Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

For fans of martial arts films, the teaming of Jackie Chan and Jet Li has long been looked forward to. But it took Hollywood, where martial arts films have gained some popularity post-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, to finally bring these two Chinese legends together in The Forbidden Kingdom. Though they are both past their primes and are stuck in a movie that doesn't really do justice to their talents, seeing them share the screen does help us overlook most of the movie's faults.

A high school kid Jason(Michael Angarano), a fan of martial arts movies, is transported to ancient China because of the powers of a magical staff in a Chinese pawn shop. He soon learns that he is the chosen on to deliver the staff to Monkey King(Jet Li), who needs it to defeat the Jade Warlord. Jason is helped in his mission by a drunkard Lu Yan(Jackie Chan), Golden Sparrow(Yifei Liu), who has her own score to settle with the Jade Warlord and the Silent Monk(Jet Li), whose own mission in life is to deliver the staff to Monkey King.

The Forbidden Kingdom has enough action to satisfy fans of the genre. Chan and Li get it on once in a long fight sequence and they also go up against with other fighters in bouts that are typically fast and well-choreographed. The different locations, props and opponents keep the fights from seeming repetitive. But the visual flair that we saw in movies like Hero and House of Flying Daggers is missing. Barring a short scene where Liu is shown practicing surrounded by the orange colors of fall, there is no style or pizzaz in the fights. They are serviceable but bland. Apart from the lack of exhilaration, the other side-effect of this is that the lack of realism seems more pronounced. The visual aspect gave those other movies a dream-like atmosphere which made the wire-fu stunts seem acceptable. But the wire-fu stunts here stand out as unrealistic and take the fun out of the action.

Having grown up on Jackie Chan films like The Protector, Project A and Armor of God, Chan was the primary reason for me to see the film. I've admired Jet Li's fighting skills in his earlier movies and even his lame Hollywood entries but Chan's mix of real stunts and comedy made me his fan a long time ago and he was the USP of the film for me. Li was more like icing on the cake. As in his recent films, Chan's comedy is understandably given more prominence and even when he fights, its 'real' martial arts and the acrobatic, daredevil stunts are nowhere to be seen. Li plays the quiet, serious, man-of-few-words role he seems to have been stereotyped in in Hollywood though he does have some fun in the small role of the Monkey King. But its a little sad to see these two legends stoop down to getting laughs through some real cheap jokes.

While Michael kicks off the whole trip to China, he is more of a passerby once he is joined by Chan and Li. His kungfu training sessions contain a few laughs even if they have been seen before in every sports or kungfu movie where a newcomer is trained by an expert. And he is pretty convincing when he does get to show off a few moves. There is also a hint of a romance between him and Liu but though it never gets far, it does allow the movie to end with a nice touch that links the past and the present.


At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thoroughly disappointed by this movie! the stunts looked like they were choreographed by Peter Hayne or Kanal Kannan! And as you rightly pointed out, after seeing some visually stunning movies like "Hero" and "Curse of the golden flower", this one looked tacky.


At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

chan is in a very uneviable phase of his career where he cannot do those spectacular stunts anymore (my eyes pop out even when I just THINK of those stunts from rumble in the bronx, my fav. chan movie) and has to depend on silly comedy and even worse (for chan), stunt doubles...

off topic, what on earth was ms. sherawat wearing at the dasavatharam launch? karunanidhi indha aadai panjam paathutu yoschirupaaru, "enadhu arumai jackie chan-ey, nee vimaanam yaeri vandhadhu edharkaga, ingu maedai eruvadharka? alla, mallikavin aadai theduvadharka?!"

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking of dasavatharam, the lyrics of one of the songs goes... "Sept 11 andru twin towers saayndhadhu, en tower saayavillai". Don't people in our film industry, esp the lyricists have an iota of decency or sensitivity? First it was the reference to the tsunami in a song in Kana Kanden and now this? disgusting!


Post a Comment

<< Home