So the BBC have launched their slightly abstruse trailer for the Olympics
. It being a two minute summary of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey To The West, better known in the west as MONKEY. The animated two minute trail takes a while to get on to the subject of the Olympics, and is subtitled Journey To The East – as that is what the BBC will be doing to cover the Olympics (DO YOU SEE). One assumes the music and imagery are largely based on the recent stage version of Journey To The West by Damon Albarn and Chen Shi-zheng, designed by Jamie Hewlett whose animation is unmistakable here. Fun that it is, it will probably infuriate a lot of people, and confuse anyone under thirty. Unless they know the story of the Monkey King all that well. Which they may have picked up a bit from Dragonballz, or seen the recent Jet Li, Jackie Chan film The Forbidden Kingdom.

In The Forbidden Kingdom, Jet Li pays the Monkey King with some awesome stick on whiskers. However it eschews the traditional story of Journey To The West and instead turns him into stone in the first third. This would be a waste of Jet Li, if he didn’t also play a mysterious monk who wants to save the Monkey King. In this his is aided in a fashion by Jackie Chan (after the obligatory meet-up misunderstanding) who appears to be reprising his breakthrough role as the Drunken Master. Both of them are actually aiding the Chosen One – who for some reason is a kung-fu fan teenager from Boston who has been transported in time for hilarious (read tedious) anachronism jokes. On the way the battle the Bride With White Hair, and hundreds of usual Wuxia army henchmen. Basically The Forbidden Army is a PG rated primer into kung-fu movies which should have been made twenty years ago. Not only would I have been young enough to enjoy it properly, but Chan and Li would have been young enough to make their pair really something special. Whilst they are impressive for old geezers, old geezers they remain and the film rests a little too much on their past glories. Whilst forgetting that in the meantime we’ve see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and possibly loads of other Hong Kong movies to make this kid friendly tale seem a little tame.

Nevertheless, there is something nice about seeing Li and Chan together. And like many Hong Kong classics, once it gets their obligatory fight out of the way, there is only one thing left to do. A sequence in which Jet Li pisses all over Jackie Chan. Literally. (When I mentioned this scene to a number of people they all reacted, unsurprised as if this is exactly what they expect from a Hong Kong action comedy). Here you can watch the highlight of the movie, where Jackie prayed for rain, but instead get u-RAIN:

So not a proper Monkey movie then. Though Stephen Chow is rumoured to be making one for 2010 – which would be something worth seeing. As, maybe, would be the Journey To The West opera which is on at the ENO at the moment which seems to be fortuitously timed with the BBC advertising it using it in for their Olympic coverage.

(By the way watch this space for OUR exciting Olympic coverage!!!)