I love Chinese wuxia – always have, always will. To me they are the epitome of what makes Asian culture so fantastic, so beautiful, so….Asian! It’s the Asian equivalent of the western medieval world, a fantasy setting where the knights in shining armour are replaced by philosophical warriors, often championing peace and harmony as opposed to bloodshed. It’s also a setting in which it’s refreshingly common to see the female characters as strong (and as numerous!) as their male counterparts.
Monk Comes Down the Mountain was shaping up to be one of the best wuxia movie’s I’ve seen to date. It had all of the elements I enjoy – from energy molding martial arts amazingness to simply stunning Chinese settings to an undertone of light-hearted comedy.
It started by following the monk He Anxia as he was sent from his mountain monastery home into the wide world below. “Unless you go, you’ll never find the way back,” his master said in parting – in true wuxia fashion. Not knowing anything about the world, Anxia soon found himself in trouble, but taken in and saved by a kindly doctor.
But the doctor’s problems became Anxia’s – his foolish younger brother was sleeping with his wife and soon moved to outright do away with him, thus the orphan Anxia was left again without a home. As Anxia moved from one master to another, he quickly became nothing but backstory – and this is what disappointed me the most.
Despite the movie being set in some of the most amazingly beautiful Hangzhou inspired environments, despite some awesome martial arts and seriously good special effects – the story of Anxia himself simply played second fiddle to other Kungfu masters battling it out.
You see Anxia himself was fantastic! Baoqiang Wang absolutely nailed this naive, almost Sun Wukong-like monk as he learned about life in the developed world below. A particular highlight is the way he simply cracked up when the doctor mentioned sex, laughing in such an innocently infectious way that I couldn’t wait to follow his journey. But as the movie went on – while he was still a part of it, he really was nothing more than background, and this I found disappointing.
But in saying that I did enjoy the colourful characters and would certainly recommend the movie to any fans of Wuxia. Special shoutout to the always awesome Aaron Kwok who shined as Kungfu Master Zhou Xiyu – but man, I wanted more He Anxia!
Have you seen this movie? What did you think?
Are you a fellow fan of wuxia? What’s your favourite movie?