newer adaptations are hardly more than imitations that fail to bring convincing interpretations to the plot and characters.

Key to understanding China

Most people who are serious about learning Chinese, watch or read Journey to the West at some point. There is just no way around it. The legendary journey of the Buddhist monk and his apprentices somehow is fundamental to Chinese culture. The adventures of the Monkey King have left their traces in the Chinese language. Journey to the West is a key to understanding China, although it leaves you with many new questions. About Chinese mythology and religions for example.

Still the best: 1986 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 1986

  • Duration: 25 episodes X 45 min.
  • Subtitles: Chinese and English
  • Difficulty: Intermediate / upper intermediate

The complete 1986-adaptation you can find on YouTube with English subtitles .

Reading Journey to the West

I wrote about Pleco’s e-book Journey to the West a while back. The online dictionary offers its own graded reader series for the Chinese Classics, suitable for non-native speakers. Pleco’s Journey to the West is an abridged version for intermediate learners which stays true to the original as far as I can tell. Watching the series and reading the story with its additional notes on places, monsters and demons together can be very helpful. If you have the time, that is! The story is meant for HSK 4 or 5 learners.

Other adaptations

Countless other adaptations have been made. I can’t guarantee this list is complete. It doesn’t include cartoons for example. Unfortunately, most of them lack quality. I found only one exception.

1996 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 1996

1999 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 1999

2000 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 2000

2010 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 2010

2016 (Movie)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 2016

2018 (Movie)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 2018

2019 (TV series)

Journey to the West, Xiyouji, 2019

2022 (Movie)

《齐天大圣》国风大圣热血回归 2022 Monkey king movie

This movie “齐天大圣” tells the story of Sun Wukong who escaped from Wuzhishan and brought his oppressed demon brothers back to the Heavenly Palace. It has a horrible score on the Chinese movie database Douban , so it can’t be much good.

Recommended: 1986 (TV series) on YouTube

Did I miss one of your favorite adaptations of Journey to the West or am I being too harsh? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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7 thoughts on “ Still unbeaten: Journey to the West (1986, TV series) ”

Thank you for this! I am just now exploring the story through Arthur Waley’s “Monkey” and the 1986 series. What did you think of A Korean Odyssey, the kdrama version from a few years ago? I thought Lee Seung Gi was a wonderful Great Sage.

Thanks for letting me know about the Korean series! Haven’t watched it, but I’m curious to see their take on it. Waley’s abridged version is still one of the best, I guess.

What do you think of the English subtitle translation of Journey to the West(1986)? too poor, right?

Hard for me to judge, it’s definitely not the most modern translation. Can you give some examples of poor translations?

  • Pingback: Pleco’s graded reader: Journey to the West | KAOHONGSHU

While no doubt extremely inferior, I became interested in Monkey from the Japanese version that ran from 1978 to 1980. I was in the Navy from 1976 to 1984 and Yokouska Japan was a frequent port. Despite not being able to speak or read the language I very quickly became a fan of Anime and Manga. I still have 50 comics I can’t read. And also I watched many Japanese programs, including Monkey and early Super Sentai! I fell in love with both because they could still be followed. I especially loved Monkey as he not only used martial arts, which I was also into, but he used magic! Well, despite the dated special effects I had to learn more about this guy. And I wish I had seen the 1986 Chinese version as many people have told me it’s even better. I have been searching the internet for years now trying to find Region 1 DVDs of either series.

Thank you for the amazing story! You must be talking about “Saiyūki”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_(TV_series) & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQEIVOKUXTw . I wasn’t aware of this Japanese version, thanks! : )

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52nd edition of New Directors/New Films 

Festival&Award

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JOURNEY TO THE WEST

China |  2021 | 113min | Debut Feature

Director: Dashan KONG

Screenwriter: Dashan KONG, Roy WANG

Executive Producer: Hongwei WANG, Frant GWO

Producer: Geer GONG

Director of photography: Delvaux Matthias

Editor: Shuzhen HU

Art Director: Sinsin GUO

Sound Supervisor: Guodong ZHANG

Music: Zixu SU

Starring: Haoyu YANG, Ailiya, Roy WANG, Chimy JIANG, Chenchen SHENG

编剧: 孔大山、王一通

摄影指导: Delvaux Matthias

主演: 杨皓宇、艾莉娅、王一通 、蒋奇明、盛晨晨

About the film

Sharing the same title as Chinese classic literature, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is not a story about the Monkey King, but about an ordinary man's continuous pursuit of UFOs in the Chinese countryside.

