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Film Studies 101
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Excellent 4 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

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Jet Li
Jackie Chan
Michael Angarano
Collin Chou
Yifei Liu.
Rob Minkoff.
John Fusco.
Running Time
104 minutes

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The Forbidden Kingdom
Closer to The Forbidden City than the Forbidden Planet

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Kung fu-obsessed Jason Tripitikas (Angarano) falls off a roof while holding a Chinese fighting staff, and is somehow transported to ancient China. There, he is tasked with freeing the powerful Monkey King with the help of drunk immortal Lu Yan (Chan) and Silent Monk (Jet Li).

The Forbidden Kingdom

It feels like it should have happened before, but this really is the first collaboration between Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and everything else in this fun but supremely silly kung fu romp is overshadowed by that fact. Sure, it’s advertised like a family adventure movie, but at heart this is the lost lovechild of the Shaw Brothers’ ’70s output and bonkers ’80s TV show Monkey, a crazy tale redeemed by two martial arts masters thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The plot sees modern teen Jason, Sky High’s Michael Angarano, mysteriously transported to a mythical China by a magical fighting staff. There, he meets drunken beggar Yu Lan (Jackie Chan), who tells him that he must deliver the staff to the Monkey King, long ago turned to stone by the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). With the help of the vengeful Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei) and the taciturn - obviously - Silent Monk (Jet Li) they must go west, beat the bad guy, reawaken the good guy and save the day.

The plot’s a mish-mash of Chinese legends made Western-friendly, with little nods to the likes of The Karate Kid and Pirates Of The Caribbean (Chan’s costume is pure Cap’n Jack). Angarano’s presence and the modern bookends are largely irrelevant, and the overlong running time doesn’t help, the story bogged down in a succession of martial arts set-pieces that will bore small children as much as they thrill devotees. But then, at least part of the film’s aim is to serve as a My First Kung Fu Movie, introducing newcomers to a largely defunct style of filmmaking - although the film’s look is more Lord Of The Rings than the wonderfully scratchy Technicolor of the works that inspired it. In the end, however, it lives or dies on the action - and the two stars don’t disappoint, either when sparring together or in taking on hordes of enemies under the direction of legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. Both appear to deliver a punch from A to B without bothering to pass any intervening points, and there’s a clear onscreen sense of professional satisfaction in playing together at last, and perhaps a hint of rivalry as the blows flicker past. It looks like they’re just having fun - perhaps that’s all it’s really about.

The missing link between ’00s wushu, ’80s kids’ fantasy and ’70s chop-socky, this manages to be thoroughly entertaining - and the face-off between Chan and Li is worth the entrance price alone.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Forbidden Kingdom
Empire Star Rating

plot crap, fighting good, nuff said ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ivanahump at 11:37, 04 December 2009 | Report This Post

RE: I did myself a favour

L: CameronJames Went to see it, thanks a fucking shit load OL! ... More

Posted by DanCurley at 13:25, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: The Forbidden Kingdom

I did enjoy this movie a great deal when I went to see it. Having Jet Li and Jackie Chan in their first collab movie was definitely the reason I wanted to see it. Yeah, ok the storyline wasnt upto scratch, but the fight scenes were great, Li and Chan showing us what they both do best and even adding some comedy element to the film, which I thought was good. Especially the scene where Jackie Chan tried to get rain and got a very funny surprise. lol. Overall, it is mainly aimed at teens but for s... More

Posted by Noelg25 at 10:03, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: The Forbidden Kingdom

As a life long fan of Chan and Li and Hong Kong cinema, I was of course excited by the long awaited collaboration between the two. If you think about it, they could have done any film project they wanted, a contemporary action thriller, a period kung fu film, I was initially surprised when their first film together is essentially The NeverEnding Story - Wushu style!   But it's a fun film, a nice family film that'll introduce these two icons to a  new generation of fa... More

Posted by Timon at 09:41, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: kiddie kung fu

Enjoyed this last night, quite refreshing to watch a film completely different from the usual.  I thought the fight sequences were really well done myself, and the story arc is perfectly reasonable.   7/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Paul2j at 10:11, 19 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: kiddie kung fu

Having Jackie Chan and Jet Li meet on screen is a dream come true, but The Forbidden Kingdom makes the mistake of having them play second fiddle to an American teenager in a story which is a mishmash of various Chinese tales and bears little relation that of the Monkey King.   Still, the old idea of the bullied kid finding the strength to eventually fight back always works  and the fighting is solid, with the Chan/Lee battle almost as good as you want it to be consideri... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:49, 17 July 2008 | Report This Post

kiddie kung fu

There are some things to like about this: There are some beautiful locations for the fight scenes and it's nice to see Chan and Li, in their first collaboration, go at it. On the whole, though, The Forbidden Kingdom doesn't work for a rash of reasons: the characters are nothing more than plot devices, the Chan / Li fight scene isn't exactly memorable, there's no real consequence if they fail in their mission, and why do they want to return the staff to The Monkey King in the first place? The guy... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 17:16, 16 July 2008 | Report This Post

Cheesy but excellent martial arts.

