The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) Poster

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What the Heck Happened?
asaar3 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
So I went into this movie expecting it to blow me away. I mean, Jet Li...AND Jackie Chan?? I figured they couldn't go wrong with a cast like that. But unfortunately, I was wrong. First of all: why do we even bother with the scenes in America. Or better yet, why does the teenage boy even exist? I feel like this would have been much more successful had it been taken seriously by the American filmmakers who created it. The kid, quite frankly, cannot act, be funny, punch, or not delete him entirely. Set the film in China or wherever it was supposed to take place. Have Jackie in possession of the staff. Have Jet Li be the Monkey King...except he should probably take on a more sinister role rather than a hoppity little man. And let it roll from there. Wow, I should be a director. Cause if I were given two huge stars like Jet and Jackie, I would not have made a complete mess of this amazing opportunity. By all means though, see it if you want to see aesthetically pleasing fight scenes. This is, of course why we go to see these movies. I was just befuddled when the opening scene of Jet Li fighting on the mountain tops quickly switched to some nobody American teen actor who had no right to ruin a perfectly good film. Thanks for reading. 5/10 -aws
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Just saw it at the theater down the street from my house...
dee.reid18 April 2008
In gong-fu movie lore, it has long been foretold that one day two of the greatest stars of the genre would come together one day on the screen. That day has come in "The Forbidden Kingdom," which stars two of the latest and greatest stars of the martial arts movie genre - Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Combined, both men's careers span over 30 years and over 100 movies, in their native China and here in the United States; that's a lot of kung-pow kicking and punching. They both decided to make their American crossovers around the same time during the 1990s - Chan's first hit in the U.S. was "Rumble in the Bronx" (1995) and became a mega-star due to the "Rush Hour" movies, while Li made his American debut as the lead villain in "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998), received his first English-speaking starring role in "Romeo Must Die" (2000), and earned critical respectability with "Unleashed" in 2005.

Now, we're at "The Forbidden Kingdom." I like both stars. My friends and I, like many other martial arts movie fans, have eagerly awaited this cinematic pairing for some time.

Starting in the present - 2008 - an American teenager named Jason (Michael Angarano) who has an obsession with gong-fu movies is magically transported back in time to ancient China by the long-lost staff of the fabled Monkey King (Li, in one of two roles in the film), where he learns he has been chosen to return it to him. 500 years earlier, the mischievous martial arts master Monkey King had been imprisoned in stone by the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

On his journey, Jason comes across the drunken beggar Lu Yan (Chan, in one of two roles in the film), who teaches him gong-fu so that he will be able to take on the Jade Army. They are also aided by The Silent Monk (Li, in his other role) and the orphan assassin Sparrow (Yifei Liu). There is one particularly funny sequence where Lu Yan and The Silent Monk fight over how to train Jason to defend himself - with Lu Yan's unorthodox methods and the Monk's more traditional approach.

"The Forbidden Kingdom" is one fast-paced and entertaining martial arts flick that keeps you watching just because of the know-it-all/seen-it-all before charisma of the star talent. With nods aplenty toward the martial arts movies of yesteryear (chiefly old-school Shaw Brothers movies, as well as plenty of helpings of Taoist philosophy and the Jeet Kune Do teachings of Bruce Lee), "The Forbidden Kingdom" is perhaps what Quentin Tarantino has fantasized about so much during countless cinema grind-house outings as an impressionable teenager and later as an adult realized on the screen in his "Kill Bill" films.

But Tarantino is nowhere in sight. Behind this production, is American screenwriter John Fusco (who based the script on the epic story "Journey to the West," which is cited as one of the four great novels of Chinese literature) and American director Rob Minkoff (of "The Lion King"). This production, put simply, is probably the best combination of American-Chinese talent since "Enter the Dragon" way back in 1973. Choreographing the fights with plenty of wire-work and CGI pizazz is Woo-ping Yuen, known for his work with both Chan and Li, as well as "The Matrix" (1999) and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000). It's pretty impressive that although it's fairly obvious that wires are being used in the fight scenes, it doesn't really take away from the action like it often tends to in American features, but actually enhances their intensity here.

