Movie Report: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Book coverWhen it came time to delve back into the movies in or on the to-watch media center, I picked up this film. It must have looked interesting to me, as I bought it twice last year: once at the library book sale in April (although I called it The Four Kingdoms in that post) and once in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, in June. Also, note that this doubled my odds of picking the film. Well, it would have, except that I had previously noted the duplication and put the copy with the Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, library sticker into the Little Free Library at the park in Battlefield. Perhaps whomever picks it up will wonder how that DVD got from Fairfield Bay to Battlefield as I often wonder how books and whatnot make their way to the Springfield area. I alone know the secret. Well, I guess my family, too, and given that Fairfield Bay is a “resort community,” whoever takes the DVD (if anyone) can probably assume a visitor to the resort there from the area did it, but it’s less romantic/heroic when you put it that way.

At any rate, the film features both Jackie Chan and Jet Li (both older by now/then) in dual roles, and neither is the true protagonist. Instead, a South Boston white teen named Jason Tripitikas travels to Chinatown (Boston) often to visit a pawn shop to look for kung fu movie bootlegs. He’s come to know the owner, Hop, during his visits. One day, he catches a glimpse of a staff in a back room and asks about it. Hop tells him that it’s waiting for a man to come to return it to its rightful owner, and that Hop’s grandfather, father, and now he waited for that man. When a bunch of thugs who bully Jason find out he knows the pawn shop owner, they force him to help get them into the locked shop for a robbery, and they shoot Hop. Jason grabs the staff and tries to fight them off, but ends up running to the roof, and he falls, and…..

He is transported to ancient, mythical China with the staff just outside a village being raided by the warlord’s men. A drunken martial arts master (Chan) saves him and starts to tell him the story of the Monkey God, a bit of a prankster martial arts master who invaded a ceremony held for the Jade Emperor and who embarrassed the Jade Warlord. The Jade Emperor only returns every couple of centuries from his meditation, and the Jade Warlord is in place while the Emperor meditates. The Jade Warlord challenges the Monkey God to a fight and tricks him into laying down his staff, and then he (the Jade Warlord) entraps the Monkey God in a statue. Before he’s completely encased, the Monkey God sends his staff far away for protection as it is the thing that can free him.

So Jason and Lu Yan (Chan) head off so that Jason can learn kung fu to handle himself as he is off to return the staff to the Monkey God. Along the way, they link up with a monk (Jet Li) and a young woman sworn to kill the Jade Warlord, who has taken the time to brutally conquer and suppress, etc. Then they get to the stronghold of the Jade Warlord, chaos and kung fu ensue, and….

Well, not finis. Jason returns to his own time without the staff, but uses his knowledge of kung fu to fend off the thugs and meets someone who looks just like the Golden Sparrow, the young woman whom he had to leave behind in ancient, mythical China.

You know what? I’ve been harsh on some Chinese and Chinese/American or Chinese/Elsewhere movies of the 21st century because they feature Chinese heroes fighting against Westerners who want to steal China’s treasures. This one does not ring the Chinese jingoistic or propaganda bells–although, note that the Western hero is bringing a Chinese treasure back to China. So I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and I enjoyed seeing Jackie Chan revisit the Drunken Master set (Lu Yen is an immortal, but his elixir, required to keep him ever young or strong or something, is wine), and Jet Li chews the scenery a bit in his dual role as the monk and as the Monkey God.

So, overall, a good way to pass an evening.

And then there’s Liu Yifei as the Golden Sparrow.

She received most of her acclaim as the live-action Disney Princess Mulan, but that comes after 16 years of film roles (and 12 years after this film).

I would be happy to see her in other roles, but we have worse news: She is a recording artist with a couple of albums, which means she might be on a Musical Balance post in the future should I ever 1) Buy enough qualifying albums which are not LPs to bother and 2) I remember to sample her work thus.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories