Dorian's Movie Reviews & Critiques

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.

Note that a critique for writers follows the review.

Scale 1 - 10
Forbidden Kingdom
2008, Lionsgate
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Written by John Fusco

MPAA Rating: - PG-13 -

Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano), an everyday American young adult, is suddenly propelled by a martial arts relic to the China of fable, for a mission. To return home, he must first go on a quest to return the relic to the immortal Monkey King, who has been frozen for hundreds of years by the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Only the return of the relic will free him. The laughing and teasing Monkey King lost the relic (a weapon) by his own trusting nature.

Along the journey he meets several people who accompany him on his journey. First is the drunken master, Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), an immortal who must stay drunk to stay vital. Next is a young woman, Golden Sparrow (Yifei Lui) who was orphaned when the evil warlord killed her parents. She is set on revenge. And then there is the Silent Monk (Jet Li), who is also a fallen star. Their path is blocked by Bing Bing Li (Ni Chang), a witch with powers to kill them all.

This movie is a great popcorn movie, and actually has some good messages enclosed. Each of the characters deliver very good martial arts performances. Michael Angarano is very believable as someone incapable of defending himself, and then as a martial arts pro.

Jackie Chan and Jet Li, two of my most favorite actors, rarely disappoint. Jackie Chan and Jet Li complement each other's performances very well (and I hope we haven't seen the last of these two together). Jackie, as usual, delivers the underdog character that you have to like, laugh at his scrapes, but who is victorious moment by moment. Jet Li shows the funny side of his acting prowess, while also delivering the very stern and impenetrable stance that is also a mark of his characters. Excellent performances by both.

Collin Chou presented an excellent foe as the psychopathic warlord who would rule the empire at any cost to others. Both Yifei Lui and Ni Chang were believable and effective in their roles, delivering really good acting and martial arts performances.

This movie delivers it all: martial arts, ancient magic, unrestrained villains, epic heroes, breathtaking scenery, quests, justice, and comedy as well. Enjoy!

Forbidden Kingdom Web site.

Engaging: Very.
Boring: No way.
Confusing: No.
Characters: Great performances
Entertaining: Yes - beginning to end
Plot: Very good balance between theme, plot, and character. Good plot twists.
Uniqueness and originality: Good
Surprises: Yes
Recommend this movie to others: Highly

Emotional reaction to the movie (the following are from a work in progress):

  • Film Mood: adventurous, energetic.
  • Film ethos* (feelings left with): uplifted, enlightened, simple, story moral, romantic, sympathetic, warm hearted, skillful.
  • Film Energy: courageous, engaging, determined.
  • Film Outlook: optimistic
* Ethos: The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement.
- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation. All rights reserved.

Technical and critique

My comments below attempt to draw attention to technical things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions. For professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts, and realize that these notes are not necessarily part of the overall rating for entertainment value.

  • Writing - great characterization; well integrated interaction with the set and use of the set as a "character;" very visually presented. Well deserved: Nine spotlights.
  • Acting - Excellent performances. Nine spotlights.
  • Casting - Well chosen. Nine spotlights.
  • Directing - the scenes flowed well; the story was cohesive; the drama was told visually; and good overall production, excellent blending of fantasy, comedy, martial arts and real elements to deliver a very integrated production. Nine spotlights.
  • Lighting - Excellent use of lighting in light and dark scenes, inside and outside. Ten spotlights.
  • Production design - Fantastic use of the set to help tell the story through interaction and through motif. The desert representing struggle and hopelessness; the cliffs around the palace representing an insurmountable fortress; and the opening cloud motif which recurred throughout the production to represent fantasy flying and moving through time and space. Ten spotlights.
  • Special effects - seamless. Excellent production. Ten spotlights.
  • Editing - the action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions in very complicated shooting sequences, and put together a very coherent story despite all of the complex choreography. Ten spotlights.
  • Music - seamless, and complimented the action. Nine spotlights.
  • Costume design - Noteworthy. Very individualized and appropriate. Nine spotlights.
  • Choreography of the set with the character actions - Excellent. Ten spotlights.
  • Cinematography - well executed and told the story visually. Ten spotlights.

Story critique: what worked well, what didn't, and why?

Can a student have two masters? The question arises in the dialogue. Jackie Chan, and Jet Li, two masters in real live working together, is symbolic of what worked well in this movie. Lines are often sharply drawn between what is drama, what is comedy, and what is fantasy. This movie is fantasy, with excellent use of both drama and comedy in a blend that works very well. Jackie Chan actually has his own category, "a Jackie Chan" movie.

Both Chan and Li could have dominated the movie, burying the other characters in their wake. Often the "lead" character "has" to appear on the first page and be in every scene. They shared their space, and because they did it was a better movie. The four other main characters (Michael Angarano, Collin Chou, Yifei Lui, and Ni Chang) were enabled to have shining stars.

This is a movie that uses motifs to good affect. A motif is a recurring element in a story. It usually sets the mood or conveys some type of information. The movie opens with clouds, and then flying through the clouds, and then coming on a martial arts battle high above the steep cliffs of a mountaintop. We know immediately that the movie is a fantasy and of course involves martial arts and fantasy flying. When we see clouds later in the movie, we know that we are moving through time and space.

Possibly Lu Yan's drunkenness is also a motif. Lu Yan uses alcohol to hide from uncomfortable realities. He also uses drunkenness to hide his real purpose from those he intends to conquer.

The simplicity of the story line, and that it is good VS evil, makes this a high concept story, which usually sells very well.

I didn't see any technical or story flaws in this movie.

I have to comment that the number of production companies involved in filming in China, Korea, and LA, and special effects and post production companies in Australia, China, Canada, and around the world, must have been a feat to arrange in itself.

- Dorian


  • 10 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 8 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 6 Spotlights: Not bad, but has deficiencies - worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

Inevitable Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are only opinions and should be regarded as opinions by the reader.

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