The Forbidden Kingdom (2008): Jackie Chan & Jet Li Wow

Cover of "The Forbidden Kingdom"
Cover of The Forbidden Kingdom

Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little 1 & 2) and written by John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns 1 & 2), The Forbidden Kingdom has scored a couple of ‘firsts.’

It is the first time in cinema history that a western film company was allowed to film in China and  use the Hengdian World Studios, Heng Dian, China, although The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was allowed to use the facilities in the same year. The second ‘first’ is of course the pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li .

The films main protagonist is Michael Angarano as Jason Tripitikas, a young American teenager who is obsessed with martial arts films and kung-fu. Angarano has been working in the business since he was small child and he has a list of credits as long as your arm, He is perhaps best known for his work on 24 and Sky High.

The film also introduces to western audiences two actresses who are well known in China, Yifei Liu as Golden Sparrow and Bingbing Li as Ni Chang the white haired witch.  Bingbing Li will be seen as Ada Wong in Resident Evil: Retribution later this year.

The film’s plot in a nutshell is this:

An American teenage boy goes to his favourite pawnshop to look for little known original kung-fu films. The shop owner Hop (Jackie Chan) likes the boy Jason and helps him to find films. While he’s in the shop, Jason discovers a golden Staff that he thinks he recognises and Hop explains the it has been in the shop since his father ran it.

Later Jason has a run in with a local gang who make him go to the shop in order to rob Hop. Hop tries to defend his shop and the golden staff. The gang leader shoots Hop who gives the staff to Jason and tells him to run. Jason runs to the top of a building and falls off of it. He hits the ground and loses conciousness.

When he wakes up, a Chinese lady is speaking to him and he appears to be in Feudal China. Since he doesn’t understand anything anyone is saying he starts wandering through the small village. A horde of soldiers arrive on horseback and start rounding up villagers and killing them.

Jason runs and encounters Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) who saves Jason from the soldiers. Lu Yan is talking to Jason, who keeps saying that he can’t understand him. Lu Yan states it is because he is speaking English. The moment Lu Yan says this Jason can understand what he is saying as magically everyone in the film starts speaking English.

English: Michael Angarano professional headshot.

Thus begins the journey that Jason must take in order to find the staff’s owner and return to his home. Along the way Jason and Lu Yan meet and start travelling with Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) and The Silent Monk (Jet Li). Jason learns that Lu Yan is an ‘immortal’ (he isn’t) and that Golden Sparrow is seeking revenge for the murder of her family by the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

Jason also finds out who the owner of the golden staff is, The Monkey King (Jet Li) who was tricked by the Jade Warlord long ago and turned into a living statue. The Monkey King is a true immortal and can only be released from his bondage by the return of the golden staff.

The Jade Warlord knows that the staff has been found and he sends Ni Chang (Bingbing Li) to stop the small group and get the staff.

This is an absolutely brilliant film.

The scene where Jet Li and Jackie Chan fight is absolute magic. Their separate styles are shown to great advantage. Li stoic and silent. Chan athletic and amusing. They are equally matched in the film. Li’s Silent Monk and Chan’s Drunken Master  each change their martial arts style to match the other’s.  Easily the most anticipated scene in film history, it does not disappoint.

In Hong Kong
In Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The rest of the film is entertaining and will have you laughing and crying, at the very least tearing up, and cheering.

Filmed with a budget of $55 million with a box office return of $127,906,624 this was a wildly successful film. But to be honest, it looks like a 55 million dollar film. The scenery, the sets, the costumes all look fantastic and really help to make you feel like you are in feudal China.

This film is a definite keeper I bought the blu-ray the second it came out. It’s a film that can be watched again and again. The blu-ray also has some brilliant ‘featurettes’ not least of which is the ‘gag’ reel or ‘out-takes’ which shows just how much fun the actors had working together.


About Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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