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  Publicity Stills of "The Forbidden Kingdom"
(Courtesy from Encore Films)

Fantasy/Martial Arts
Director: Rob Minkoff
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Liu Yifei, Collin Chou, Li Bingbing
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Encore Films & Columbia TriStar
Rating: PG (Action Violence)
Official Website: http://www.forbiddenkingdommovie.com/

Opening Day: 18 April 2008


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 travelling back to ancient China to join a crew of warriors from martial arts lore on a dangerous quest to free the imprisoned Monkey King.

Movie Review:

When my mum first saw the TV spot, the first question she asked me was “Why are the two of them spouting their dialogues in English when they are drabbed in traditional costumes?”

Coming out from the mouth of a fifty-year old auntie who has not stepped into the cinemas for decades, she got me stumped. Well, only Hollywood has the right mind to place the two best action heroes of our time in an English fantasy, martial-arts genre without feeling the least awkward.

Obviously written by a foreigner by the name of John Fusco, the plot is a wild spin on the famous epic classic, “Journey to the West”. Even more bizarre, we have characters such as the white haired bride which is from the novel by Liang Yusheng and also Golden Sparrow from the archives of Shaw classics. Indeed, it’s a testament that this is really from the land of make-believe and the hands of Rob Minkoff who directed “The Lion King” and “Stuart Little”.

If you are still interested in the plot, Jackie Chan plays an immortal called Lu Yan and Jet Li, the silent monk. Both together with an American teenager, Jason Tripitikas (get it?) and a village girl nicknamed Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei) must free the Monkey King (Jet) from the evil Jade Warlord played by Collin Chou.

Jason for additional info is from the future, a kungfu obsessed teenager from Boston who accidentally caught hold of a magical staff and land himself in a Chinese village and why he is the chosen one to defeat the evil Warlord is up for guesses.

The clunky plot aside, this cross-cultural production is impressive for the technical achievements alone. Acclaimed cinematographer Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) contributed the vast and rich shots of the breath-taking landscapes. Even the production designer deserves his due for the lush, wondrous detailed looking sets.

What about Yuen Woo Ping who did the choreography? Yuen who served as executive producer as well doesn’t serve up anything new and he competently did the usual CG enhanced and wire works choreography seen most famously in “The Matrix”. Watching Jackie Chan and Jet Li sparring for the first time on the big screen with all those CG tricks, stunt doubles did hampered the viewing experience. Still, these two self-proclaimed old folks show that they can fight and execute their skills better and fluid than any of us as seen in the movie with Chou (an action star himself in the 80’s). Good thing it was lensed by veteran Hong Konger Pau and all the slick moves were duly captured on screen. If this is a made in Hong Kong contemporary action drama, things might turn out to be far more impressive indeed.

Watch out for newcomer Liu Yifei’s memorable turnout as the vengeful Golden Sparrow. This girl is not just fluent in English but prove she can act as well.

Jackie and Jet has publicly declared not to pin too high a hope on “The Forbidden Kingdom”. The sad truth is they are not smoking us. “The Forbidden Kingdom” is made purely from Hollywood’s point of view, fluffy and kids-friendly and absolutely not for the hardcore martial-arts, kungfu action fans liked myself. If you are not entertained by the fights, at least there’s the cliché dialogue to amuse you.

Movie Rating:

(Take a seat, have a cup of tea and bun, this is a walk in the park for Jackie, Jet and you)

Review by Linus Tee


. Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)

. An Empress And The Warriors (2008)

. The Warlords (2007)

. Fearless (2006)

. The Curse of the Golden Flowers (2006)

. Dead Or Alive (2006)

. Seven Swords (2005)

. The Myth (2005)

. Sky High (2005)


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