April 23, 2008 -- “The Forbidden Kingdom” will best be remembered as the film that first brought two martial arts superstars, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, together. The story isn't much, but that is usually the case with martial arts movies. There is just enough story to bridge the gap between action scenes. Best of all, the story doesn't take itself too seriously. There is plenty of comedy to take the edge off the drama. This is a western film. Although it uses eastern legends and mysticism, it is readily accessible to western audiences.
The story centers around a young Boston boy, Jason Tripitikas (played by Michael Angarano of “Snow Angels”) who stumbles upon a magical staff in a pawn shop and finds himself transported to an realm much like ancient China. Here he runs up against witches and immortal beings with magical powers. He discovers that if he wants to go home, he must first return the magical staff to its rightful owner, the Monkey King. He must learn martial arts first and cross a wide desert and defeat an army before he can deliver the staff to the Monkey King and go home. He meets three fellow travelers who agree to accompany him on his quest, two monks and a girl, Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) seeking vengeance against the Jade Emperor (Deshun Wang of “Warriors of Heaven and Earth”) who murdered her family. The two monks are powerful warriors. The first, a fallen monk named Lu Yan (Jackie Chan of “Rush Hour”) and a heavy drinker, is master of the “Drunken Fist” style of martial arts (a style of fighting popularized by Jackie Chan in his 1978 film “Drunken Master”). The other monk, The Silent Monk (Jet Li of “Hero,” who also plays the Monkey King in this film) utilizes a tiger style of Kung Fu in his fight with Lu Yan early in the film.
Jason falls in love with Golden Sparrow and is tutored in martial arts by Lu Yan and the Silent Monk. There are the usual fight training scenes, interspersed with battle scenes that crop up from one end of the film to the other. Jason is a big fan of kung fu movies, but doesn't have any real fighting skill to begin with. By the end of the film, however, he has some serious martial arts skill. At the beginning of the film, he is easily pushed around. At the end, Jason is able to stand up for himself. While the story has plenty of humor in it, there is also some serious drama as well. The story has a serious lesson about vengeance, for instance. Overall, this is an enjoyable big budget film with lots of fancy sets, special effects and great fight scenes. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.