TANG Zhijun, editor-in-chief of Space Exploration magazine, together with his fellows, went to investigate the collective sighting of an unidentified flying object in a village called Burning Nest, where a stone ball disappeared from the mouth of a stone lion.

The person in question, SUN Yitong, a young man who speaks and acts strangely and has a talent in writing poems, claimed that he received instructions from aliens, saying that to retrieve the stone ball, they should head to Daliang Mountain.

TANG’s team was suspicious, but until TANG witnessed the miracle of SUN’s prophecy, they decided to follow him and embarked on a long journey to a mine cave about to blast. After a drunken night, TANG was told the truth and saw a sight he had never seen before under the guide of SUN.

The iconic Space Exploration Magazine was a magazine that existed for real in China in the 80s and 90s. It used to arouse the interest of the by-then young generation to explore space and the scientific world.

Based on historical reality,  JOURNEY TO THE WEST is a sci-fi film with a nostalgic style. It combines the vintage aesthetic of realism with the genre by collaging footage of different textures, such as VHS images, vintage television broadcasting images, as well as documentation footage. Deep down inside, it is also a film about chasing faded love.

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5th  Pingyao International Film Festival 

Fei Mu Awards · Best Film Youth Jury Grand Award Cinephilia Critics’ Award Hidden Dragons · People’s Choice Awards

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51st International Film Festival Rotterdam

Bright Future Section

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KONG Dashan

KONG Dashan was born in Shandong in 1990. Graduating from the directing department of Beijing Film Academy (MFA), he now lives and works in Beijing. During his school years, he produced several short films, which were selected in many film festivals in China.

JOURNEY TO THE WEST  is his debut feature work.

  • Cast & crew
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Journey to the West

Liya Ai, Yitong Wang, Qiming Jiang, Chenchen Sheng, and Haoyu Yang in Journey to the West (2021)

Tang Zhijun, an editor of a science fiction magazine, tries to find signs of alien civilization. Tang Zhijun, an editor of a science fiction magazine, tries to find signs of alien civilization. Tang Zhijun, an editor of a science fiction magazine, tries to find signs of alien civilization.

  • Dashan Kong
  • Yitong Wang
  • Qiming Jiang
  • 5 User reviews
  • 6 Critic reviews
  • 26 wins & 11 nominations

Journey to the West (2021)

  • Tang Zhijun
  • Qin Cairong
  • Director Guo Fan
  • Shi Yanyuan
  • (as Zhuang Jie Qiong)
  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

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User reviews 5

  • mikeyspikey
  • Feb 1, 2024
  • How long is Journey to the West? Powered by Alexa
  • April 1, 2023 (China)
  • Official Site (United States)
  • Alibaba Pictures Group
  • China Film Group Corporation (CFGC)
  • Huayi Brothers Pictures
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro

Technical specs

  • Runtime 1 hour 58 minutes
  • D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1

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Liya Ai, Yitong Wang, Qiming Jiang, Chenchen Sheng, and Haoyu Yang in Journey to the West (2021)

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Mia Goth and Ti West are on a mission to convert horror skeptics with ‘MaXXXine’

As he gears up to premiere “MaXXXine,” the final installment to the A24 horror trilogy, director Ti West said he and Mia Goth have yet to process what it means to come to the end of this project which has spanned nearly 5 years. The pair first joined forces with “X,” which was released in 2022, and shot the prequel, “Pearl,” immediately after they finished filming “X.” “MaXXXine” hits US theaters July 5. (June 28)

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Mia Goth, left, star of “MaXXXine,” poses with the film’s writer/director Ti West at the West Hollywood EDITION, Monday, June 24, 2024, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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Giancarlo Esposito arrives at the premiere of “MaXXXine” on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Kevin Bacon arrives at the premiere of “MaXXXine” on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Mia Goth, star of “MaXXXine,” poses for a portrait at the West Hollywood EDITION, Monday, June 24, 2024, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Ti West, writer/director of “MaXXXine,” poses for a portrait at the West Hollywood EDITION, Monday, June 24, 2024, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — As Mia Goth and filmmaker Ti West walked the red carpet this week for the premiere of “MaXXXine,” the final installment of the pair’s buzzy horror trilogy, a group of hired “protesters” stood outside the TCL Chinese Theatre chanting and holding signs with messages like “Horror is not art” and “Hollywood is Satan’s playground.”

