Story

Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) is a teenager with a great passion for Kung Fu films, which he buys from a dusty old shop in Chinatown run by an old Chinese man called Old Hop (Jackie Chan). Old Hop has an antique Chinese fighting staff, which, he tells Jason, has been in the shop for more than a hundred years. It will one day be claimed and returned to its rightful owner.

While walking home after visiting Hop’s shop, Jason is set upon by a group of local bullies. The leader of the bullies, Lupo (Morgan Benoit), forces Jason to deceive Old Hop so the gang can get inside Old Hop’s shop to rob it. During the robbery, Old Hop is shot in the chest. While lying on the floor, he gives Jason the staff, telling him that it is he who must return the staff to its rightful owner. Jason is pursued by Lupo and his gang. Through the magic of the staff, he finds himself being pulled away from the gang. He is hurled off a rooftop, but before he hits the ground, the film blacks out.

When Jason wakes up, he finds that he has been transported back in time to a small village in China where he is befriended by a wine-soaked beggar named Lu Yan (also played by Jackie Chan). Through narration and imagery, Lu Yan tells Jason the story of the Monkey King, an immortal who was deceived and turned to stone by the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou), an evil immortal who has caused much death and destruction. For the Monkey King to be set free, his magical staff must be returned to him by the Seeker. Lu Yan then tells Jason that he is the Seeker who must return the staff to The Monkey King. To free the Monkey King, Jason must outrun a witch and the Jade Warlord’s henchmen, cross a desert, and find the Jade Warlord’s palace at the top of Five Elements Mountain. Jason sets off with Lu Yan. They are joined by Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu), a girl seeking vengeance against the Jade Warlord, and a mysterious silent monk.

During their journey, the Jade Warlord’s witch, Ni Chang (Bingbing Li), confronts Jason and his friends. Although the group manages to escape, Lu Yan is shot in the back by a magical arrow. Jason believes that the only way to save Lu Yan’s life is for him to go to the Jade Warlord and offer him the Monkey King’s staff in exchange for the Elixir of Life. Jason makes it to the Jade Warlord’s palace, but instead of receiving the Elixir of Life, he is challenged to a fight to the death by the witch Ni Chang. When it appears that Jason has lost, Golden Sparrow, the Silent Monk and a host of Kung Fu monks arrive and do battle.

Themes

Kung Fu and Chinese folklore

Violence

Most of the violence depicted in Forbidden Kingdom is heavily stylised action violence with minimal blood and gore. At other times, the violence is intimidating and realistic. For example:

