Monday, May 05, 2008
The Forbidden Kingdom
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Director: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Jet Li (The Monkey King / The Silent Monk), Michael Angarano (Jason Tripitikas), Jackie Chan (Lu Yan / Old Hop), Yifei Liu (Golden Sparrow / Chinatown Girl)
First, let us see whether the hype of two master of martial art movie stars, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, coming together for the first time lives up to expectation. Now, that's a tricky question. For the die-hard fans, it would more than worth the ticket. Yes. The expected showdown between Chan and Li is well choreographed and takes quite a lot screen time, but sadly, just once. After that, they travel together, do some bickering, and make peace, so sad, actually. We want they to fight each other, don't we?
But this is not the problem with 'The Forbidden Kingdom'. The problem is the premises on which it is built. Simply, it’s a Kung fu movie made by Americans for Americans, the Chinese angle is just an incident. This is what works against the film from beginning to end, superstars Chan and Li can hardly help it.
Anyways, there are not much for them to do.
A Boston Kung fu junkie, an American youth, from our very own 21st century, chances upon a mythical staff of a certain Monkey King (Li), and he must return it to its rightful owner, who apparently lives, not only in China, but in an another era. So it happens, 'by accident,' the American youth is actually transported to the time, in China, with people in their floating costumes, when Gods descended on earth, and where a jade warlord (what does it mean anyway?) ruled over the earth and heaven. God was on a 500-year vacation (oops, meditation!!). (Remember the utterly forgettable film Crusade in Jeans!)
Anyways, our American man meets a drunken beggar (Chan, his second role in the film, first being the frail owner of a Boston pawn shop.), and together they go to a tavern to drink, conversing in English.
Don't ask how. The drunkard claims that he is a immortal, so he may know all languages...
However, the problem is the American boy looks completely misfit in this mythical world, and surprising, surprising, he does not react to it at all. Michael Angarano, in fact, looks far out of place as a character that he fails to evoke audience’s responses. That is the biggest loophole in the film.
Sadly, there is nothing else that can be redeemed There is a tyrant (nothing spectacular), a journey to undertake ('House of Flying Daggers' is far, far superior), a unspoken love story, with a ass-kicking, mandolin-playing girl, who has her own agenda of revenge (and you know that the love is not going to work, our hero looks way too immature), and a spate of mentoring by the two masters, Chan and Li (I don't know how, but there is no spark in the teacher-student relations, okay Chan as a drunk is funny in his own way, and Li as a taciturn, Silent Monk, oozes grace, but...).
And, we know, how it's all going to end, don't we? Some more Kung fu, of course. The landscape is magnificent as usual, props are great, production value superior...
Director Robert Minkoff, who director ever-beautiful 'The Lion King,' the two Stuart Little movies and the comic-horror 'The Haunted Mansion' with Eddie Murphy, seems like still living in the animation world. In the 'real-movie' world, you need at least something sensible to willingly suspend your disbelief.
P.S. Don't listen to me. Go watch the film, it's fun. But then, we expect better things from all these hypes, don't we...