Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

I feel the same way.
Unfortunately, The Forbidden Kingdom was released 10 years too late, at best; in both physical capabilities and star power, Jackie Chan and Jet Li have noticeably deteriorated in the interim. What comes out of their first onscreen pairing then is a mediocre kung fu epic, a celebrity all-star game, built upon a rickety foundation of reputation in which the name value lent by the masters is more important than their former abilities. Too bad, because a Jackie/Jet rumble in the 90s was the stuff of our grade school daydreams. Kingdom's got an inane premise, sure, and though that's a virtual prerequisite for the martial arts genre, it's not even inane enough to set up some spectacular fights. See, this kid named Jason loves Hong Kong action cinema, and on his latest trip to a mysterious pawn shop, he runs afoul with a band of malcontents his age. They rough him up so bad that he is magically whisked away to feudal times where he now has to hone his skills, at the behest of Jackie and Jet, so that he can return a staff to its proper place, fulfilling a destiny, you get it. There's many problems with this story, not the least of which is the shoehorning in of a white guy to be our unnecessary, emotional Orientalist tour guide, but the principle sin is unquestionably the all-too-brief fight between Jackie and Jet. It's fine for what it is, but it's not fine because of what it could've been. Technically, the choreography is clean, the cinematography is unobtrusive, and even the editing is a-ok, but there's little interesting about the whole thing and there should be when the team-up involves these two. Instead, Kingdom's stars are simply there to give the rub to others, most notably our intrepid white boy hero, and his acting is awful even by kung fu film standards. All Kingdom can do is send us back to our other DVDs.

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