  • There is frequent and sometimes prolonged stylised martial arts fighting with spinning and twirling kicks and punches to the face, chest and body. Weapons such as swords, knives, throwing spikes, spears and whips are used. Adversaries crash into the sides of mountains, and on occasions we hear sounds like bones breaking.
  • Jason is harassed by a group of bullies. Lupo, the group’s leader, pushes Jason off his bike, slaps and kicks him, and knocks him to the ground.
  • Lupo grabs Old Hop roughly by the shirt collar. They tussle, and Lupo is knocked to the ground. Lupo shoots Old Hop in the chest with a handgun.
  • The village to which Jason has been sent is attacked. Soldiers stab and slash at villagers with swords. Lu Yan fights the soldiers in a comical manner and rescues Jason.
  • The Monkey King and the Jade Warlord fight with lots of stylised martial arts action.
  • A young woman throws two metal darts at a soldier. The darts stick in the soldier’s throat and kill him.
  • The Jade Warlord stabs a guard in the stomach.
  • The white-haired witch Ni Chang uses a whip to strike an old man. The whip wraps itself around the man’s throat, and the witch drags the old man across the ground.
  • The Silent Monk and Lu Yan use Jason as a type of puppet through whom they hit one another.
  • Golden Sparrow relives a horrific event from her childhood in which the Jade Warlord’s soldiers attack her village, killing the villagers and burning their houses. Golden Sparrow’s mother is killed by a soldier after she has hidden Golden Sparrow.
  • The witch Ni Chang and several soldiers ambush Jason. In the ensuing fight, guards are hurled against trees. Golden Sparrow slashes down guards with two swords (no blood and gore).
  • Lu Yan is shot in the back with a magical arrow fired by Ni Chang.
  • Jason fights with the Ni Chang, and Ni Chang uses her whip to begin strangling him.
  • Jason is pushed to the floor. A guard with a sword makes ready to cut off his head.
  • The Silent Monk, Golden Sparrow and a troop of monks arrive to prevent the decapitation. Another fight follows in which the Silent Monk is punched repeatedly in the face, the Jade Warlord is struck in the throat by a staff, and the Jade Warlord attacks the Silent Monk, cutting him several times on the shoulder and chest.
  • Ni Chang falls to her death.
  • Golden Sparrow throws a jade hair pin at the Jade Warlord (Jade is the only thing that will kill an immortal), but the Jade Warlord uses magic to throw the hair pin back at Golden Sparrow. The pin hits her in the chest, the force throwing her into the wall behind (we see blood on her lips).
  • The Monkey King kicks the Jade Warlord, the force hurling the Warlord into Jason who is holding the jade hairpin he has removed from Golden Sparrow’s chest. The pin pierces the Jade Warlord’s chest, and we see green vapour escaping from the Warlord’s face and body. His face becomes corpse-like in appearance. The Warlord falls into a river of lava and perishes. We see Golden Sparrow die in Jason’s arms.
  • After Jason is returned to the present time, he is immediately set upon by Lupo and his gang of bullies. They fight, Lupo pulls out a gun and points it at Jason, but Jason easily kicks the gun from Lupo’s hand.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • There are scenes in which tendrils of green light come out of the Jade Warlords mouth and fingers.
  • Two corpses are shown hanging from a tree with a rope tied around each corpse’s neck
  • When the Jade Warlord is stabbed with a jade hair pin, green tendrils of light escape from his mouth and body and his face changes taking on a corpse like appearance. 

From 8-13

Apart from the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are no images or scenes of concern in this movie. 

Over 13

Apart from the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are no images or scenes of concern in this movie. 

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie. For example:

  • Old Hop makes a reference to ‘Spanky Monkey’, referring to masturbation.
  • Lu Yan tries to conjure up rain, and it appears as if rain is falling, but then the camera shows that the Silent Monk is urinating on Lu Yan’s head 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

There is some use of substances in this movie. For example:

  • Old Hop swigs from a hip flask.
  • Lu Yan drinks wine from gourds he carries with him at all times, and always appears somewhat intoxicated.
  • Several customers are seen drinking wine at an inn.
  • Lu Yan refers to his martial arts style as being ‘Drunken Fist’ and says that it is secret Kung Fu. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie. For example:

  • There is a scene in a brothel with lots of Chinese courtesans wearing skimpy tops that reveal cleavage and midriffs, and see-through dresses that reveal their thighs. 
  • Two women stand in front of the Jade Warlord apparently for inspection with the inference that the Jade Warlord will later force himself upon them.
  • Ni Chang wears low-cut tops that reveal her cleavage.  

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: older Kung Fu (Bruce Lee) movies and video games (Virtual Fighter 2).

Coarse language 

This movie contains some mild coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Forbidden Kingdom is an action adventure fantasy film that features the martial arts skills of the film’s two major stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Fans of Chan and Li will not be disappointed with their performance, and all of the film’s cast members perform well.

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • Seeking vengeance may not always achieve the desired effect.
  • Greatness lies within and we are all capable of achieving it, but only the individual himself can free that greatness.
  • Kung Fu is a way of life and thinking that can be applied to every aspect of life.

Values in this movie that you might wish to reinforce with your children include loyalty, camaraderie, self-sacrifice and endurance through adversity and respect. 

This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss with your children the harmful real-life consequences of pursuing vengeance and using martial arts skills to harm others rather than for protection.