The marketing stunt was an homage to the movie’s backdrop against the satanic panic and censorship wars of the 1980s. But, like the movie, it was also a commentary on what society considers trashy or tasteless and an airing of grievances about sustained sentiments toward one of the most polarizing genres of film.

“‘MaXXXine,’ more than any of the other two, is quite meta. And there were tons of instances in this movie where it definitely felt like there was a parallel between what was going on in the script and what was going on when we filmed it,” said Goth, who also worked as a producer, ahead of the movie’s highly anticipated theatrical release by A24 on July 5.

It follows Maxine Minx (Goth), an adult film star trying to break into mainstream movies. She becomes increasingly concerned that her violent past will interfere with her plans for fame after she gets her big break with a role in a horror sequel, “The Puritan 2.”

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“You’re not going to the top in no horror movie,” a fellow adult film, played by Halsey, tells Maxine.

There’s a kind of irony to the religious extremism that permeates West’s trilogy, given his and Goth’s mission to convert nonbelievers to the genre’s appeal. Despite the commercial success of the previous two films, “X” and “Pearl,” and praise of Goth’s performance from industry titans like Martin Scorsese , both Goth and West sense a reluctance from the more refined circles of Hollywood to fully embrace well-made horror movies.

“If I’m totally honest, I do think that sometimes the work is somewhat reduced,” Goth said, who has embraced the genre as an actor with films like Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool,” and Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of “Suspiria.” “It would be nice if they just, you know, appreciated it because of the performance.”

West is optimistic about his proselytizing efforts, arguing that “MaXXXine” is, at its core, simply a “fun summer movie.” The film’s impressive cast, including Kevin Bacon, Giancarlo Esposito , Elizabeth Debicki and Lily Collins, is perhaps a testament to West’s theory.

“I think, somewhat historically, for me, the people who like my movies the most are people that are on the fence about horror,” he said. “You can always close your eyes at the gruesome parts. And you can still enjoy this movie even if you think you don’t like horror movies.”

Although those gruesome parts are certainly there, West has crafted “MaXXXine” as an entertaining period piece about Los Angeles in 1985. His commitment to world building is evident throughout the trilogy, from the 1920s Disney-esque technicolor visuals of “Pearl” to the ‘70s DIY porn aesthetic of “X.”

“The thing about, say something like, ‘MaXXXine,’ is because it’s the 1980s, everything that’s in front of the camera has to get picked by me because it isn’t just there. You don’t just walk out and go, ‘This location works,’” West explained. “Every shot, every prop, every wardrobe, everything is now a conversation and decision about what would serve the movie. That to me is just a much more fulfilling way to approach things.”

In “MaXXXine,” West utilizes both landmarks around Los Angeles, like the Hollywood sign and the Universal backlot, as well as actual events from the time, including the Night Stalker , the infamous occultist serial killer who terrorized parts of California. Given its Hollywood setting, the director saw an opportunity to pull back the curtain on the mystique of filmmaking and weave in commentary about how the industry treats people, particularly women.

Early in the film, Maxine delivers an impressive and emotional monologue during her audition for “The Puritan 2.” While she is still wiping away the conjured tears from her cheeks, a female producer casually asks to see her breasts.

“It’s heightened so that we laugh at it. And at the same time, we know that it’s real,” Debicki, who plays the film’s director, said. “People are clocking it more and building more barriers for women and for people in the industry, protecting us from people who do harm unto others. But I think this is a movie set in 1985 and there were no barriers.”

Image

Mia Goth and Ti West are on a mission to convert horror skeptics with 'MaXXXine'

As Mia Goth and Ti West walked the red carpet for the premiere of “MaXXXine,” the final installment of the pair’s A24 horror trilogy that hits theaters July 5, a group of hired “protesters” stood outside the TCL Chinese Theatre chanting and holding sig...

LOS ANGELES -- As Mia Goth and filmmaker Ti West walked the red carpet this week for the premiere of “MaXXXine,” the final installment of the pair’s buzzy horror trilogy, a group of hired “protesters” stood outside the TCL Chinese Theatre chanting and holding signs with messages like “Horror is not art” and “Hollywood is Satan’s playground.”

The marketing stunt was an homage to the movie’s backdrop against the satanic panic and censorship wars of the 1980s. But, like the movie, it was also a commentary on what society considers trashy or tasteless and an airing of grievances about sustained sentiments toward one of the most polarizing genres of film.

