Australian-New Zealand TV adaptation of ‘Journey to the West’ draws flak online

Nurul Azliah
Senior Lifestyle Reporter
Thai-Australian actor Chai Romruen plays Monkey King in ABC TV’s “The New Legends of Monkey”. (Photo: Facebook video screenshot/ ABC TV)

“The New Legends of Monkey”, a recent TV adaptation of the Chinese classic “Journey To The West”, has drawn flak online ever since the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) released the trailer on Tuesday (1 January).

The show, inspired by the popular 16th Century Chinese novel, will air on 28 January and is directed by New Zealand director Gerard Johnstone. The cast consists of Lucia Buchanan and Josh Thomson from New Zealand, and Emilie Cocquerel and Chai Romruen – who is half-Thai – from Australia.

The trailer posted on Facebook has since garnered nearly 4,000 comments, which mainly critique the show’s overly polished look, lack of alignment with the previous renditions and not having a full Asian cast.

It looks too 21st Century. The beauty of Monkey was the bad English dubbing, lady actor playing a boy priest, cheesy, low key props and a total lack of CGI,” said a Natasha Cooper.

A comment by a Claud Mottolini said, “Another rendition of the epic Asian saga Journey to the West… retold by a group of actors from a whole host of different ethnic backgrounds, except Asian.”

ABC TV gave a standardised reply to some of these comments. In defence of the show, they highlighted that “The New Legends of Monkey” is a complete “re-imagining of the myth” adapted to cater to young audiences internationally.

“Older viewers may recognise elements familiar to other adaptations that screened in the 1980s. We hope that they will also find much to love in this new, epic children’s series inspired by the same source material,” they said.

However, ABC TV’s reply did little to stop the in flux of comments bashing the yet-to-be-aired show. Here are more reactions to the trailer:

(Photo: Facebook screenshot)
(Photo: Facebook screenshot)
(Photo: Facebook screenshot)

“Journey to the West” is a Chinese novel from the 16th century that many claim was written by a Wu Cheng’en. A popular English adaptation was written by writer Arthur David Waley in 1942 and entitled “Monkey”.

“The New Legends of Monkey” is the latest of a slew of media adaptations of the show, one of which even aired on Singapore’s Channel 8.

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