While everything else about it may be consigned to oblivion, Forbidden Kingdom will always be remembered as the movie that brought two of the greatest movie martial artists in the world - Jackie Chan and Jet Li - together on the big screen.
Fans breathlessly awaited the bout to end them all, as they matched fighting skills in a scene that got more hype than was really warranted - actually, it wasn't their fighting skills on the line, it was their individual charm and humour. The contest in that arena was far fiercer than the fight scene.
Hands up all those who thought Jackie would play the Monkey King, that cheeky, playful character beloved of Chinese mythology. The role seemed a natural for cheeky Chan. But instead he played two roles, the owner of a Kung Fu movie store, and a shambling drunken beggar with unexpected martial arts skills.
To those still in love with Masaaki Sakai's portrayal of the Monkey King in the much loved TV series Monkey Magic, the revelation that Jet Li would play the Monkey King came as a surprise. Wasn't Jet better known for serious, even villainous roles? Blame Lethal Weapon IV for that, which introduced Jet Li as a bad guy to western audiences. Fans who knew his previous movies knew this man has a delicious sense of humour, and he wickedly played the Monkey King in a blond ponytail and a cheeky grin that split his face virtually in half.
Both actors layered on the charm, and the laughs, knowing that when it comes to fighting, they are equally skilled, and equally loved. One could not best the other. But on the scene stealing front, there were no holds barred. Jet can turn on the charm like no other, as he did in Romeo Must Die, when he shyly romanced the gangster businessman's beautiful daughter.
Jackie, on the other hand, is charm in a golden casket. As he said in Rush Hour II, "women think I'm cute, like Snoopy." In The Myth he swept two fabulously beautiful Asian women off their feet and it was perfectly believable. Charm is a commodity this man has in spades. So who won this battle? The audience, for sure.
Forbidden Kingdom needed these two because it didn't have too much else going for it. The movie was about a bullied boy who meets a kung fu master and ...no, wait, that's Karate Kid. Michael Angarano plays a boy who goes back in time to help the Monkey King retrieve his magical staff. He gets help from a wandering beggar and a wandering monk (Chan and Li), dusts off the bad guy, comes back to the future and gets the girl. Or something.
Forget the plot. This is about the two greatest martial arts artists on the planet getting together to show off their skills and reminding us why we love them so much.
I purchased this DVD with my own funds.
The Forbidden Kingdom