500 years after Sun Wukong's (Aaron Kwok) imprisonment under the Five Fingers Mountain, a young Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) sets out for a journey to the Thunder Monastery in India to collect Buddha's scriptures. On his travels he accidentally frees Wukong and the Monkey King learns that he has to protect the monk throughout the journey, being bound by an enchanted headband that can cause him pain. Soon the duo meet Zhu Bajie (Xiaoshenyang), a lustful pig demon, and Sha Wujing (Him Law), a djinn-like monk.
The company travel to the Yun Hai Xi Kingdom, a land terrorized by the White Bone Demon (Gong Li) who snatches children. As the demoness learns about Sanzang, she decides to eat him in order to stop her reincarnation cycle and achieve everlasting demon-hood. She takes appearance of an old woman and lures the group into a cottage in the woods. While her disguised minions occupy Wukong, Bajie and Wujing, the demoness tells Sanzang a story about how she was forced to marry as a young girl, and when her village suffered with famine, the people blamed her for it, even calling her an evil demon, and attempted to kill her as a sacrifice to the gods. As Tang comforts the old lady, she attempts to kill him, but is stopped by Wukong. The demoness escapes and leaves the dead body of the old lady behind. Sanzang and the others don't believe Wukong that all the women he murdered were demons, and blame him for killing the innocent.
The group arrives to the kingdom's capital and the King (Fei Xiang) throws a feast for them, begging Sanzang to exorcise the bloodthirsty demoness from their land. Suddenly Lady White appears and demands the monk, but he offers her his help in enlightenment instead. She tries to persuade Wukong to let her devour the monk, but he deceives her instead, and a fight ensues. During the chaos, the King's guards kidnap Tang, It is revealed that it's been actually the King kidnapping and killing the children in a desperate attempt to cure himself of a cursed disease. He tries to kill Sanzang, but Wukong arrives and saves the monk and the surviving children as well. All of the group are celebrated as heroes, but as a little girl approaches Sanzang, Wukong beats her to death and her mother as well, seeing White Bone Demon possessing both of them. In a fit of anger and disbelief, Tang banishes Wukong away, but as soon as he does, he gets snatched away by the demoness.
In the demoness' lair, she breaks Sanzang's resistance by revealing him the story she had told him earlier was true, recounting her previous life as a mortal. Sanzang gets to understand her motives and gives up, but is saved by Wukong at the last minute. Wukong, Baije and Wujing fight the White Bone Demon and her army and finally defeat her, with Wukong wounding her mortally. Sanzang, however, pleads Buddha to save her soul from destruction, only to realize he would have to sacrifice his own life. The monk offers his help to the demoness one last time, but she refuses and kills herself. Saddened, Tang begs Wukong to kill him, too. The Monkey King refuses at first, but then understands the monk's desire to help the demoness change her doom, and tearfully agrees, promising Sanzang to wait for his return, and ends his life by changing him into a Buddha statue. Because of Sanzang's sacrifice, he succeeds in leading the demoness to her reincarnation to human, freeing her of her pain and hatred.
Some time later, Wukong and his friends still wait for the return of the monk, but continue their journey to the Thunder Monastery. It seems that Sanzang actually reenters life, as a human finger cracks through the Buddha statue that Wukong is carrying.Aaron Kwok as Sun Wukong, the Monkey King
Gong Li as Baigujing, the White Bone Demon
Feng Shaofeng as Tang Sanzang the Buddhist monk
Xiaoshenyang as Zhu Bajie the pig demon
Him Law as Sha Wujing the water-buffalo
Fei Xiang as the king of Yun Hai Xi Kingdom (literally Western Kingdom of Sea of Clouds)
Kelly Chen as Guan Yin, the Mercy Goddess
Lu Weu, Xi'er Qi and Miya Muqi as the evil spirits snake, bat and pig.
Filmko Entertainment first announced a sequel for The Monkey King on 13 February 2014. Wan Haifeng, Chairman of Filmko, also stated that Louis Koo has confirmed to join the sequel and portray the role of Tang Sanzang, while also negotiating with Chow Yun-fat to reprise his role as the Jade Emperor in the sequel.
Aaron Kwok, who portrayed the Bull Demon King in The Monkey King, announced on his Sina Weibo account that he would be portraying Sun Wukong in the sequel, replacing Donnie Yen from the previous installment. To prepare for his role, Kwok took several months of martial arts training before the shoot. During filming, Kwok had to undergo six hours of makeup and an additional three hours to clean it up daily. On 27 November, it was reported that Gong Li will join the cast, portraying the role of Baigujing, the White Skeleton Demon, and will be paid HK$40 million for the role. Additional cast members that were announced by Filmko Entertainment later include Feng Shaofeng as Tang Sanzang, a role that was previously reported to be portrayed by Louis Koo, Xiaoshenyang as Zhu Bajie, and Him Law, who portrayed Muzha in the previous installments, as Sha Wujing.
Principal photography began in December 2014 in Wuxi Studio. The 3D supervisor Sean Kelly from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit joined the production crew. Special Makeup Effects supervised by Shaun Smith. Visual effects supervised by Oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor Jacques Stroweis. Filmko Entertainment is co-producing the film with an additional 11 production companies that were yet to be revealed. On 28 February 2015, main cast members Kwok, Gong, Feng, Xiaoshenyang and Law took blessings at a Buddhist temple in Wuxi as the film was heading into the final stages of filming.
On 24 December, the film held a press conference in Wuxi where it was attended by the film's producer Kiefer Liu, director Cheang Pou-soi, action director Sammo Hung, and main cast members Aaron Kwok, Gong Li, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang, and Him Law. During the event it was announced that the film will be released on 8 February 2016, the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday period, which is also the first day of the Year of the Monkey.
The Monkey King opened simultaneously with The Mermaid and From Vegas to Macau III in China and recorded an opening day of US$25 million.
Elizabeth Kerr of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a fun spin on a well-worn legend." Maggie Lee of Variety called the film "less of a dud than the director’s inane original". James Marsh of Screen Daily describes the script and the video effects as an improvement on the previous movie. Edward Lee of the South China Morning Post described it as a "vastly improved" sequel.
Rotten Tomatoes lists 5 positive reviews for The Monkey King 2 with an average rating of 7/10.
A sequel, The Monkey King 3, is scheduled for release in China on February 16, 2018. On December 4, 2016, it was announced that Zhao Liying would play the role of the Ruler of Women's Country. The original cast members of The Monkey King 2; Aaron Kwok, Feng Shaofeng, Xiaoshenyang and Him Law would be reprising their roles as Sun Wukong, Tang Sanzang, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing respectively in the film.