The Monkey King

Christopher Young

" Christopher Young's the King "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

One of the most enduring stories in Chinese history for some, a bit ridiculous for others. The Monkey King might divide people with its visual storytelling look, you can't deny that the music will raise eyebrows no matter how much hair there is on them. Christopher Young was brought on board because the producers wanted this movie to sell abroad. Ultimately that never happened, but the score sure turned into something amazing. The kind of amazing that isn't heard that frequently anymore. Because where do you find long tracks with constant development and ideas, and not with stop and start sequences because they need to follow the flow of the film? No, in here Young was asked to be as fluently as possible, let the music be an emotional cornerstone instead of a functioning underscore. No matter if the music may be your kind of thing or not, please embrace the fact filmmusic for once was equally important of its visual counterpart.

Large, epic, melodic, powerful, demanding and ferocious. Young delivers tunes and themes and Chinese ideas throughout 70 minutes of no nonsense scoring. The kind that never lets up the moment it ignites the passion in "Yu Huang Da Di, The Jade Emperor". Those first 5 minutes are nothing less of groundbreaking ferocity, rhythm and melody colliding with sheer enthusiasm, never letting up until it unleashes my most favorite moment of all, an epic heroic minute of never heard again enthusiasm (from 4.22 embrace your ears). That it ends rather atonal is just a mere fact of life.

Because where it can be big, it can be relaxing too. The beautiful "Tieshan Gongzhu, The Princess Iron Fan", the playful "Ruxue, The Silver Fox" and "Erlang Shen, The Three-Eyed Warrior", the relaxing (though not perfectly sung) "Guan Yin, The Goddess of Mercy" and the catchy "Subhuti, The Old Master" are all teasers for the real entree, namely powerful filmmusic cues full of life, power and guts. The kind where powerful percussion, foreboding choir and fluent melodies weave through one another in unison ("Ao Kuang, The Dragon King of the East Sea"). The kind where magical and tantalizing choir meet the main theme in all its glory ("Nuwa, The Goddess of Works"). The kind where cool yet angry guitar get mixed with soothing final phrases in an otherwise powerful bad guy cue ("Niu Mo Wang, The Bull Demon King"). A track that goes up to 16 minutes in length and never shuts up because the score might change pace. No the music changes pace instead and shows composers deserve to get that kind of creative freedom to tie all their ideas together.

And all that ends with "Sun Wukong, The Monkey King", a conclusion in style due to the glorious re appearance of the epic main theme. The song after it I'm not that excited about, but it doesn't have to end the experience once you program it out. Ladies and Gentlemen, for a brief while this score was highly sought after, simply because of its electrifying qualities. And many years ago, that might have stayed that way. But in this day and age where labels are trying to remind us of the explosive force of filmmusic, The Monkey King quickly received its much deserved release. Again, if you don't fall madly in love with this kind of no nonsense grandeur, please remind yourself it might be because it presents itself as a golden age ferocity instead, and not a stop and start experience that only functions in a film because it needs to. Perhaps you're just experiencing a return to filmmusic when it was important to be heard inside and outside its context. Booya, this is mighty impressive stuff, and I loved it immensely.

Track Listing

1. Yu Huang Da Di, The Jade Emperor (7.14) Excellent track
2. Tieshan Gongzhu, The Princess Iron Fan (3.22)
3. Ao Kuang, The Dragon King of the East Sea (9.50) Excellent track
4. Nuwa, The Goddess of Works (7.59) Excellent track
5. Ruxue, The Silver Fox (5.41)
6. Erlang Shen, The Three-Eyed Warrior (3.15)
7. Guan Yin, The Goddess of Mercy (3.26)
8. Subhuti, The Old Master (2.32) Excellent track
9: Niu Mo Wang, The Bull Demon King (16.53)
10. Sun Wukong, The Monkey King (8.40) Excellent track
11. Just Dreams (4.36)

Total Length: 73.28
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 10 votes - average 4.65/5)

Released by

Intrada Special Collection Volume 338 (regular release 2015)

Conducted by

Nic Raine

Orchestrations by

Peter Bateman, Sebastian C. Besquet, Francesco De Chirico, Lasse Elkjær, Pantawit Kiangsiri, Sean McMahon, Thomas Parisch, Joohyun Park, Patrick Russ, Megumi Sasano, David Shephard, Laurent Ziliani & Min He

Peformed by

The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra & The Lucnica Chorus