The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Director:  Rob Minkoff
Cast:  Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano
Plot:  A discovery made by a kung fu obsessed American teen sends him on an adventure to China, where he joins up with a band of martial arts warriors in order to free the imprisoned Monkey King.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Awards:  -
Runtime:  104min
Rating:  PG for sequences of martial arts action and some violence.

The Forbidden Kingdom is one of the worst films of 2008.  From the highs of The Lion King, director Rob Minkoff unexpectedly plummets down to the lows of this Jackie Chan-Jet Li collaboration.  The Forbidden Kingdom provides answers to the burning question - what is wrong with Jackie and Jet in the Hollywood setup all these years? 

As a matter of fact, they're responsible for churning out mediocre pictures year after year since they broke into Hollywood in the early 2000s (The Tuxedo, Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave, Around the World in 80 Days etc).

The Forbidden Kingdom boasts Oscar-winning cinematographer Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and fight choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix).  It's also the first time two of Asia's leading exponents of martial arts lay fists on each other in a motion picture.  Sadly, although most of the fight sequences are executed excellently, they lack the creativity and inspiration that were once Yuen's hallmarks.

With a flimsy storyline and an outrageously bad script, The Forbidden Kingdom is bound to incur the wrath of critics.  Using the legend of the Monkey King as a template, the plot is carved out in a manner that is as predictable as yesterday's weather - an insult to viewers' intelligence, really. 

The CGI is overused too, especially during the final fifteen minutes when a large-scale battle is fought in a gigantic hall of a palace.  I understand this is a part-fantasy, part action-adventure movie, but the fantastical elements are too overly emphasized that they become a sorry sight instead.

The Forbidden Kingdom would have achieved far better results if it was filmed totally in Mandarin.  It's obvious that both Jackie and Jet are not fluent in spoken English, so why exploit their flaws then?  And I don't see what’s so tough training an American in Mandarin rather than having the whole of ancient China speak English.  

Where's the authenticity of it all?  Please skip this even if the temptation of watching Jackie and Jet trade punches is too much to resist. The Forbidden Kingdom is truly a shameful piece of cinema.

GRADE: F (4/10 or 1.5 stars)

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