I got a lot of enjoyment from watching "The Forbidden Kingdom" and watching the magnificent grace of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Despite occasional script deficiencies, I found this picture working from the opening credits, which was a sure sign that what was about to come would surely satisfy the martial arts movie fan inside of me. For many martial arts movie fans, "The Forbidden Kingdom" may perhaps be the movie they've been waiting for since the untimely passing of Bruce Lee 35 years ago.

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This is a must see movie
cohru0120 April 2008
I read some of the comments including the one from the user named "AlecBaldwin". He left early because of graphics and too many myths. Another didn't like it because the English was hard to understand. Another said it was a kids movie and Chan/Li were out for the dollars only. I'll tell you that I went to the movie theater and sat back and let the movie go wherever it wanted. I was intending on enjoying it and I downright did. It is a great graphical movie with fantastic choreography and editing, and an acting masterpiece, as well as action packed. If you go into the movie theater and take the negative comments with you, you will not like it. You need to understand that this is a rare appearance by two masters who will probably never get together again. As for the English, don't fret on that. I have a lot of trouble with these kinds of movies. This was the ONLY one where I could understand the English. It's simple. Go to the movie with popcorn and soda in hand and an open mind. Get ready for some fast action and a good story line. And finally, ENJOY!
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An incredible movie on multiple levels!
revallyson16 April 2008
This movie will be enjoyed by any Jet Li or Jackie Chan fans, certainly. The cinematography is wonderful, with stunning views, excellent use of CGI without overdoing it, and decent acting. Jet Li plays his role marvelously, and the continuity of the various plot themes is fantastic. There are subtleties to this movie that will require multiple viewings to catch! Pros include the acting and scenery, and the way language is dealt with. The only con is that the viewing I attended was a bit rough around the edges, with a couple of minor bobbles in editing and film quality. I'm sure this will be corrected in the final production for the theaters, though! Overall, this is a good action/fantasy movie. For those who like the "chop suey" kung fu flicks, this will be a blast from the past. Jackie Chan shows off his unique style of martial arts, while keeping the laughs rolling. Jet Li is NOT playing the 'baddie' for a change, and has a surprisingly entertaining role in this film. There isn't a lot of wire work in this film, and what is done on wires is done judiciously.

A must-see film for this summer!
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alg40711 April 2008
Jet Li. Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan and Jet Li! For many people that is all that is needed to elicit a "wow, I need to see that." Beyond star power, the film is a riveting success. This is a kung-fu film with a healthy sense of humor, an epic story and amazing visual imagery. Some people will object to Michael Angarano's character, they will say, the film doesn't need a white lead to keep the audience engaged. That is true, but Angarano plays the role well and the character adds substance to the story. The cultural conflict from thrusting a boy from Boston into ancient China reflects the conflict between his kung-fu masters. His personal growth helps carry the heroes journey through China. This layering of themes works well.

Did I mention that we get to see Jackie Chan and Jet Li spar!?!

I got to see a preview of this movie and I consider my self very lucky. I will go see this film again on opening day!
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Jet Li + Jackie Chan
feuerstein20 April 2008
Jet Li + Jackie Chan = 1 Word... IMBA! I'm definitely a kung-fu movie fan, especially if it's starring Jackie Chan OR Jet Li, but this movie has them both in! The movie is all about the Chinese epic tale: "Journey to the West" About Sun Wu Kong, or better known as "Stone Monkey" it's one of my favorite Chinese stories.

It started out slow and it had me all confused when the main character was an American boy but it turns out that they had their own version of the tale. The boy strangely gets ported back inside the story where he meets the characters whose roles are played by Jet Li and Jackie Chan and they set out in a quest to return a staff owned by the stone monkey who was prophesied to end the tyranny of the Jade warlord, an evil general who is the villain in the movie.

The action scenes were really good, superb even. Jackie chan and Jet Li still had their kung-fu in them and it was fun and amusing to watch.

The Acting was good, especially by Jackie chan and Jet Li. (I liked Jet Li's role as stone monkey especially, because he really looked like a monkey) The storyline though, was quite predictable because, Jackie chan movies always end in happy endings. but as I always say: "What you say is just as important as how you say it." Same goes with a movie, though the storyline is predictable, how the story went and how it was flavored with humor and drama and action made the movie much, much better and so worthwhile and entertaining to watch.
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The Forbidden Kingdom - Great mix of action, comedy and a coming of age story.
lbk99-geo18 April 2008
The Forbidden Kingdom starts in a way that is similar to The Karate Kid, with Jason (Michael Angarano), the boy new to his local high school who loves kung fu movies, but is helpless to defend himself against the neighborhood bullies. These same bullies force him to help them into a pawn shop whose owner is shot but still passes on a mysterious staff to Jason. The staff turns out to be that of the legendary Monkey King and Jason is transported into ancient China where he journeys to use the staff to free the imprisoned Monkey King. In the end Jason must prove himself as he faces both fantastical and real life foes.

