As a child my favourite movies were “The Never Ending Story” and “The Karate Kid” or at least my favourite kids movies, I was a huge “Aliens” fan. Every year these two favourites are aired on Bank Holidays, Easter Holidays maybe even Christmas, and every year I watch them as if for the first time.
No kid’s movie has yet made such an impact on me, enough for me to care, except now. “The Forbidden Kingdom” probably isn’t written to be a kid’s movie but is basically a mash of the two. With that new fancy-pants kind of Kung-Fu, the kind with ropes and badass stunts.
The story follows Martial Arts Movie enthusiast Jason Tripitikas (if my genius mind is correct Tripitikas is an
ancient chinese character, the Monkey King, nice reference) as he is given a Magical Staff handed down generations by his favourite martial arts retailer Hop, and told to return it to it’s owner. Jason is thrust into Ancient China as he falls unconscious thanks to the handywork of High School bully characters #1 through 4. I should itterate now that the Ancient China isn’t the real Ancient China it is more of an Alice in Wonderland type setting, my media brain is desperate to inform you that it is fact Jianghu a fictional environment often used in Chinese Story telling.
Anyway, Jason soon meets Drunken Kung-Fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan to you and I) who coinsidentaly speaks perfect English and is nice enough to help Jason on his quest to return the staff. Along the journey we meet vengeful musician Golden Sparrow set to murder the murderer of her murdered parents. We also bump into Silent Monk Jet Li (oh yes, all star cast right here) and our band of travelers is ready. Plot unravels, fantastic twists ensue and the day is saved.
The movie is actually a pretty clever concept. As I stated before it is the world of Jianghu a traditional fictional chinese environemt but the movie employs very western story telling concepts (or russian, but russia is west of china.) Our good friend Vladimir Propp, Russian structualist, theorised the main characters used in folk stories.
The Villain, The Donor (giver of magical object), The (magical) Helper, The Princess (object of love), The Dispatcher (sends the hero on the the journey) and last by not least The Hero.
I’m sure you don’t need me to see where these characters fit in.
This is an interesting and very clever move for Jet Li and Jackie Chan as “Forbidden Kingdom” is a good entry point for young fans into martial arts, but doesn’t try to make you believe Detroit white boys can actually know kung-fu fighting styles or become a master of Karate. It also creates a stepping stone into an interest for Chinese history or mythology and opens up movies such as “House of Flying Daggers”, “Crouching Tiger..” and “Hero” as potential buys.
I know a lot of people who will be put off by “reading” movies and will refuse to watch something foreign, HOLD YOUR MYTHICAL LUCK DRAGONS this is a Hollywood movie, directed by longtime Disney employee of the month Rob Minkoff of “Lion King” and “Stuart Little” fame.
If this movie does not become an insta-hit it will definately last the generations as a cult movie and something to stand along side “The Goonies” and “Labrynth”.
*Shudder* David Bowie.