“‘MaXXXine,’ more than any of the other two, is quite meta. And there were tons of instances in this movie where it definitely felt like there was a parallel between what was going on in the script and what was going on when we filmed it,” said Goth, who also worked as a producer, ahead of the movie’s highly anticipated theatrical release by A24 on July 5.

It follows Maxine Minx (Goth), an adult film star trying to break into mainstream movies. She becomes increasingly concerned that her violent past will interfere with her plans for fame after she gets her big break with a role in a horror sequel, “The Puritan 2."

“You’re not going to the top in no horror movie,” a fellow adult film, played by Halsey, tells Maxine.

There’s a kind of irony to the religious extremism that permeates West’s trilogy, given his and Goth’s mission to convert nonbelievers to the genre’s appeal. Despite the commercial success of the previous two films, “X” and “Pearl,” and praise of Goth’s performance from industry titans like Martin Scorsese , both Goth and West sense a reluctance from the more refined circles of Hollywood to fully embrace well-made horror movies.

“If I’m totally honest, I do think that sometimes the work is somewhat reduced,” Goth said, who has embraced the genre as an actor with films like Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool,” and Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of “Suspiria.” “It would be nice if they just, you know, appreciated it because of the performance.”

West is optimistic about his proselytizing efforts, arguing that “MaXXXine” is, at its core, simply a “fun summer movie.” The film’s impressive cast, including Kevin Bacon, Giancarlo Esposito , Elizabeth Debicki and Lily Collins, is perhaps a testament to West’s theory.

“I think, somewhat historically, for me, the people who like my movies the most are people that are on the fence about horror,” he said. “You can always close your eyes at the gruesome parts. And you can still enjoy this movie even if you think you don’t like horror movies.”

Although those gruesome parts are certainly there, West has crafted “MaXXXine” as an entertaining period piece about Los Angeles in 1985. His commitment to world building is evident throughout the trilogy, from the 1920s Disney-esque technicolor visuals of “Pearl” to the '70s DIY porn aesthetic of “X.”

“The thing about, say something like, ‘MaXXXine,’ is because it’s the 1980s, everything that’s in front of the camera has to get picked by me because it isn’t just there. You don’t just walk out and go, 'This location works,’” West explained. “Every shot, every prop, every wardrobe, everything is now a conversation and decision about what would serve the movie. That to me is just a much more fulfilling way to approach things.”

In “MaXXXine,” West utilizes both landmarks around Los Angeles, like the Hollywood sign and the Universal backlot, as well as actual events from the time, including the Night Stalker , the infamous occultist serial killer who terrorized parts of California. Given its Hollywood setting, the director saw an opportunity to pull back the curtain on the mystique of filmmaking and weave in commentary about how the industry treats people, particularly women.

Early in the film, Maxine delivers an impressive and emotional monologue during her audition for “The Puritan 2.” While she is still wiping away the conjured tears from her cheeks, a female producer casually asks to see her breasts.

“It’s heightened so that we laugh at it. And at the same time, we know that it’s real,” Debicki, who plays the film’s director, said. “People are clocking it more and building more barriers for women and for people in the industry, protecting us from people who do harm unto others. But I think this is a movie set in 1985 and there were no barriers.”

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Rotten Tomatoes® Score

There is a lot to like here and a lot of promise regarding where things are headed. Still, as with any story trying to juggle numerous storylines, some are more engaging than others.

An ambitious solid start to Kevin Costner's sprawling western epic. Does enough to satisfy and bring you on board for the rest of the trailing saga. [Full review in Spanish]

A “How the West was Won” for the streaming era, a choppy, ponderous and episodic horse opera

"“Horizon” is the kind of auteur project that makes one long for the idea of studio notes, for anyone to push back on Costner’s worst instincts. Unfortunately, he proves to be the judge, jury and executioner of his own passion project."

The film may be pretty to look at, but this passion project isn’t likely to generate much of it.

Retroactively treating the frontier as the direction in which we were always headed is a slick way to absolve individual settlers of making the decision – then and now – to benefit from genocide.

The often bewildering and somewhat underwhelming first installment of Kevin Costner's Western epic is long on characters but short on story.

Instead of kickstarting a stimulating overview of survival and antagonism, the feature just lays on the screen, mostly lacking dramatic inspiration and concise writing.

The film’s impressive sense of scale and majesty is amplified by the swirling John Debney musical score. It’s just a pity that the exposition is so clunky and so slow on the draw.

