Normally, a movie such as “The Forbidden Kingdom” would not have attracted much attention from the public. It would have been seen as a combination of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Lord of the Rings” and “The Karate Kid,” and would have been written-off as something for the kids. However, it was able to hook in many audiences by pairing up martial arts legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li, two stars who have never appeared in the same film together until now. And while the script and the directing are quite weak, the movie does have its strong points.
The movie kicks off with a South Boston teenager named Jason (Michael Angarano) who is obsessed with the kung-fu movies that he gets from a pawnshop run by an old Chinese shop-keeper (Chan). However, local gangsters force him to assist in robbing the store, which leads to Hop (Chan) getting shot and Jason being charged with guarding an ancient golden staff. Soon, Jason is magically transported to ancient China where he discovers he is the legendary “seeker” meant to return the staff to its rightful owner, the powerful Monkey King (Jet Li).
To make matters worse, the Monkey King is trapped as a statue in the palace of the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou), who is determined to destroy the staff and to prevent the resurrection of his archenemy. He sends his armies, along with a deadly witch (Li Bing Bing), after Jason to stop him from mission.
The story is quite convoluted and the dialogue is awkward. Then again, who goes to a martial arts movie for the plot and philosophy? We came for the kung-fu.
Rather than going with a kung-fu parody or a martial arts tribute, director Rob Minkoff and writer John Fusco went for something in-between as the film is filled with loving allusions to old kung-fu epics and archetypes such as the drunken master, the trickster Monkey King and the whip-wielding white-haired witch