The contemporary cinematography, despite the different modern issues, depicts the ancient culture and traditions of different nations. The images of legendary heroes are highly popular in films. Sometimes, the directors of movies try to tell the stories of the characters that live in a fantasy rendition of certain epoch. The examples of such movies are ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ directed by Peter Jackson and ‘The Monkey King’ directed by Cheang Pou-Soi. Each of these pictures depicts the history and culture of a particular nation. The heroes of both films convey the significant meaning of national identity in their culture and history.
It is obvious that every movie tries to deliver some potentially important message to the viewers. The Hollywood picture ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is not an exception. It provides a clear and visible characteristic of the national identity of the main characters. At the beginning of the discussed film, Bilbo is devoted to his nation called the hobbits. He recognizes the importance of the place where he lives, and he considers other beings that live in that location his family and close friends. One of the most significant examples of loyalty as part of his national identity is the scene where Bilbo saves Thorin Oakenshield from the evil Orcs and their hyenas. Similarly to the American society, which is involved in contemporary warfare between many countries and nations, Bilbo, as a representative of the peaceful race, is involved in the battle that does not touch him in any sense. It is his voluntary desire to help the dwarfs. He is small and does not know the peculiarities of war and the journey he is convinced to begin. However, as a true hero, he is fearless and dedicated to the mission.
Likewise, the Chinese movie entitled ‘Monkey King’ provides even more features that are focused on the national identity. Sun Wukong (Monkey King) is a reckless and comic character, who regardless of his desire to be the best one, strives to help his people and secure them from the intruders. The film is full of Chinese history and culture that are illustrated in scenes of the movie. The clothes, mythological creatures, and martial arts are the essence of the ‘Monkey King.’
Naturally, the emphasis in the ‘Monkey King’ is dedicated to the history of China and particularly to the period when variable dynasties usurped the throne of the Chinese ruler. Furthermore, the battle between deities and demons demonstrates the eternal struggle of the Chinese rulers. Wukong represents all the good features of the protagonist, whose main aim is to save the monkeys who live in the Mount Huaguo. In comparison to Wukong, Bilbo Baggins is not a born hero. He is an average hobbit, who likes to smoke and does not like big companies. However, his national conscience is the leading motive in the movie, because he agrees to take part in the dangerous and unpredictable journey, that could lead to unforeseen consequences. Both Bilbo and Wukong love their nations and believe that they have been created for the higher purpose. Both heroes are devoted to their goals and convinced that their actions could bring salvation to their respective races. However, the national notions of Wukong and Bilbo are a little bit different, because the characters are not equal. Wukong acknowledges his supernatural powers and uses them in every suitable moment. In contrast, Bilbo is an average hobbit, who does not possess any magical abilities that can help him reach the goal. Despite that fact, Wukong and Bilbo do their best to justify their national identity as the heroes of their nations.
Beside the main heroes of the discussed pictures, there are other characters in both movies that portray the significant notion of the national identity. In the ‘Monkey King’, such person is the Jade Emperor, who observes the whole universe and cares about its prosperity and safety. He is a manifestation of the good power that rescues the Chinese society from the adversaries with negative intentions. Also, the Jade Emperor teaches and guides Wukong, who in this case represents the whole Chinese society, to eternal moral and ethical values that are the foundation of the world. In one scene, he says that immortality is for the chosen ones, and not everyone is able to bear such burden. It means the desire of the Chinese to reach the higher aim of Buddhism. Likewise, Peter Jackson’s movie has a character named Gandalf who is considered the moral paragon regarding the actions of the movie’s characters. His role is highly important in terms of the depiction of national identity, because he personifies the contemporary system of justice and law, that provides the rules of fair play, and like the mentioned system, he is able to make mistakes. Therefore, the national identity in the fantastic films delivers the notion of familiarity with the characters of the particular pictures.
Another significant aspect of the national identity of fantasy movies is the ability of the movie to communicate a sense of location. For example, the ‘Monkey King’ depicts the unique place where the title character was born. It is the Mount Huaguo, where all creatures live in peace and harmony. Only the evil ruler of the demons breaks the natural order of things. Such development of the plot could be an example of the era when the Chinese people and territory were conquered by other nations. Wukong, as the leader of the nation, is able to fight the evil ruler and provide peace for his homeland. In comparison, Bilbo’s homeland is also in danger because of the evil dragon Smaug, who terrorizes the Middle-earth. Bilbo’s aim is to deliver peace to his village. Smaug could represent the Civil War that divided the USA and led to the bloody warfare. Hence, the purpose of the main character is to fight the terrible dragon and unite the divided kingdom. Thus, the pictures’ locations also represent the national identity of different cultures and ages.
It is highly obvious that Chinese movies have the explicit notion of the national influence. Almost every fantasy film, including ‘Monkey King,’ includes the features of the national culture of China. For instance, the emphasis on the martial arts is notable in the ‘Monkey King.’ Every scene in the movie is devoted to the national heritage of the Chinese culture by depicting the extraordinary costumes and traditions. The teacher of Wukong is an example of an ancient Chinese sage, who is dedicated to the wisdom of Buddha and morality. Even the final scene of the movie, where Wukong is buried by Five-Peaked-Mountain, delivers the sense of the Chinese history. It is an undeniable fact that Chinese films are the first ones in the world that show the cultural heritage of China, especially, since such traditional touches in fantasy films are very popular in contemporary China. Thus, without any doubts, the inheritance of the Chinese history and traditions plays an important role in the cinematography.
To conclude, movies ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ and ‘The Monkey King’ represent the cultural heritage and national identity of the heroes that are involved in the films. However, the national notions of Wukong and Bilbo are a little bit different, because the characters are not equal. Beside the main heroes of the discussed pictures, there are other characters in both movies that depict the significant notion of the national identity. The significant aspect of the national identity present in the fantasy movies is the ability of the pictures to communicate a sense of location. It is an undeniable fact that Chinese movies are the first ones in the world that show the cultural heritage of China.