The Forbidden Kingdom

After nearly a decade, the wait is finally over – Jet Li and Jackie Chan are sharing the big screen. However, those that yearned for a ruthless, blood-spattered thrill ride may be a little disappointed. Jason (Michael Angarano) is a teenaged boy with few friends and an obsession with kung fu movies. One night Jason […]

Jet Li and Jackie Chan in a scene from Forbidden Kingdom (Photo courtesy of Maple Pictures)After nearly a decade, the wait is finally over – Jet Li and Jackie Chan are sharing the big screen. However, those that yearned for a ruthless, blood-spattered thrill ride may be a little disappointed.

Jason (Michael Angarano) is a teenaged boy with few friends and an obsession with kung fu movies. One night Jason is suddenly thrust into his martial arts fantasy and entrusted with a great responsibility: awakening in ancient China, Jason must successfully return a magical staff to the Monkey King (Li), whom the Jade War Lord (Collin Chou) has imprisoned in stone. He is joined on his quest by drunken kung fu master Lu Yan (Chan), Silent Monk (Li again), and vengeance-seeking Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei). But only by learning the true principles of kung fu will Jason be able to complete his task and find a way home.

The core of this film’s plot is the ancient Chinese legend of the Monkey King; the centre of its promotion is the pairing of two martial arts legends; however, the Western take on these two results in a story little better than the adolescent dream fulfillment flicks that came before it – particularly the predictable bully ass-kicking that Jason delivers at the end with his newly acquired kung fu.

The fortunate thing is filmmakers did not hold back on the action. Fans will have to wait about half an hour but their patience is rewarded with a captivating eight-minute martial arts fight sequence between Chan and Li. All the battles were designed by famed fight choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen, who also worked on The Matrix series, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Li’s Fearless and Unleashed. No one else could have effectively instructed these veteran talents.

Furthermore, shooting the epic action fantasy on location in China meant stunning locales reminiscent of those in House of Flying Daggers and authentic set design comparable to that of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.