So, I just saw The Forbidden Kingdom. And, well, it was really fun. Totally awesome watching Jet Li and Jackie Chan playing around and having fun. Of course, there were totally cool fight scenes and plenty of funny lines and general silliness. So, yeah, I liked it.
There were some interesting things about it. For one, I have no idea where the title The Forbidden Kingdom comes from. I'm tempted to say that the Weinsteins are poking fun at themselves for re-purposing Hong Kong kung fu movies and giving them ridiculous unrelated titles. If that's the case, um, that's kind of weird. But kudos for them for being self aware enough to recognize that they're doing it. Now all they need to do stop giving these types of movies completely random names and we'll move on. On the other hand, maybe there actually was some sort of Forbidden Kingdom somewhere and I just missed it. Yeah, that's probably it.
The most interesting thing, though, was the fact that they felt the need to anchor this movie with a young white male. Yes, that's right. You take pretty much the two most famous and popular martial arts movie stars alive today and put them in a movie together and still feel the need to add a white guy to make sure that it appeals to American audiences. That is sad. Admittedly, they spend the first half of the movie just making fun of that very fact. I mean this literally by the way. Jackie and Jet spend massive amounts of time laughing at poor Michael Angarano (or something like that...the star of Sky High, if you ever saw it, not Shia Lebouef...or something like that...even though he looks kind of like a shorter, stouter version of him in this movie...and that was a terrible use of pronouns, just for the record). In fact, there's one fight where Jackie uses him as a weapon (which is pretty awesome)...and as a cushion on occasion as well.
Of course, they still eventually train him and he becomes of semi-capable fighter or whatever. At least they make the decision to never put him anywhere near the level of those two. He becomes good enough to handle the random henchman, which I guess is the minimum for him to be able to keep up at all. And, of course, he proves his value and blah de blah. They come to respect him and are proud of him and yeah, it doesn't matter.
Anyways, why does it have to be a white kid? Story-wise, there's no reason for it at all. It's literally done entirely to make for easier viewing for white audiences. But that's stupid since we've seen that movies with entirely Asian casts are quite capable of making money at the box office (think of that Crouching Tiger movie or those artsy Jet Li movies...or maybe Memoirs of a Geisha or whatever, I didn't actually watch the full thing so I can't say for sure that there wasn't a random American geisha or something hanging around). So, really, it's just done because the Weinsteins are stupid. I guess we all knew that though, so whatever.
Seriously, though, if I were Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and we were going to star in a movie together, I would want that movie's young star to be some charismatic martial artist who will one day become as renowned as me. I would take this as an opportunity to show off somebody who's going to be a star and put them in front of the whole world. I wouldn't want that role to go to some American kid who has relatively little fighting experience. But that's how it went. Which kind of sucks.
On the other hand, the kid did a decent job in the role, so I have to give him credit for that. Not that he had to do much besides get laughed at, but I don't mind.
I was also a little dissatisfied with the flow of the movie. They kind of had this formula where we started by watching them travel to a new locale (bamboo forest, desert, lake, burned village, cherry blossoms, or whatever), then we had a scene or two with Jackie, Jet, and the kid which were awesome, then we had a pointless, forced, kind of awkward scene with the love interest. And then we were back to traveling. This was typically interspersed with a scene checking up on the bad guys. And that was the vast majority of the movie.
From that description, you can probably tell what made me dissatisfied with the flow of the movie. Yeah, the love interest was completely pointless. Her only reason for existing, at all, was because these movies are required by law to have a kick ass girl who starts out thinking the boy is useless and embarrassing (because he is) but eventually realizes that there's more to him than what she first saw. I mean, even freaking Balls of Fury had to do that, and it's just using ping-pong to make fun of the American martial arts movie form.
I did kind of like how the kid would eventually start hanging out with her at each of the locales because he'd be tired of Jackie and Jet laughing at him and beating him up. So he'd retreat to her while she'd be playing one of those string instrument things and typically be a good boy a sit quietly and listen...okay, and stare at her. But, it was still not really a fun way to develop her character and it was an entirely ineffective way to develop their relationship of sorts.
Of course, having them be sparring partners would be even more clichéd so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I guess if I were making the movie, I would have had him listen and then try to actually start a conversation with her, maybe even learn about her (while not staring at her). Instead of their way, where he listens and then she randomly volunteers information, probably just to end the awkward silence created by him staring at her. You know what, it would have been better if they just didn't have him staring at her the whole time (at points it honestly seemed like he was drooling a little bit).
But, whatever, what's done is done. The despite these shortcomings, the sheer awesomeness of watching a movie with Jackie Chan and Jet Li easily outweighed them. Most importantly, though, it was clear that they were having tons of fun making this movie and that really comes out while you're watching it. So, yeah, good job guys. You should make another one. Minus that ridiculous Monkey King hair on Jet Li, that was a little much.
That is all.