I’ve never been into old Chinese kung-fu movies or films from China in general, but I have seen a select few ones. Such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Hero. With neither of the films impressing me too much. I do like Jackie Chan and I have enjoyed most of the American films he’s joined in the Hollywood part of his career. The Forbidden Kingdom was the first film to feature both Jackie Chan and Jet Li together. I figured I would give this one a chance, especially considering it’s actually an American movie (so mostly spoken in English without dubbing) with a lot of Chinese support.
The film is about a young guy in Boston, his name is Jason Tripitikas. He loves Chinese kung fu movies, but he’s not much of a fighter himself. Some local hooligans harass him and before he realizes it, Jason is forced by the thugs to lead them an old Chinese pawnbroker he knows so they can take his valuables. He sees the old man badly injured and Jason falls off a roof with a large bo-staff in hand. He wakes up in what seems to be an ancient and mythical version of China.
Jason learns that the staff was originally the weapon of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. A bad military leader known as the Jade Warlord challenged the Monkey King to battle. Both men seem to have immortality, but the Monkey King seemed to be invulnerable to mortal wounds. So the Jade Warlord decided to use magic to turn him into a big rock statue. In his last moments of freedom, the Monkey King tossed his weapon far away, so it could be returned to him and free him from his magical prison.
Jason is befriended by Lu Yan, a drunken immortal who realizes Jason is the one by prophecy to free the Monkey King. They are soon aided by Golden Sparrow, a young woman who vows vengeance to the Jade Warlord for the death of her father and the rest of her family. They also run into the path of the Silent Monk, who isn’t so silent actually. They are a bunch of misfits, but they are skilled enough for this mission. But can they free the Monkey King?
Overall The Forbidden Kingdom was okay but nothing special to me. The story is loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West (which also inspired the original Dragon Ball anime/manga) but I hear it’s much different from book with few similarities. The action scenes are that typical kung-fu fashion of the Wuxia genre, which I’m not a big fan of. While a lot of the actors do well here, the story drags and the movie itself is too long for its own good and it’s under 2 hours, which is saying something.