The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Lionsgate - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 104 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Starring: Jacki Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Yifei Liu, Collin Chou, Li Bing Bing
Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Music by: David Buckley
Written by: John Fusco
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 9, 2008
"The path is unsafe. The place is unknown. The journey is unbelievable"
Individually, they've starred in the most adrenaline-pumping martial-arts adventures ever. Together for the first time, Jet Li and Jackie Chan join forces to create the greates epic of them all- THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. As ancient Chinese warriors, they must train and mentor a 21st century kung-fu fanatic who's been summoned to fight a centuries-old battle and free the imprisoned Monkey King. If you're a fighting fan, the wait is over. The team is ready. The Kingdom has arrived.
I don't consider myself a fan of Jackie Chan films but I have yet to see him in a role where I didn't find him to be likeable. I am also fascinated by the physical things he can do with martial arts and in general. I am less familiar with Jet Li although I have seen a few of his movies. I don't find him to be as appealing onscreen as Jackie. I had seen the trailer for Forbidden Kingdom on TV but it didn't look like something that would attract me enough to take it in at the theater. After watching it I would say that my instincts were right. That is not a criticism because I liked this film. Its plot is straight forward and the premise is nothing new. For me, films like this that have a plot that we have all so many times before needs to bring likeable characters and decent action to the table. That is where I think that The Forbidden Kingdom succeeds. Michael Angarano really isn't much of an actor but he worked well within his boundaries and let Chan do most of the heavy lifting. This is not a film that requires a lot of dramatic interplay. As cool as the two good guys were in this film the two bad guys were even better. The Jade Warlord (Chou) and the white haired witch Ni Chang (Bing Bing) had powers that were just too cool. Both Chan and Li had dual roles in the film which I thought was a nice touch. I think that they both overacted when portraying their non lead counterparts but that was fine. The story was your run of the mill quest type and opens with a back story about the legendary Monkey King in Ancient China. He is an immortal who uses a large golden rod as his weapon. He ends up fighting The Jade Warrior who is an immortal who rules the land dictator style through the use of his large Jade Army. The Monkey King loses to the Jade Warrior after being tricked into dropping his guard. Before being turned into stone and imprisoned by the Jade Warrior he discards his weapon by sending it hurtling through the air into the mountains.
Fast forward to present day Boston. Jason (Angarano) is a kung fu movie fan nerd who hangs out at a local video store owned by a very old Chinaman named Old Hop. He finds a Chinese weapon (a very old golden rod) in a backroom at the shop and is told by Hop that it was there when he took the place over and must be returned to its rightful owner. Jason leaves the store and of course runs into a gang of local bullies who proceed to slap him around ala Karate Kid style. They force him back to the video store and attempt to rob the place. In the process the leader of the gang pulls a pistol and shoots Hop. In the fracas Jason grabs the stick weapon and is chased to the roof of a building by the bullies. He ends up falling off of the building while holding the stick and suddenly awakens in Ancient China. He subsequently meets up with Chan who is a drunken warrior type who is also said to be an immortal. Chan sees the ancient weapon and tells Jason the story of the Monkey King and that he (Jason) has been sent to fulfill the prophecy by returning it to the Monkey King. The problem is that in order to do this he must go the lair of The Jade Warrior which is heavily guarded. They meet up with Golden Sparrow (Liu) who is a gifted martial artist herself who seeks revenge on the Jade Warrior for the murder of her parents. Li joins up with them along the way and has a promise of his own to fulfill.
I thought that the film's cinematography and music score were superb. The action sequences were good and what you would expect from a film that stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan. The choreography was first rate and enabled the action stars to show off their martial arts chops. The special effects helped to raise the entertainment value a notch as they were excellent. In the end it was predictable but so what. I had a great time and that is really what its all about anyway.
The rating is for martial arts action and some violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Forbidden Kingdom comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 channel Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 5.5 Mbps.
This movie was shot on high definition video which may not appeal to film purists but it does not change the fact that it looks really good on Blu-ray Disc. Aside from looking somewhat edgy and, well, digital at times this is pristine quality video. Detail is flawless with first rate visual acuity and fine rendering throughout. The landscapes and vista views of the locations in China where the film was shot were breathtaking. Colors are lavish and eye popping with oversaturated primaries and warm tonality that make them pleasing. Flesh tones were on the golden side with fair delineation among the cast. Good contrast and black levels provided excellent balance during bright scenes containing mixed content. Shadow detail was good enough that I could make out the texture of the dark cave walls in the background as the group took shelter while traveling in the desert. I didn't detect any significant video related anomalies.
The 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was impressive. This is a powerful mix that utilizes the entire system to create a theater like experience. Sound staging is excellent as both the front and rear channels are seamless integrated. Sound effects traverse the room during the large fight sequences. Dynamics are energy filled and impact felt with incredible articulation and clarity. This is an aggressive mix that makes regular use of the subwoofer to accentuate its already powerful dynamics. The result is that all points of contact seem to resonate with low bass impact. This included punches that landed during the many one on encounters in the film. Bass fanatics will love the deep bass impact but there were times where I felt it was excessive. The quality of the bass was first rate. Hard hitting, deep extension with quick attack and room filling power. The good news is that when appropriately put to use it simply rocked the house. The scene in Chapter 14 when Jason releases the Monkey King is a great example. There are 3 low bass energy bursts that sweep through the room along with an amazing full system attack that are easily worthy demo material. Dialogue was rendered with aplomb and ranks up there with the best sound mixes that I have heard. David Buckley's music sounded simply marvelous. Instrumentation and sound field placement allowed it to flow through the room as it maintained a position of prominence without a dominating presence.
The bonus features were above average and sporadically entertaining. I thought the Dangerous Beauty, Blooper reel, and Kung Fu Dream Team pieces (in that order) were the best of the bunch. All the content is presented in high definition which is always a plus. The Molog feature was not accessible when I tried it but I suspect it will be up and running by release day. The Bonus view and Molog features require BD profile 1.1 and 2.0 enabled Blu-ray disc players for full feature access.
- BonusView PiP feature - Pop-up trivia, interviews and behind the scenes footage while movie plays
- (HD) Storyboarding and Previz: The movie before the movie feature
- (HD) The Kung Fu Dream Team - A feature on Jet Li, Jackie Chan and the choreography and cinematography used in the film
- (HD) Dangerous Beauty: The women of The Forbidden Kingdom feature
- (HD) Discovering China - Features the locations in China used to shoot the film
- (HD) Filming in China wood - Set design, Chinese studios used to shoot the film
- (HD) Monkey King and the eight Immortals feature
- (HD) Blooper reel
- (HD) Deleted scenes with optional Director commentary
- Molog - Network connected community and interactive movie blog tool set
- Digital Copy - Standard Definition version of the film that can be dowloaded to a portable playback device from a PC or MAC
The Forbidden Kingdom is a fun martial arts action adventure film that is made all the better by its high definition presentation on Blu-ray Disc. Its reference quality audio and video will help to make it more enticing to enthusiasts who crave quality high definition source material to show off the potential of their home theater systems. I recommend you give it a spin in your home theater.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS1x 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Outlaw Audio Model 7700 seven channel amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package