Directed by renowned Chinese director Chen Kaige, Monk Comes Down the Mountain tells the story of Taoist monk, He Anxia and his journey from monastery life to the real world where he meets various larger than life characters who will test his morality and his understanding of the meaning of life.
Chen Kaige has long been an admirer of Animal Logic’s work and it was a great opportunity to work with one of China’s most esteemed directors.
The film is set in Hangzhou in the 1930’s and the VFX work includes period environments of Hangzhou, enhancing the martial arts super powers, hallucinations, Chi effects, car stunts, digital doubles, sinking a pleasure boat on Westlake and an animated origin story.
Overall we delivered 500 shots for the film.
Monk opened at No 1 in the Chinese box office and took in US$28 million in its first 3 days.
Anxia arrives in the bustling town of 1930’s Hangzhou overlooking the picturesque Westlake. The road and the street façade was shot on a backlot set in Shanghai, everything beyond that was a CG extension with a 2.5D Matte Painting in the background based on panoramas shot in Westlake.
Anxia arrives at Dao Ning’s Pharmacy. Matte Painting set extensions looking down the street with blue screen extras in the distance.
On a picturesque evening on Westlake the adulterous couple Doarong and Yuzhen are killed in their pleasure boat. Anxia sinks the boat in revenge for the death of his first Master Daoning.
Three multi-armed Gods watch over the sinking boat. Westlake is actually quite shallow but Kaige wanted to see these large submerged sculptures underneath casting judgment on the scene.
In a meditative state, Anxia and the monk Rusong transcend existence and meet each other in a lotus field.
Anxia becomes the disciple of various masters who reveal to him new martial arts techniques such as the “nine dragon harmony” and the “Ape Strike technique.”
Zhao Xinchuan demonstrates the Nine Dragon Harmony to Anxia. Using his Chi energy he controls the objects in the fish tank, they heat up and explode. All the props inside the tank were scanned and recreated as CG props with Chi energy, water, and sand particles added as FX simulations.
Zhao faces off the head of the Peng Clan, Peng Qianwu, in a basketball court. Zhao Xinchuan controls basketballs and uses his Chi to throw Peng back through the wire fence.
Zhou grabs Anxia away from the attacking Peng and with great speed exits the temple. This shot was realized using CG doubles of Anxia and Zhou as it was an impossible to achieve the stunt practically using wires.
Zhou has the ability to control the speed of objects and uses the water column as a weapon to disarm Peng’s Nine Dragon harmony. The Ape Strike Technique is about the ability to control the speed of an object, a soft object such as a petal can used to destroy a rock or water traveling at great speed can defeat an opponents chi energy.
A high speed shot showing Peng’s 9 Dragon Harmony battling against Zhou’s water column. We shot some water exploding out of a funnel at 1000 fps which Kaige loved. This became our main reference for the water FX in this scene. Realized as a full CG environment with CG water and Chi FX. The actors were shot separately against Blue screen at separate times due to availability.
Across the many martial arts scenes we had 250 wire removal shots. In this 180-degree shot there were 16 actors suspended on wires connected to a large rig above the set. An extra plate pass and green screen sprites were used to extend out the crowd in the background.
In a symbolic moment Boss Zha uses his spear to lift up Zhou’s blood soaked death shroud from the lake.
At the end of the film in a repeat gesture Zha uses his spear to flip Liren’s car over into the river.
The film ends with Zha and Anxia training on top of tall peak. The Background plates were shot at Dinghu Peak using a drone with a Red Epic. The actors were shot separately against green screen.