• Aaron Kwok will star as the Monkey King in "The Monkey King 2."

Aaron Kwok will star as the Monkey King in "The Monkey King 2." (Photo : Reuters)

With China's film industry looking to branch out worldwide, the fantasy epic "The Monkey King 2" is starting the charge using the country's most recognizable monkey this year of the monkey, as reported by China Daily.

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The film, backed by the country's film regulator, plans to release the upcoming film in 100 cities in 30 countries across four continents on Feb. 8, the Chinese Lunar New Year. It will be subtitled in the appropriate language.

Aside from "The Monkey King 2," there will be at least four other films that will feature the Monkey King, scheduled to come out this year.

The 16th-century novel "Journey to the West," which features the Monkey King, has been adapted into at least 100 screen titles to date. Most have been in China, but other countries like Japan and the United States have also released adaptations.

Both industry analysts and critics consider the Monkey King the biggest "IP" when it comes to attracting Western audiences. "IP" refers to source material that can be turned into a successful film at the box office.

"The Monkey King 2" is backed by a budget of 450 million yuan, coming from 15 studios, as well as a star-studded cast.

Hong Kong singer-actor Aaron Kwok will portray the Monkey King in the film. He will be joined by veteran actress Gong Li as Baiguijing or While Skeleton Demon, the star of "Wolf Totem" Feng Shaofeng as Buddhist monk Tang Seng, and Chinese-American star Christian Rand Phillips as a human king.

Gong Li is one of the most recognized Asian faces in the West, being the only Chinese actress to star in films that have screened and won awards at the film festivals in Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

"I've always wanted to play a role in a film based on 'Journey to the West.' I know Baigujing is a household name, with the plots and details familiar to the Chinese, but I promise my character will be quite different from the stereotype," said Gong.

To make the film more ready to travel the world, some Western humor has been added to the dialogue to make the movie more fit for a global audience.