The Forbidden Kingdom (Maple, 2008) D: Rob Minkoff, w/ Jackie Chan, Jet Li. Rating: NNN; DVD package: n/a
Damn. no extras. granted, it's a mere lightweight action fantasy, but there's so much in it that could have produced a great extras package.
First, major action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li are together for the first time and battling each other. They're the kung fu masters on hand to help our young American hero (Michael Angarano), who's been magicked back to ancient Chinese neverland to rescue the Monkey King. Chan and Li both came to stardom with top director/action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, and here he is as action director. I'd like to see a doc on their work together.
I'd also like to see one on the characters. The Monkey King, the Jade Warlord who's imprisoned him and our hero's odd surname, Tripitikas, all come from Journey To The West, a 16th-century work acclaimed as one of China's four great classical novels. Jade Warlord's main henchperson comes from another novel, and Ronnie Yu's brilliant film The Bride With White Hair. Secondary heroine Golden Sparrow is a ringer for Golden Swallow, heroine of a couple of 1960s Shaw brothers gems. I suspect Chan's Lu Yan and Li's Silent Monk aren't original creations either.
Mashing all these characters together is very much in the spirit of Hong Kong action cinema and Journey To The West, itself built on old folk tales. All of this suggests that writer John Fusco knows his stuff and ought to be on a commentary and background doc. But no.
Console yourself by checking out the novel, translated both as Journey To The West and Adventures Of The Monkey God, and the Shaw brothers' Journey To The West movie, both available at amazon.ca.
As for The Forbidden Kingdom, it looks epic, magical and mildly thrilling. Sadly, Ping's action choreography offers too much wirework and too few breathtaking moves.
EXTRAS Widescreen and full-frame. English, French audio. English subtitles.