Nobody has done more to keep the western flame kindling on the big screen than Kevin Costner, but the audacity of his latest rodeo feels like overreach, if not outright folly

Additional Info

  • Genre : Drama
  • Release Date : June 28, 2024

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COMMENTS

  1. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

    Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (Chinese: 西遊·降魔篇) is a 2013 fantasy comedy film co-written and produced by Stephen Chow and co-directed by Chow and Derek Kwok. The movie was first announced in July 2011 and was released on February 10, 2013 in China. The film is a loose comedic re-interpretation of the 16th-century novel Journey to the West, a Chinese literary classic ...

  2. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013)

    Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons: Directed by Stephen Chow, Chi-Kin Kwok. With Shu Qi, Zhang Wen, Huang Bo, Show Lo. Tang Sanzang, an aspiring Buddhist hero tries to protect a village from three demons. He develops complex feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who repeatedly helps him, and finally quests to meet the legendary Monkey King.

  3. List of media adaptations of Journey to the West

    Depiction of the Forbidden Temple's Sun Wukong as depicted in a scene in a Beijing opera. The pilgrims Sun Wukong, Tang Sanzang, Zhu Bajie, and Sha Wujing at Western Paradise in production The Monkey Sun (Theatre Esence, 1984). Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, was written in the 16th century and attributed to Wu Cheng'en. Stories and characters ...

  4. Journey to the West (2021 film)

    Journey to the West (Chinese: 宇宙探索编辑部; pinyin: Yǔzhòu tànsuǒ biānjí bù; lit. 'Universe Exploration Editorial Department') is a 2021 Chinese film written and directed by Kong Dashan in his feature film debut. The English title is inspired by the 16th century Chinese literary classic of the same name.It had its world premiere at the 5th Pingyao International Film Festival in ...

  5. The Hit New Film Pushing Chinese Sci-Fi Into Unexplored Territory

    Kong Dashan's award-winning feature "Journey to the West" is generating huge buzz in China — and showing there is more to Chinese sci-fi than Liu Cixin. In Kong Dashan's hit new movie "Journey to the West," the aliens aren't hiding in the corn fields of the U.S. Midwest. They're lurking in the villages of northern China.

  6. Journey to the West (TV Series 1986-2000)

    Journey to the West: With Liu Xiao Ling Tong, Dehua Ma, Huaili Yan, Shaohua Xu. Participate in the legendary long pilgrimage of Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk Tang Shen, who traveled to the western regions of Central Asia and India to obtain sacred Buddhist texts.

  7. Somehow, 'Journey to the West' is China's Latest Sci-fi Sensation

    Released in Chinese cinemas on April Fool's Day, director Kong Dashan's Journey to the West (宇宙探索编辑部, Yuzhou Tansuo Bianjibu) has only grossed 6 million USD so far. However, the film has earned its place among the highest-rated Chinese sci-fi movies of all time: It received an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 on Douban, a ...

  8. Journey to the West (Original Series 1986) Eng Sub

    Journey to the West (Chinese: 西遊記; pinyin: Xī Yóu Jì) is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en....

  9. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2013)

    With a subtitle "conquering the demons", JOURNEY TO THE WEST is Hong Kong megastar-turned-filmmaker Stephen Chow's re-imagination of the Chinese proverbial fantasy story, almost two decades after his iconic incarnation of Monkey King in Jeffrey Lau's by turns infectiously funny and archly romantic two-parts pan-Chinese comedy apotheosis A ...

  10. Journey to the West (Official Movie Site)

    In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one's self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them ...

  11. Journey to the West

    Journey to the West, foremost Chinese comic novel, written by Wu Cheng'en, a novelist and poet of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The novel is based on the actual 7th-century pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang (602-664) to India in search of sacred texts. The story itself was already a part of Chinese folk and literary tradition in the form of colloquial stories, a poetic novelette ...

  12. Still unbeaten: Journey to the West (1986, TV series)

    Reading Journey to the West. I wrote about Pleco's e-book Journey to the West a while back. The online dictionary offers its own graded reader series for the Chinese Classics, suitable for non-native speakers. Pleco's Journey to the West is an abridged version for intermediate learners which stays true to the original as far as I can tell ...

  13. Journey to the West (西游记)

    Sun Wukong, the 'Monkey King' with amazing powers, is punished for always causing trouble and mischief. When the Tang Monk makes a journey to the West, it is...

