The stodgy experience of being dragged through an illustrated history textbook is compounded by sickly spirituality in Xuan Zang, a Chinese studio epic that's big on budget, small on taste. At least the illustrations are spectacular, if woefully overcooked; sometimes it's the most basic details that are also the best, and it's thus with gratitude indeed that I embraced this film's own simple embrace of colour. Beneath the heavy-handed grading and CGI, Xuan Zang's images are quite captivating, and necessarily so, for their duty is to cover up the void of interest and inspiration that otherwise pervades this tiresome historical drama. It's a journey through buddhist theology without the enlightenment, a routine exploration of select events in the famous travels of its titular monk. There's surely a limitless array of fascinating situations to be examined in this decades-long tale, yet Huo Jian Qi's film displays practically zero concern for anything of the sort, preferring instead to rhyme off theological platitudes in place of a properly stimulating interpretation. Xuan Zang ambles aimlessly along, a montage of glittery sights and glib sounds, both leading nowhere and getting nowhere. Huang Xiao Ming is a fitfully hollow presence in the lead role, as emotionally vacuous as the film around him, where the potential existed for proving the worth of its own existence, to give the film some tangible purpose. As it is, Xuan Zang's only such raison d'etre appears to be for appearance alone, as a selection of screensavers for the spiritual soul. I'll stick with my Windows ribbons tyvm.