Once in China Jason acquires several companions; Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) a wine drinking kung fu master, Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) a vengeance driven young women and later a monk (Jet Li) who protect him and later train him in the art of kung fu. Together they journey to Five Elements Mountain to attempt to free the Monkey King and end the reign of the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) who sends innumerable troops to stop them.

This movie works on many levels, none too deep, but very satisfying none the less. First of all it is a great action movie with very well done kung fu action scenes involving Jackie Chan and Jet Li, two of the greatest kung fu movie stars in the past couple of decades. In the midst of all of this is a great deal of fairly well done comedy, sometimes not perfectly executed, but generally fun, especially during the kung fu training of Jason. Last but not least this is a classic coming of age story in which Jason journeys from being a boy who fantasizes of adventure to a young man who can fight and suffer for what is right.

This is a fantasy based movie, so expect some magical displays and references to immortal beings, but this is not too heavily done so the story is fairly easy to follow. Refreshingly the movie has relatively little in the way of moral ambiguity, with villains that are really evil and those who oppose them being flawed humans but still striving to that which is right.

In regards to the appropriateness of the movie for varied audiences, the violence in this PG-13 rated movie is never graphic, though possibly disturbing for young children. There is no sexual content with the exception of an implied impending assault by the Jade Warlord (we see nothing actually happening here). I saw the movie in a pre-screening with mostly college students whose applause and laughs made it clear they enjoyed it, but I am quite a bit past college and found it just as enjoyable.

One last comment, while virtually all of the dialogue between main characters is in English, there is a fair amount of Mandarin Chinese being spoken during the movie. In the few instances when knowing the content of this is important there are English subtitles and I did not find the un-translated portions to be an issue.

Overall this is a movie that is exciting, fun and generally very satisfying to watch.
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A Nice Martial Arts Fantasy Story
tabuno18 April 2008
Jackie Chan returns in a Drunken Master (1978) role along with Jet Li in a more mysterious but delightful twisting role in this fantasy martial arts film that requires a leap of faith into myths, legends, and magic. In doing so, this adventure tale is compelling from the very beginning with a quick, fast martial art scene followed by some amazing opening credits. The martial art fights are prolonged and exciting and the storyline is although predictable, entertaining and worthy of an evening storytale. Not a classic, nor epic, not heavy, and never managing to enter into serious realm of award-winning, this movie is nevertheless a summer, adolescent family movie that is worth its admission price and both Jackie Chan and Jet Li offer up some good performances in a movie without any real failings. Eight out of Ten Stars.
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Fun and beautiful, but poorly polished.
eidolonse10 May 2008
We can finally see Jackie Chan and Jet Li together in an action packed adventure movie, and for the most part it doesn't disappoint. Although the story, reminiscent to early 80's adventure films about an unlikely hero who overcomes great adversity, was overly predictable, the end result was a visually beautiful and engaging journey through feudal China riddled with the culture's interesting mythology. Jackie Chan and Jet Li, as always, delivered an action packed performance of ballet-like battles that have become popular due to movies like "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." Unfortunately, this made the fights lack the essence of suspense. They were entertaining, yes – but there were no moments of trepidation or concern for what will happen to the characters. At the same time, the soft and poetic fight scenes rarely made you feel any intensity in the punches or kicks that were often being thrown. For a PG-13 film, however, there was enough mild violence, blood and death that the storyline wasn't overly sugar-coated.

The films fast pace, only briefly slowing down near the middle, as well as the accentuating music, breathtaking visuals, and a simple but effective story-line was able to create a fun filled adventure film that younger and older audiences can both enjoy. In the end, however, because the movie lacked well-formed character relationships and any empathy for our group of heroes, the adventure film will beg us to wonder if this was the best that Chan and Li could fester up.
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Pointlessly Enthusiastic
Lauren Hutchison24 April 2008
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.
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