May 4, 2008

The Fellowship of the Bō

Growing up in the Philippines, I was a regular viewer of the TV series Kung Fu. I didn't watch cartoons on weekend mornings; I watched Chinese shows instead. (Wasn't the line-up called Beautiful Sunday? Anybody?!) I don't even remember if it had English subtitles. I loved the costumes and the fight scenes. I still love the martial arts genre and would not have passed up The Forbidden Kingdom.

Forbidden is the story of a gong fu-obsessed Boston teenager named Jason (Michael Angarano---watch his physique improve as the movie goes on). He gets transported to mythic China after a run-in with neighborhood baddies. He is revealed to be the (usually prophesied) Chosen One who will end the evil Jade Warlord's reign. To do this, he must go to Five Elements Mountain where the Monkey King has been imprisoned in stone. He can only be freed by getting his magical staff returned to him. Jason is aided in his task by a drunken master (Chan), a beautiful vengeance-driven warrior named Golden Sparrow (who speaks of herself in the third person) and a supposedly silent monk (Li).

The scenery is breathtaking, the music swells at appropriate times. But Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon it is not. Sure it is full of clichés. The montage of training sequences, the sage-like advice passed on to the young disciple. But that's what makes it fun. Hey, I really only wanted to see Jackie Chan and Jet Li kick each other's butt. And it does not disappoint. The fight scenes are artfully choreographed, showcasing each performer's natural grace and different fighting styles. Yes, we all know it's wire work but it doesn't make it any less compelling.

Now if only they found a way to cast Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Gong Li it would have been perfect.

(Photo from Yahoo!)


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