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U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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“The Monkey King:” writing an antihero

Newly+released+Monkey+King+stays+true+to+the+original+story+while+adding+stimulating+visual+elements.
The New York Times
Newly released “Monkey King” stays true to the original story while adding stimulating visual elements.

The Monkey King glares down at Lin, dusk light highlighting his frame, “We? Who’s this we? I’m still going to join the immortal ones, just not with you,” he spits. 

The issue with making a movie based around an antihero is that it walks the fine line between making the protagonist morally gray and making the protagonist unlikable. “The Monkey King” sits on this line. 

The action comedy animated film, based on the classical Chinese novel by the same name written in the 1500s by Wu Cheng’en, was released on Netflix Aug. 18 by Pearl Studio.

The movie follows the Monkey King as he attempts to claim a place among the immortal ones by killing demons. After he is ignored by the immortal ones, even after he proves himself, he tries to become immortal himself. When he and his companion, a sentient staff named Stick, start to travel with a young girl named Lin, he is forced to battle his biggest threat, his own ego.

He is often rude to Lin, coming off as generally arrogant and self-centered. But what makes him an antihero instead of a jerk is the multiple genuine moments between him and Lin. Hidden under his jokes and rude jabs, is his true desire — to be loved and to belong.

The Monkey King is meant to be a rebel, someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what is expected of him. In the original story he is a playful trickster. In the movie, his past causes him to push away the people close to him. He lacks classic hero attributes because of this. 

The film is mostly in 3D animation but has a brief scene that shifts into a drastically different 2D animation style to show Monkey King’s progression in fighting demons. This welcome change of style is fast paced and backed by rock music. 

The voice acting never felt out of place. Each character’s voice was distinct and easy to identify, similar to the character design. Jimmy O. Yang, known for his role in “Crazy Rich Asians,” voices the Monkey King and Bowen Yang from “Saturday Night Live” voices the main antagonist of the movie, the Dragon King. The sound design and score are compelling, and the movie as a whole flows nicely, if not a bit fast at some points. 

The movie got very little publicity and had a quiet release. Despite its poor promotion, “The Monkey King” shouldn’t be ignored, and deserves to be recognized as a good example of an antihero story.

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About the Contributor
Haley Maharry
Haley Maharry, Reporter
Haley Maharry is a member of the Class of 2024, and serves as a reporter. Her favorite piece she has done is an audio story called “Fencing team members find new opportunity in fencing P.E. elective.” Outside of journalism, Haley listens to horror podcasts and acts in U-High's theater.

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