  14. Journey to the West Movie Cast, Plot and Everything to Know

    Universal Pictures has unveiled official trailer for Despicable Me 4. Watch now! Journey to the West on DVD May 27, 2014 starring Qi Shu, Zhang Wen, Bo Huang, Show Lo. This is a world plagued by demons, who cause its human inhabitants unspeakable suffering. Young demon hunter Xuan Zang, fearlessly guided by.

  15. [FULL] Journey to the West EP.1丨China Drama

    ️ Watch full episodes with English subs: https://bit.ly/30C4uGw🔔 Subscribe to our channel NOW 👉 https://bit.ly/C-Drama 👈【TV Series】 Journey to the West ...

  16. Journey to the West

    Journey to the West (Chinese: 西遊記; pinyin: Xīyóujì) is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en.It is regarded as one of the greatest Classic Chinese Novels, and has been described as arguably the most popular literary work in East Asia. Arthur Waley's 1942 abridged translation, Monkey, is known in English-speaking countries.

  17. Journey to the West (2014) Movie

    1h 50m. ratings. (63) borrow. Cast Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, Huang Bo, Show Lo. Directors Stephen Chow, Chi-Kin Kwok. Writers Stephen Chow, Derek Kwok. Producers Stephen Chow, Ivy Kong. In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all ...

  18. Midnight Blur Films

    Journey to the West is a documentary film produced by Midnight Blur Films, a Chinese film production company that specializes in global film industry integration. The film follows the journey of four young Chinese filmmakers who travel to France to participate in the Cannes Film Festival, exploring their dreams, challenges and cultural differences.

  19. Journey to the West (2021)

    Journey to the West: Directed by Dashan Kong. With Haoyu Yang, Liya Ai, Qiming Jiang, Yitong Wang. Tang Zhijun, an editor of a science fiction magazine, tries to find signs of alien civilization.

  20. Journey To The West Movie CLIP

    Subscribe to TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/sxaw6hSubscribe to COMING SOON: http://bit.ly/H2vZUnLike us on FACEBOOK: http://goo.gl/dHs73Follow us on TWITTER: http:/...

  21. Mia Goth and Ti West are on a mission to convert horror skeptics with

    West is optimistic about his proselytizing efforts, arguing that "MaXXXine" is, at its core, simply a "fun summer movie." The film's impressive cast, including Kevin Bacon, Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Debicki and Lily Collins, is perhaps a testament to West's theory. "I think, somewhat historically, for me, the people who like my movies the most are people that are on the fence ...

  22. Journey to the West (1986 TV series)

    1 October 1986. ( 1986-10-01) Journey to the West is a Chinese television series adapted from the classic 16th-century novel of the same title. The first 11 episodes of the series were first broadcast on CCTV in China on 1 October 1986. The series became an instant classic in China and was praised for being one of the most original and faithful ...

  23. Mia Goth and Ti West are on a mission to convert horror ...

    As Mia Goth and Ti West walked the red carpet for the premiere of "MaXXXine," the final installment of the pair's A24 horror trilogy that hits theaters July 5, a group of hired "protesters ...

  24. Horizon An American Saga Chapter 1

    Add Horizon An American Saga Chapter 1 to your digital Wishlist and follow along for updates. In the great tradition of Warner Bros. Pictures' iconic Westerns, Horizon: An American Saga explores the lure of the Old West and how it was won— and lost—through the blood, sweat and tears of many. Spanning the four years of the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, Kevin Costner's ambitious ...

  25. ថាងចេងចម្លងធម៌ ភាគទី 31 Journey to the West រឿងចិន

    ថាងចេងចម្លងធម៌ ភាគទី 31 Journey to the West រឿងចិន | រឿងភាគចិន ...

  26. Journey to the West (2010 TV series)

    14 February 2010. ( 2010-02-14) Journey to the West is a Chinese television series adapted from the 16th-century novel of the same title. The series was directed and produced by Cheng Lidong and starred Zhenxiang, Victor Chen, Xie Ning and Mou Fengbin in the leading roles. It was first aired on Zhejiang Satellite TV (ZJSTV) in China on 14 ...

  27. Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King

    Journey to the West: Legends of the Monkey King is a 1998 animated series produced by China Central Television and the CINAR Corporation. It is based on the 16th-century novel Journey to the West.There are 26 episodes (52 segments) in total, with a duration of about 22 minutes each (11 minutes per segment), along with a 75-minute prequel television film.