x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Forbidden Kingdom

The 400-year-old Chinese epic Journey to the West has been long overdue for big screen attention. But The Forbidden Kingdom is not quite the adaptation it needs.

Jackie Chan in <i>The Forbidden Kingdom</i>.
Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom.


The 400-year-old Chinese epic Journey to the West - a bewitching tale of the heroic warrior Monkey and his search for immortality - has been long overdue for big screen attention. But The Forbidden Kingdom is not quite the adaptation it needs. Opting to be more like The Neverending Story than The House of Flying Daggers, the film sees Jason, a geeky kung fu movie-obsessed teenager from Boston, transported back to ancient China. His mission: to return Monkey's sacred staff to it's rightful owner so that the evil Jade Warlord can be overthrown and the people freed. The only flaw in the plan is that on arrival, Jason doesn't know any kung fu. Fear not. He promptly receives the combined tutorship of the fighting legends Jet Li and Jackie Chan in a mentoring session that would have made the Karate Kid swallow his nunchucks. Unlike his kung fu skills, the lead actor Michael Angarano's acting doesn't get any better as the film progresses. But the action sequences are stunningly executed and both Chan and Li stamp their style and humour on what is very much a family movie. The story intertwines with the Monkey legend effectively, although a bit clumsily in places. The Forbidden Kingdom has fun characters and entertainment value in spades, but anyone who has been waiting for a blockbuster adaptation of Journey to the West will probably find themselves disappointed.
ogood@thenational.ae