Friday, 16 May 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

Worthwhile martial arts...

Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) is a martial arts fan who enjoys buying movies of old martial arts films for his viewing pleasure. Yet one night while at the a pawn shop in China Town, Michael gets himself caught up in a terrible situation not of his liking, and receives a golden staff from the store's owner, Old Hop. With this staff, Michael becomes magically transported to Ancient China, where he must deliver the staff to its original owner. With the aid of Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), Golden Sparrow (Liu Yi Fei) and the Silent Monk (Jet Li), Michael must save Ancient China becoming fully ruled by the Jade Emperor (Collin Chou).

The story of The Forbidden Kingdom is a simple one which does not try to convolute itself. It is thus a simple watch, but by no means is the story unimportant into events which transpire. Yes, it does take a backseat to the many martial arts sequences, but the story is vital, even if for its moral message it presents. However while its simplicity is nothing major, it does come across as somewhat frivolous when compared to such titles as Hero and House of Flying Daggers, such as The Chronicles of Narnia is to The Lord of the Rings. And the film really shouldn't be so: it is evident by the film's conclusion that there are elements which needed more emphasizing, such as the Jade Warlord's aggression over his people, and the situation which occurs in the real world, never gets the resolution it deserves. Still the story fulfills its purpose by moving events along, and does prove to help with the development of the characters with one another, and their own emotion states. What the characterization doesn't do well is the growth of the characters psychical abilities. For Michael, yes it is done as expected but none of the other characters grow with their strengths or learn as the film continues. It can be argued that Silent Monk and Lu Yan do not need to, but that is one of the film's problems: they have no apparent weakness in their fighting skills, and can demolish groups of men with ease. As least with Michael his skills develop from virtually none at all, to adequate enough to survive battle. It does come as a pity that he doesn't get much of a role in the final battle.

Characters essentially become a problem for The Forbidden Kingdom. Even though the Ja Warlord may have an army, it is pretty obvious early on that have a problem trying to fight Lu Yan, let alone the remainder of the group. So fair fighting must be equated to the main characters but there are four heroes versus merely two villains. Also, the Jade Emperor is not even the strongest of the six characters, something revealed in a fight quite early in the story. Ultimately, the story becomes somewhat predictable, and tension you might expect from the film's later stages, is lost because there is no real challenge for the protagonists to overcome.

However the fighting sequences, which are probably the sole reason for 99% of viewers went to watch the film, are completely amazing. The fights are wonderfully choreographed and make for some exciting fights. However some parts of a fight can at times seem a little too perfect and not quite natural enough. Also, after the Jet Li/ Jackie Chan fight, the remaining fights become somewhat formulaic and predictable. Regardless this never stops the fights being engaging, with martial arts action being even more intense than in The Matrix.

One notable aspect of the film is it use of music. The opening track pretty much summarizes the films tone as being a light-hearted affair, and the rest of the tracks keep their atmosphere similar. While the music is very pleasing to the ears there were hardly any tracks that were used to build tension. Coupled with the hero-villain ratio problem, the film has this jarring effect of lacking suspense. And while the soundtrack has its weak moments, they are not as evident as the graphical component of the film. There are some lush environments, spectacular costume design, but the CG fails to imitate the beauty of the film as a whole, with some images being obviously forced into the film's imagery. Such an example comes in the form of Ni-Chang's (Li Bingbing) hair when it used as a weapon. It looked grated in the trailers but when seen in its full reel, it looks shallow and the technology dated.

The film contains no sex or nudity, but there are a few fully clad women in a brothel. Language is left to a minimum, and action sequences contain hardly any deaths and even less blood, however, the fighting can become quite intense.

The Forbidden Kingdom is a wonderful film and will most probably satisfy all martial arts fans. But this doesn't stop the film having a complete lack of suspense in regards to ever important story, and it feels far too immature to the likes of Hero and House of Flying Daggers. If anything, The Forbidden Kingdom becomes a nice introduction to these easily superior films, but it does have the very strong point of utterly engaging martial arts. It is a film with loads of potential, but maybe if done on another day, would have been able to realize it all.


Screen date: 16 May 2008
Release date: 16 May 2008

1 comment:

Download Movies said...

This movie will be enjoyed by any Jet Li or Jackie Chan fans, certainly. The cinematography is wonderful, with stunning views, excellent use of CGI without overdoing it, and decent acting.