Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"The Karate Kid" and "Bulletproof Monk".
Wait a minute; haven't we watched "Bulletproof Monk" already? You know, frail white kid gets all sucked into kungfu culture and learns a trick or two from all-knowing sensei? Or was that "The Karate Kid"?
Step aside Mr Miyagi and Chow Yun Fat, here comes Jackie Chan and Jet-Li in their first ever movie together! However, "The Forbidden Kingdom" was marketed with such a killer billing that expectations are bound to surpass the movie experience itself. Indeed, the movie has lived on little but the J&J-together-finally gig as its sole selling point. Can this "Lion King" director make something worthwhile out of such an important project?
The Chinese government couldn't care less. After the debacle that is Tony Leung's sweaty balls in "Lust, Caution", they needed a clean-cut movie, as Variety Magazine reports, to show off to the world. For that purpose, Anakin Skywalker almost-cast Michael Angarano getting beat up in school and magically transported to the oriental realm while being coached by Jet and Jackie about kungfu is an absolute commercial godsend!
Martial arts action, no sex, universal family themes - making Chinese people look "good" and selling it to the West has never been easier. "The Forbidden Kingdom" is precisely why Chinese tourists all over the world get asked by the average Caucasian, "Do you know kungfu?" It is a sad reflection of the times; that Chinese actors are either triad bosses or kungfu heroes in the American eye. For every other Joan Chen who refuses Oriental pigeonholing, there are twenty Chow Yun Fats who are signing themselves up for Hollywood.
Talk about a "Journey To The West". Who knew they meant it literally, eh?
It's not that the movie is bad in itself. It's just that it's a poor excuse for a movie. Jackie Chan's English might have improved after getting stuck in "Rush Hour" enough times but it doesn't explain why the man can speak it in Ancient China, let alone give kungfu tuition with it! Jet-Li's is obviously worse, and that compounds the suspicion that this movie needs the American market so bad it takes creative liberties like this.
The action? A four-minute face-off between Jackie and Jet, the winner being... well, you should know the answer to that by now! "The Forbidden Kingdom" is nowhere near as alluring as it sounds, with many developments in the film for show only.
If there is one thing that is amusing about "The Forbidden Kingdom", it must be the opening credits. Old Shaw Brothers movie posters of icons like Ivy Ling Po are plastered in a montage with a score that sounds like "The Green Hornet"! Indeed many scenes reference other movies, like when Angarano and Yifei Liu share a Timon and Pumbaa moment under the sky. There's also a tree-filled place in the heavenly mountains that looks like the realm of Rivendell in LOTR, not to mention Jackie Chan's introduction in the movie harks back to when he first did that drunken pose exactly 30 years ago in "Drunken Master".
If the movie was conceived as a parody, it might have actually worked better. In this form, it is no more than a disappointing facet of globalisation that capitalises on the unsuspecting masses. Worst of all, we know we still want to watch it anyway.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008