Yep - it was very cheesy. Definitely aimed at a teen audience.... but the Martial Arts were excellent and it is always a joy to see Jackie Chan or Jet Li on screen, even better to see them together. However, you may not be engaged by the film when people are not fighting. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Funk_Knight at 08:50, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post

I did myself a favour

Went to see it, thanks a fucking shit load, it was dull and predictable, and the chan-li face off could have been anyone, not playing to either's strengths ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CameronJames at 19:25, 13 July 2008 | Report This Post

Michael Angarano

He was seriously weak link IMO. Everytime the film focussed on him, which it does a fair amount, it sagged. The scenes of the Monkey King fighting above the clouds at the beginning were gorgeous, and while Jackie Chan isn't my favourite he and Jet Li were great together. It's a perfectly acceptable family movie that I enjoyed more than I expected to. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Speedwagon Roll! at 09:59, 12 July 2008 | Report This Post

Finally, a REAL kung fu movie from Hollywood

I think this movie has everything for the whole family: a boy on a journey to become a man, an evil power supressing the innocent, 2 legends unite, loads of action, adventure, and really good CGI (though there isn't much of it). Chan is hilarious, and his english has improved a lot, and Jet Li plays a good serious character, but looks fun as the Monkey King. This was actually better than most of last years summer flicks, Spidey 3, Pirates 3, and all the other pieces of crud that came from most... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SidArfaan at 11:46, 10 July 2008 | Report This Post

Saw this, this afternoon - and the Li / Chan showdown was amazing! Highly recommended for the kung fu fans out there - And I second Onyx79s' comment - this is no kids movie - do yourself a favour CameronJames and go and see this movie Kv ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kev@CTU at 17:54, 09 July 2008 | Report This Post

5 stars

Finally a film with jet li and jackie chan, but they still arent as good as bruce lee, even dead he still can beat them up ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Trunk Monkeey at 10:15, 08 July 2008 | Report This Post

5 stars

Finally a film with jet li and jackie chan, but they still arent as good as bruce lee, even dead he still can beat them up ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Trunk Monkeey at 10:15, 08 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Not seen it

All due respect CameronJames but how can you critise a film you have not seen? I have seen this film with mates for some light entertainment and we were most impressed by this film. And may I just say that this is no kid's movie. Do yourself a favour, go watch the film or hire it when it comes out on DVD (or just buy it as an import, it is already out in Asia) and THEN come back here to make a comment about this film. To all of you out there who have not seen this film, it is one for you to mak... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by onyx79 at 07:17, 08 July 2008 | Report This Post

Not seen it

but really, Chan Vs. Li should have been an event movie, not a fucking kids film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CameronJames at 00:02, 07 July 2008 | Report This Post

Not seen it

but really, Chan Vs. Li should have been an event movie, not a fucking kids film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CameronJames at 00:01, 07 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: The story behind monkey....

mpcdaly: Huh? That's not at all correct. The 1970s Monkey series (as well as Damon Albarn's show and this movie) was an adaptation of Journey to the West, a Ming Dynasty classical novel about Buddhist pilgrims, published in the late 1500s. It's one of China's most important and influential literary touchstones, a story that permeates all aspects of Chinese culture, and it was certainly never banned by Mao...where on earth did you get your info? ... More

Posted by LeChuck at 12:40, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post

The story behind monkey....

is very interesting. The guy who wrote it, wrote it before Mao's communist revolution. When that happened, the bloke who wrote it found himself on Mao's list. Monkey books got banned. and he tried to publsih them but communist china cracked down and He was forced to flee the country. Some of the books were siezed. and that became MONKEY. the tv show. Jamie Hewlitt was a big fan and tracked him down. Hewlit introduced the writer to Damon Albarn. That is How the story of monkey became the opera. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mpcdaly at 17:02, 02 July 2008 | Report This Post

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