The Forbidden Kingdom


Directed by: Rob Minkhoff
Written by:John Fusco
Starring: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Angarano, Yifei Liu, Collin Chou, Morgan Benoit
Released: July 24, 2008
Grade: B-

Jason Tripitikas (Angarano) is a teenager who loves kung fu.  When you see his bedroom, you’ll appreciate just how obsessed he is.  There are posters all over his walls he has a large collection of old martial arts movies.  He buys them from an old man who owns a run-down Chinese pawnshop.

Whilst he loves kung fu, Jason has no idea how to perform it.  He’s a scrawny looking kid and he’s never had any proper training.  His whole world is about to change… literally!  In attempting to escape from a group of bullies, Jason falls off the roof of a building and wakes up in ancient China.  In his hand is a bo staff that he took from the pawnshop owner.

Jason soon learns that there’s a story behind the weapon he carries.  It once belonged to a playful warrior known as The Monkey King (Li).  Five hundred years ago, The Monkey King was defeated in a duel with The Jade Warlord (Chou), an evil, power-hungry leader.  The Monkey King has been entrapped in a stone statue ever since.  The only way he can be freed is if precious staff is returned to his outstretched hand.

When The Jade Warlord learns that Jason has this weapon, he immediately sends in his army to get it back.  He wants to make sure that it is never returned to The Monkey King.  Jason will be helped by an unlikely new friend – a drunken warrior named Lu Yan (Chan).  Lu protects Jason from danger and starts teaching him a few kung fu basics.  Can they get the staff back The Monkey King or will The Jade Warlord stop them first?

The film is boosted by the presence of Jet Li and Jackie Chan.  They are the two most familiar names in Hollywood when it comes to martial arts movies.  You may be surprised to known that this is the first time they’ve appeared together in a major film.  They are joined by 20-year-old Michael Angarano who plays Jason.  I’ve been a fan of Angarano since I saw him in Sky High (released in 2005) and he’s great in this film too.  It’s a difficult age for any budding actor and I hope he continues to find good roles in the future.  He has talent.

When you size it up, The Forbidden Kingdom is best described as a family orientated martial arts film.  Younger audience will probably like it but adults may be let down by the limited storyline.  There are plenty of clichés and it’s all very predictable.  I know it’s what you’d expect from such a film but I was still hoping for something a little better.