I've been looking forward to this movie since hearing about it. After all, any movie with both Jet Li and Jackie Chan in it already has a lot going for it.
And I was pretty well satisfied with it. It delivered pretty much what one can expect, and it did it well, with only a few real snafus.
If you're familiar with the Narnia story, particular "The Silver Chair", or George McDonald's fantasies such as "Lilith" and "Phantastes", you'll find the basic plot to "Forbidden Kingdom" to be similar--boy from modern times is sent to a kind of historical-fantasy realm where he must complete a quest, then is sent back to modern times where he sets some things right.
For Chan, it's probably the best movie of his that I've seen for a while. He is given an absolutely perfect character for his style of acting, a master of drunken fighting, and he doesn't spend much time trying to be a dramatic actor that he really doesn't do very well. His character quite makes the movie.
For Li, he actually has two roles. One is such that if you have seen "Hero" you will be familiar with, the quiet and stoic warrior (actually a monk) who says little and lets his actions speak for him. The other, as the Monkey King, is a definite switch, a free-spirited and humorous character that is much different from anything I've seen him play before.
The other two that round out the gang of misfits is our hero, the south Boston boy misplaced in time and space, and a Chinese girl named Sparrow who is out for some reckoning against the movie's big bad guy.
One thing the movie relishes in, and for which I approve it, is the one fight scene between Chan and Li. I think it goes on for at least 5 minutes, and is pretty much everything one can want from it.
Of course, there are things in it that can be complained about, to more or lesser degrees. Although religion is not a big part of the movie, it isn't completely absent either. Chan's character is called at one point something like a "Daoist immortal", though the immortal part is a bit problematic at one point, and Li's seems to be some kind of Buddhist monk. The idea of humans who have become immortal through some means is a main thing in the plot. When teaching our hero his kung-fu, there are scenes where the teachers, Li and Chan, are giving various philosophical nuggets that seem to have a kind of Buddhist twist to them.
I may not have liked that, but I can accept it. What else can I expect, really? It's a part that is questionable that goes along with the good in the movie.
Perhaps most disturbing for me, though, was that the main modern-day thug, the one who leads the gang that robs and shoots an old man, has a necklace with a cross on it quite well-displayed around his neck. What am I to think of that? In a movie of carefully-crafted martial arts choreography and elaborate set and costume designs, am I to think that giving the thug a cross necklace was not intentional? That it was maybe overlooked, or not meant as a slam against things the cross represents? Or even that it was meant to say that the thug epitomizes what the cross represents?
Am I reading too much into it? Maybe. But I have a hard time believing that, though. To the best of my knowledge, few things are left to accident in such a movie. If the thug wore a cross, it was because someone in the making of the movie wanted him to wear it.
That's the one thing that really tarnishes what was for me a very enjoyable movie.