Stream from Amazon Prime
Purchase The Forbidden Kingdom from the iTunes store.
Watch / Stream on Hulu
Watch on Apple TV
Stream on Vudu / Fandango

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) Review

Apr 29, 2008 11:43 AM EST
3 Min Read
You'd expect the first collaboration between Jet Li and Jackie Chan to be something special: together they're about as close as we come to a cultural icon on the scale of Bruce Lee. Indeed, filmed partially on location (the Gobi desert, not the temple of the heavens, alas) the film looks like a million bucks. Or, well, closer to 55-million--to be more precise.

It's a wuxia adventure wherein a white boy from Boston (played gamely by Michael Angarano) is sucked into mythic China on a quest to return a staff to the imprisoned Monkey King and restore balance to the middle kingdom. Along the way he acquires two teachers (played by J & J): a traveling, drunken Taoist monk and a wandering Buddhist monk with more of a sense of humor than you'd expect (there's also a deadly young lady who speaks in 3rd person).

The kid has "no kung fu" so he must learn it on the journey--and the journey takes them to the palace of the Jade Warlord. This being Wuxia, the characters can "run up the air," battle entire armies at once, and in some cases use "Chi Magic." Using CGI and people suspended on wires, the film shows us fantasy kung fu action with sufficient style and smoothness (and maybe a little innovation).

So is it good? Well, let's get a few things out of the way.

For starters, all the characters come from previous fictions or mythology. They aren't just "ripping off" the white-haired witch or Golden Sparrow (a Shah Brother's character): those people are actually supposed to be those characters. Maybe it's homage (maybe it is a rip-off--but when the film actually references the movies and the brothers by name, I'm inclined to cut it some slack).

Secondly, the "white boy" at the center of the narrative is, yes, a Hollywood friendly westerner--and there's only a couple of saving graces here. The first is that the story on which it is based (loosely--maybe) involves a traveler to a strange land. In the original case a monk traveling to India--but still.

Secondly, the movie--for being Hollywood friendly--gets a few things more or less right. A character who makes a decision pays for it. The kid, although trained by two masters, does not become the kind of fighter that the others, who have been training for years are. They don't use special effects to make Michael Angarano fight like either venerable martial arts movie star. That's a good thing.

Finally, the pacing is good. The movie hits a lot of the set-pieces well. It introduces villains nicely (seeing the witch use her whip for the first time is interesting and exciting. Seeing the terror in the eyes of the Jade Warlord's unwilling consort is more meaningful than him dispatching a servant who interrupted him with bad news). The fights, as I said, done by veteran Yuen Woo-ping are kinetic and inventive.

If the movie does fall down it's that despite having the two greatest marital arts leads in the modern world, being filmed with sufficient budget and with good locations and cinematography, and being brave enough to give us at least a taste of Asian story-telling (unlike the far-more-grim Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) it doesn't do anything truly spectacular.

It's good though. I enjoyed myself. Clearly the actors are having fun and that, sometimes, shows through strongly enough to carry the show.

Directed By:

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 113 minutes
Distributed By: Lionsgate

For more information about The Forbidden Kingdom visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Marco Chacon please click here.

The Forbidden Kingdom images are © Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


Today's Digital HD DealsView All

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
WAS: $9.99
NOW: $7.99
2 Broke Girls
2 Broke Girls
WAS: $29.99
NOW: $19.99
Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing
WAS: $29.9
NOW: $24.99

Latest ReviewsView All

About My Father
Movie / Film Review
May 25, 2023 EST
Transformers Limited Edition Steelbook 6-Movie Col...
Physical Media: 4K UHD Review
May 30, 2023 EST
Fast X
Movie / Film Review
May 17, 2023 EST