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The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

PG-13  |   |  Action, Adventure, Fantasy  |  18 April 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 83,350 users   Metascore: 57/100
Reviews: 278 user | 203 critic | 27 from

A discovery made by a kung fu obsessed American teen sends him on an adventure to China, where he joins up with a band of martial arts warriors in order to free the imprisoned Monkey King.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Juana Collignon ...
Southie Girl
Jack Posobiec ...
Zhi Ma Gui ...
Old Woman
Shen Shou He ...
Bin Jiang ...
Young Village Man
Shaohua Yang ...
Jade Soldier
Yu Yuan Zeng ...
Inn Keeper
Deshun Wang ...
XiaoLi Liu ...


An American teenager who is obsessed with Hong Kong cinema and kung-fu classics makes an extraordinary discovery in a Chinatown pawnshop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King. With the lost relic in hand, the teenager unexpectedly finds himself traveling back to ancient China to join a crew of warriors from martial arts lore on a dangerous quest to free the imprisoned Monkey King. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The path is unsafe. The place is unknown. The journey is unbelievable. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of martial arts action and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

18 April 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jackie Chan/Jet Li Project  »

Box Office


$55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$21,401,121 (USA) (18 April 2008)


£1,215,459 (UK) (18 July 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| | |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This movie marks the very first collaboration between martial arts masters Jet Li and Jackie Chan. However, Chan has said he does not consider this film to be '*The* Jackie Chan -Jet Li film', as neither of them had anything to do with directing, producing or choreographing. See more »


The silent Monk tells Jason they should attack "In two nights, when the moon will be darker." But later that night in the balcony scene with Jason and Golden Sparrow the moon is clearly waxing, and will be almost half full in two nights - brighter not darker. See more »


Old Man Hop: [pushing the staff into Jake's hands] here! Take it! Return it to its owner!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jackie Chan and Jet Li are credited together before the title. Jackie Chan's name is spelled out horizontally, but Jet Li's is spelled out vertically, and the same "J" is used for both. See more »


Version of A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora's Box (1995) See more »


Deng Zhe Ni Hui Lai
("Waiting 4 U")
Written by Yan Kuan
Performed by Bai Kwong
©EMI Music Publishing Hong Kong
avec l'autorisation d'EMI Music Publishing France
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Pointlessly Enthusiastic
24 April 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you're not a 13 year-old boy, Forbidden Kingdom was not really made for you. I understand the appeal of Jet Li and Jackie Chan, together at last, and everyone's hopes for a harmonious combination like peanut butter and chocolate. I shared this hope, but was served something more like canned cheese with crackers. It's not that this combination is bad, just that their pairing is framed within a feeble, pointlessly enthusiastic action film.

Forbidden Kingdom follows the story of Jason (Michael Angarano), a die-hard kungfu fan and his concussion-induced journey back in time to a mythical China. Jason must return a golden staff to the Monkey King (Jet Li), who is imprisoned in stone under the evil gaze of the immortal Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Jason meets a silent monk (Jet Li), drunken master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), and musical assassin Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) who all have a vested interest in the Monkey King or the demise of the Jade Warlord. They accompany Jason on his quest and give him the skills he needs to repel his foes.

The characters are interesting but completely shallow. We're introduced to them as stock. There's an assumed level of familiarity with martial arts movies, which they're directly inspired by, but little more is given than this stereotype. Lu Yan and the Silent Monk profess death threats, engage in playful antics, and display some unknown kinship, sometimes all within the same scene. We like Golden Sparrow because she's beautiful and she's the same age as our protagonist. Beyond an obvious romantic setup, a briefly uttered revenge quest, and a catfight, she's completely pointless. It's interesting that Li and Chan both play secondary characters in this movie, and in roles that are not their traditional typecast fare. Jackie Chan is terribly sympathetic, but by his own undeniable Jackie Chan charm, not on any strength of the movie.

My biggest problem with this movie lies in Jason's story. He's sent to mythical China with more stereotypes than skills, and through truly excessive use of montage, becomes a warrior who can help the Monkey King. I suspend disbelief for fantasy films, but the montages are as repetitive and annoying as the whiny Jason. Since we're so interested in Jet Li and Jackie Chan, why make them secondary characters and give the focus to a coming-of-age quest? My rhetorical question is answered for you in the first sentence of the review. But I think this also skirts the issue of trying to give equal screen time and top billing to the two biggest martial arts stars of our age.

As repugnant as the writing and editing may be, Forbidden Kingdom makes up for this in a good dose of fight scenes. This has some of the best story-to-action ratios of any martial arts movie, hearkening back to the heyday of kung fu, where the story is minimized to make room for more action. Nothing wrong with that! It's still entertaining as always to watch Chan and Li fight. There is one very long sparring sequence and while it's nothing terribly flashy, you do get a sense that the two are very well matched. Some of the editing is sketchy, relying heavily on reaction shots rather than allowing us to see maneuvers connect. Some of the fighting is extremely theatrical and extended, in true wushu style, and beautiful to see.

The visuals have that nearly animated quality, with emphasis on glow and gold, that we've seen so often in fantasy movies lately. Combined with the cutout characters, it gives the impression that you're watching more of a video game than a movie. I like video games, but this is not necessarily a boon. I'd like to see something more original, or maybe something that draws more heavily on Chinese cinema, since the movie already borrows so liberally from those films.

Forbidden Kingdom has all of the good components of a classic action film, but together, these elements work against each other in a big way. The narrative is short, but not short enough. The general tone is more like a poor comic book movie than a kung fu fantasy. This may appeal to some, but dressing up in silks doesn't make this tired thing new again.

51 of 80 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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