Genre: Action / Fantasy
Country: China / USA
aka: Dragon Kingdom, King of Kung Fu
Director: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Jackie Chan, Yifei Liu, Collin Chou
The path is unsafe. The place is unknown. The journey is unbelievable.
Jason Tripitikas is a young American teenager who is obsessed with martial arts films from the far East. He is a regular at a pawn store in Chinatown where he browses through used DVDs and other items that are related to the Chinese culture. On his way home after scoring some new films to add to his collection, a group of local thugs forces him to return with them to the pawn store so they can rob the old owner.
The owner gets shot and Jason runs away holding an ancient fighting staff and when he falls from the roof of the building he gets transported into another dimension that looks like the ancient China. He has to return this magical staff to its rightful owner in order to get back home and his help in doing so is by following the drunken immortal Lu Yan.
The Forbidden Kingdom is a mixture of The Karate Kid and Hong Kong action films that blends martial arts with fantasy elements. It is made for the younger cinema crowd and feels like it was written by a martial arts fan who wanted to share his own love for the genre and pass it on to a new younger crowd in hopes that they would want to explore it and find their own gems to love and enjoy.
For adult fans of the genre, this film is however known for being the first film that features Jackie Chan and Jet Li together on the screen. They are the biggest stars alive in the genre and it is a big treat for fans of them to finally see them together on the big screen. However, I do wish that they had done it in a film where they had to go against each other more instead of having both be good guys like they did in this one. They do give us a nearly ten minute long fighting scene which is the absolute highlight of the film though, so it isn’t like they don’t throw some punches towards each other but I would have liked to have seen them going against each other be the main focus of the film.
The main flaw for me with this film was Michael Angarano in the leading role of Jason. It is nothing new to have a dorky kid who starts off with getting pushed around, but then learns the art of kung fu and is able to stand up for himself in the end, and it is still something that works in a film like this but Angarano does not show anything that would make you believe he can go on to work in anything else than TV in the future, sadly.
The Asian cast is much better. Jackie Chan is in his element, mixing comedy in to his character and if you’ve seen his Drunken Master films then you should know what to expect from his character here. I’m not a superfan of Jet Li and I don’t think he can handle comedy as well as Chan and that hurts his Monkey King part. The females Yifei Liu and Collin Chou are both beautiful and it is always nice to see females kick ass in films like this.
The action scenes are fun and light in violence. The choreography is done by Woo-Ping Yuen, who has been working on martial arts films for years. I know some might not enjoy Hong Kong action that has the characters jump far up in the air and stuff like that, but it works quite well here and after all this is set in a fantasy kingdom with Gods and immortals.
The Forbidden Kingdom might not be the fast paced kung fu film that fans would expect when Jackie Chan and Jet Li finally got together to do a movie, but you can’t really fault the film for that. It is made for a younger crowd and even with a bad leading actor, it is entertaining enough to make it a fun film for a teenager, and for adults that are able to keep that in mind before hitting play.