Her and Journey to the West

Summer                                                          New (Most Heat) Moon

By way of cinema reviews. Saw “Her” last night and “Journey to the West” tonight. Though very different culturally both encourage us to stretch our understanding of reality to include the fantastic, Her through science fiction and Journey to the West through very loose adaptation of Chinese classic literature.

Kate found Her too slow, too odd, too much altogether and declared, “This isn’t holding my interest.” got up and did other things. In spite of the dorky ear plugs that signaled connection to the Operating System (btw: OS seemed like a bad techno-term for Samantha, the artificial person created through use of computers. Not sure why they didn’t go with program, but the oddness of the choice distracted me.) I found the questions raised by the movie intriguing.

What would it be like to be an intelligent, feeling entity with no body? What it would be like to have a non-corporeal lover? What algorithm could cause us to fall in love? What would fidelity mean to such an entity? All these questions get raised. Ironically the main character, Joaquin Phoenix’s job is to write real letters, often love letters, for other people.

Yes, it was a little slow at times, though I felt the time necessary to play with the idea of a computer/human relationship.  Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson (voice of Samantha) added contemporary female starpower.

Journey to the West was a major disappointment. It combined the sometimes entertaining but very broad comedy sometimes seen in Chinese cinema, think Kung Fu Hustle by the same director, Stephen Chow, with ridiculous set piece scenes and a remarkable lack of fidelity to the Chinese class, Journey to the West. The Monkey King is the key character in Journey to the West as literature, but here he comes in very late in the movie, well into the final third and he comes in as a caricature and not a good one.

The original Monkey King is mischievous and unpredictable, but he also has a noble, courageous side that this movie ignores. The CGI effects were often very good, but used in the service of a juvenile script. China can do better than this with their own literary classics.

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