Movie Review: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Set in ancient China, The Forbidden Kingdom is a mix of cinematic influences. It stops short of tiresome and of brilliance. It is quality cheese.

Nerdy Kung-Fu enthusiast Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) spends enough time at the local video store to get chummy with the owner Old Hop (Jackie Chan). When Old Hop is attacked, he entrusts Jason with a great task – return an ancient staff to the rightful owner. This magical staff transports him in time, to the time of the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) and the Monkey King (Jet Li). Soon he realizes he is way over his head, and although Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) is around to lend a hand, it may not be enough to get the task completed.

It is impossible to watch The Forbidden Kingdom without getting the feeling you’ve seen this before; and not in a bad way. I generally don’t point to the obvious influences in a movie but I am going to make an exception here because the influences are so strong. The opening scene screams The Princess Bride as a fanciful fight scene breaks the boundaries of what is realistic but in a playful and charming way. One of the main themes of the movie, learning, will take you back to 1984 and ring the long forgotten bells of Mr. Miyagi and Danielson (The Karate Kid) and may leave you to asking, “Wax on or wax off?” Some of the feelings The Forbidden Kingdom evokes reminded me of watching Bastian read of Atreyu’s epic quest in The Never Ending Story. A young white man used as a vessel for teaching Asian people what they should already know, as previously seen in The Last Samurai. Hair inspired from Aeon Flux can be spotted. Fight scene choreography and style often resembles Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Even parts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy make an appearance. This movie borrows things like set design, special effects, camera movements and military scenes. I have never seen a movie lovingly rip off so many other films and yet still manage to make it all look new and incredible.

In fact, there is nothing original about The Forbidden Kingdom but I didn’t really care. I ducked, dodged, rolled my eyes, shook my head and watched with amazement at the fight scenes as they unraveled in front of me. The fight choreography is fairytale-esque, using wires, height and width. Jackie Chan and Jet Li only fight each other once in the entire movie though, which I found disappointing, but there is no shortage of fists flying. There is even a chick-fight to look forward to.

So, why in the hell did I like it? It was mindless, familiar, butt-kicking, cherry blossom dripping fun. There are times I don’t want to think, I want to escape into a squeeze can lactose story and I am not ashamed. Right before I thought The Forbidden Kingdom would go over the edge, and shame could be involved, director Rob Minkoff pulls it back, thankfully saving the audience.

I foresee that this will be one of those movies that strike love and hate into the audience at large. See it for the fun of film and not for the anything else. Like I said at the beginning of the review – it is quality cheese.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Movie Review: The Accidental Husband (2008)

'Movie Review: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)' have 6 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2008 @ 3:43 am wiroj

    Jackie Chan and Jet Li collaborate for the first time in this exciting martial arts visual spectacle…

    The Forbidden Kingdom is essentially a combination of Jackie Chan movies, Jet Li movies, and the Karate Kid movies. Now, a formula like this could go in any direction depending on how it’s written and directed. This movie fortunately goes in the right direction. It’s quite good as a result. There are plenty of reasons for this. I’m not just talking about how it has two major stars in martial arts cinema be on film together and for the first time.

    I’m also talking about how the film handles the fish-out-of-water plot. A Boston teenager named Jason (Michael Angarano), who is obsessed with martial arts films, sees a legendary staff in a local Chinese pawn shop. During an intense situation, he escapes with the staff and is magically transported to mythical China. The first thing I like about this is how the movie begins with just three scenes in modern America. There’s absolutely no need to give this character a backstory or a description of his everyday life. Second, there is little humor related to cultural clashes that could potentially ruin the film. When Jason is in China, he is simply a young boy who has much to learn, regardless of his foreign appearance. It would be no different if he were a local Chinese native.

    Jason meets Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), a scholar who tells the boy about the significance of the staff. It once belonged to the Monkey King, a powerful fighter who also has a playful nature. During a fight with the Jade Warlord, the Monkey King’s staff disappeared as he is turned into stone. It is clear that they must journey to return the staff to the Monkey King while facing adversaries like the Jade Warlord and a white-haired witch. Joining them is the Silent Monk (Jet Li) and a young woman called the Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu), who has an agenda of her own.

    The action scenes are spectacular and are just what you would expect from a Jackie Chan movie, a Jet Li movie, or any martial arts film involving top-notch choreography. They are more concentrated in the beginning and end, leaving the middle more for drama and plot development. There is some humor, but other than an unexpectedly funny laugh for a scene involving a rain spell, the humor is not the main element. And even though Jackie Chan and Jet Li prominently occupy the poster for this movie, they are not the only fighters. The Sparrow is a fighter herself, and, as time goes on, Jason becomes skilled enough to also get involved.

    The Forbidden Kingdom is not really a Jackie Chan movie co-starring Jet Li or vice versa. The movie works because all of the main characters, both good and evil, are stars with plenty of screen time. On top of this, the Chinese mythology makes the plot, setting, and everything worthwhile. Again, the story is not a fish-out-of-water satire. It really feels like a truly mythical tale. The Forbidden Kingdom may not have brilliantly original surprises, but it sure is a fun-filled ride with plenty of spectacular eye candy.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 20, 2008 @ 9:07 pm fu master

    About time Jet Li and Jackie Chan got together. Don’t matter if the movie is good or not..

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 29, 2008 @ 4:53 pm blez

    Two over the hill Chinese guys in a movie? If it were 10 years ago, maybe, but now I think I’ll pass.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    June 15, 2008 @ 4:25 am Ojay

    Jet Li and Jackie Chan are hardly over the hill. It was a surprisingly humorous movie that was very entertaining. Well, I guess Jackie Chan is getting a little up there in age because there wasn’t as much stunts and martial arts tricks as we are accustomed to seeing in Chan flicks. Altogether, it was a great movie that every Chan and Li fan will thoroughly enjoy.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    August 24, 2010 @ 10:35 am chacha

    I absolutely loved the review for the simple reason that it made me smile. I love the humor you incorporate into the reviews. Sometimes witty and sarcastic, sometimes in pure fun, your reviews are entertaining. I can totally understand the need to sometimes let go and watch a movie for the mere fun and entertainment value of it. So here is one movie which has taken generously from the cross section of cinema and turned out to be pretty decent, at least for you.

Privacy Policy | About Us

 | Log in

Advertisment ad adsense adlogger