Cinema: Funtastic Martial Arts Caper

23 Apr

Chan (left) and Li attempt some acrobatic kung fu.

Chan (left) and Li attempt some acrobatic kung fu.

FORBIDDEN KINGDOM
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Liu Yifei, Li Bingbing, Collin Chou

THIS is a much anticipated movie because it marks the coming together, for the first time, of two of the world’s most loved and respected martial arts superstars – Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

In fact, the fight sequence alone where the two pit their skills in an all-out battle is well worth the price of the ticket.

You’ll see solid punches, blocks and kicks in graceful yet deadly moves.

The actors have been planning to collaborate for 15 years and missed two opportunities due to technical problems. Now that they have finally done it, it’s a sight to behold.

With two stellar martial arts experts on the set, action choreography by renowned master Yuen Wo Ping, and China’s breathtaking landscapes, Forbidden Kingdom is a veritable visual feast.

The storyline borders on fantasy and touches on several aspects of Chinese legends, like that of the Monkey King, the Eight Immortals, Bride with White Hair and even Chan’s past movies such as The Drunken Master.

Naturally, one wonders how ancient Chinese folk manage to pull off perfect English!

But this is fantasy at its best – with characters, comedy, drama and adventure that viewers will enjoy for the sheer joy it evokes.

This epic tale follows Boston teenager Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) in a strange journey that takes him through ancient China where he faces murderous warriors to save the world – sort of.

Jason is obsessed with movies on Chinese martial arts and his bedroom walls are plastered with striking posters (these are actually classic Shaw Brothers prints depicting movies and stars from the 1960s).

They are also shown in the opening credits, lending a sense of nostalgia for die-hard fans.

Jason frequents a Chinatown pawnshop for cheap DVDs on martial arts and comes upon a staff, said to belong to the Monkey King.

His adventure in China begins when he learns that he is the one prophesied to take the staff to the Monkey King, who has been tricked and turned to stone by the cruel Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

It’s a perilous journey with numerous attacks from the Warlord’s formidable forces as well as from the Demoness Ni Chang (Li Bingbing).

Jason is fortunate to have a highly skilled “drunk” kung fu master (Jackie Chan) and the Silent Monk (Jet Li) on his side, although it is often torture for the young man as his two mentors try to whip him into shape for what lies ahead.

To his credit, Angarano, who has had no previous martial arts experience, handles himself well in the action sequences and looks authentic in his kung fu stances and when wielding a staff.

There’s also comedy in the form of Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei), a young girl bent on revenge against the Jade Warlord, and who provides the romantic interest for Jason.

Speaking of fun, Chan gets most of the best one-liners in the movie. Although Li is his usual cool and quiet self as the Silent Monk, he gets to be a little mischievous as the Monkey King, although nowhere near as lively as some portrayals I’ve seen before.

 

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