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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Monster Hunt 2, Review: Monstrous, preposterous, Wubastrous

Monster Hunt 2, Review: Monstrous, preposterous, Wubastrous

Three years ago, a HongKong-Chinese dubbed animation firm in 3D captured the imagination of audiences worldwide. In a mythical land where monsters and humans co-exist, a royal baby born to a mortal father and monster mother became the centre of an epic adventure. It is important to realise that the baby was carried in his ‘womb’ by his father, not his mother. In 2018, when the original is now a Netflix ‘Original’, here comes Part 2, and, mercifully, in 2D. Released in native China on February 16, it has been raking in money ever since. This week, it comes to India and the cast includes Taiwanese actors.

Our hero is Wuba, so called because that is all he speaks. Wuba is on his own journey through monster realm, where his parents have left him, being of the view that he would best fit-in with monsters, since his looks are anything but human. The darker forces of the evil monster king are in search of Wuba and keep reappearing in various disguises to kidnap him. Wuba meets compulsive gambler and cheater Tu and BenBen, his escape artiste, a human-monster team, and they rescue Wuba many times. Meanwhile, Huo Xiaolan and Song Tianyin, Wuba’s parents, are in search of Wuba.

They meet Yunqing, who works for the Monster Hunter Bureau, and decide to visit the place, being monster hunters themselves. They get their weapons upgraded, acquire new arms and find new friends. Soon, they find that all is not what it seems, and they must rescue Wuba before he falls in the wrong hands. However, they have no clue about his whereabouts. Just then, they learn of a method that could indicate his current position.

Screenplay by Jack Ng, Sunny Chan and Su Liang takes off from Alan Yuen’s first instalment so smoothly that it is difficult to believe that the writers are different. The three screenplayists give a huge nod to James Bond’s Quartermaster, Q, by replicating a weapons division within the Monster Hunters’ Bureau. In fact, they go one step ahead and suggest a sublime affair between the quixotic genius and Tianyin. A hilarious track is built-in featuring a blind and deaf but not mute physician. Possibly inspired by Casino Royale, the gambler Tu tumbles from roulette to mahjong to what have you.

All these are competently managed by director Raman Hui (I am not suggesting that the first name has Indian origins. Most Chinese have two names: one is the original Mandarin and another is a Christian sounding Western name. You will find a million such examples in China, Taiwan, HongKong and Singapore. In his case, Raman is a corruption of Raymond, which is what his father wanted to name him, but could not spell. But yes, Raman did spemf two years in India while on deputation from Dreamworks).

After graduating in 1984 with a degree in graphic design from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Raman moved to Canada in 1989, where he worked as an animator on feature films, including Batman Forever and The Arrival. He supervised the animation and led the character design for Antz, and was supervising animator on Shrek and Shrek 2. In 2007, he co-directed the third film in the series, Shrek the Third, and made his debut as a solo feature film director in 2015, with Monster Hunt. Back to Monster Hunt 2.

Since Wuba does not speak, Hui uses other pegs to generate comedy and thrills. They all come together towards the climax, which, in the context of The Avengers’ extended attacks-counter-attacks, cannot escape comparison. Elements of superhero combat, however, take a different colour here, with at least three of the heroes being pure mortals, enchanted armoury notwithstanding. There are segments where the narrative drags, especially in the numerous chase sequences. Luckily, they are not too long.

Bai Baihe and Jing Boran reprise their roles in the same loving, endearing manner. Tony Leung as Tu Sigu, the gambler gets a meaty role, allowing him to show a range of emotions. Some might find a bit of similarity bewteem him and Jackie Chan. Li Yuchun as Zhu Jinzhen, the physically well-endowed Monster Hunter with a secret, plays along convincingly. Tony Yang as Yunqing, Huang Lei as the Physician, Sandra Ng as Ying. Eric Tsang as Zhugao, Wu Mochou as Xiaobaozi, Song Xiaobao, Da Peng and Liu Yan constitute the supporting cast. And how can we forget that magic ball, the little radish, the four-armed ball of delight, Wuba.

The print we saw was screened after 10 pm and it was just after midnight when the audience trooped out. Had the film not been so delightful, it might have been an ordeal, getting back home for a 1 am dinner. What he had instead was a version dubbed in English, with sub-titles in both Chinese and English, making it easy, fun-filled 1hour 50 minutes of sci-fi, comedy fantasy.

Rating: *** 1/2 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHWDXU8VtlM

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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