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Exalted Movie Mondays – The Forbidden Kingdom

July 19, 2010

I’m going to try to spotlight a new feature here on Octopoid Prevarication, something to provide a little variety: Exalted Movie Mondays.  Basically, over each weekend, I’m going to see some movie, and I’m going to discuss how its themes, visuals, plot, or characters (or all of the above) relate to Exalted.  It will give newcomers an idea of how to view Exalted (or, at least, how I view Exalted), and it might give them a few examples of movies to watch if they really want to get into the game.  At the same time, I hope it will show more regular players a few new ways to look at movies that sometimes are obviously Exalted, and sometimes less so.

For my initial run, I’m going to toss myself a softball: The Forbidden Kingdom (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0865556/).  This movie, released in 2008, features Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and a kid who really wishes he was Shia Lebouf, but who is much better off as himself, Michael Angarano.  Michael plays a white kid from Earth named Jason who is fascinated with old wuxia movies, and who, through happenstance and an old Chinese shopkeeper, finds himself transported into the Middle Kingdom, which is basically ancient China on mythological crack.  He undertakes a sacred quest to return the staff of Sun Wuokong, the Monkey King, and defeat the Jade Warlord.

It might be a little unfair to say that this movie is totally, completely, and in almost every way Exalted, but this movie is totally, completely, and in almost every way Exalted. The Jade Emperor (Dragon-Blooded) uses elemental magic and lives atop Five Elements Mountain, where he uses the Jade Army to subjugate the threshold nations of the Middle Kingdom.  Jason finds himself befriended by a wandering immortal (Jackie Chan), who is clearly a Solar.  They are joined by Golden Sparrow, who appears thematically Sidereal in every way.  They even eventually fight the Witch Born of Wolves, a woman so Abyssal in visual theme they might as well have just claimed she was undead.  (Also, she’s never given an actual name in the movie, so her title works just like an Abyssal’s title.)  In the end, the Monkey King is such a giggling, iconoclastic Lunar that I’d have put him in that role even if he hadn’t been an animal-man.

Of course, the reason this movie is so similar to Exalted is that both of them draw directly from the same source material.  They use the same legends and the same old wuxia movies to fuel their visual and dramatic themes.  And they both do an excellent job.  Everyone in The Forbidden Kingdom knows kung-fu, except, of course, the protagonist.  It’s a world where everything is kung-fu, where your strength and your potential are measured by your kung-fu.

Of course, like all such movies <Spoiler Warning>, in the end, Jason chooses to return to dreary old Earth rather than remain in the magical land of awesome and wonder.  And, like all such movies, that makes me want to dissolve him in acid.  But, the movie itself is still good, an enjoyable romp with characters that never get too deep but remain compelling, amazing fight choreography, and the most Exalted thematics I’ve ever seen on the silver screen.  I recommend all Exalted enthusiasts check it out… and please, feel free to make comments regarding my review!

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