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Section Header
The Forbidden Kingdom
Composed and Co-Produced by:
David Buckley

Conducted by:
David Sabee

Arranged and Orchestrated by:
Kirk Bennett
Nick Glennie-Smith

Co-Produced by:
Harry Gregson-Williams

Lionsgate Music

Release Date:
July 22nd, 2008

Also See:
The Promise
Kung Fu Panda

Audio Clips:
9. Tea House Fight (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

14. The Seeker of the Prophecy (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

18. Her Destiny Was Written (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. As One Tale Ends... (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release, primarily distributed via download but also available through's "CDr on demand" service.


The Forbidden Kingdom

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Sales Rank: 84964

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Buy it... if you have enjoyed the many similar blends of muscular Western orchestra, varied choir, and intoxicating Eastern specialty instruments in the numerous equivalents from other offshoots of the Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams sound.

Avoid it... if no amount of awesome melodic beauty in the melodramatic portions of this score can compensate for its rather sterile and inelegant posture in the action cues.

The Forbidden Kingdom: (David Buckley) Based upon a variety of fantasy stories combined to form a kung fu adventure set in ancient China, The Forbidden Kingdom is best known for being the first movie to ever feature both the legendary martial arts actors Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Their obligatory fight sequence against each other near the beginning of the film is a treat to behold, and the actors confessed to enjoying the ability to shoot their fight scene unusually smoothly and quickly due to their skill level. Chan plays a drunken scholar and Li is a monk in The Forbidden Kingdom, the two teaming up to train a young Boston man (your average, white, urban nerd) transported magically back in time to China with the help of a special staff. This American is the unlikely fulfillment of a prophecy that will bring down the evil ruler of the land and set free the rightful king from a cursed encasement. Along the way, they pick up a young woman seeking revenge against the ruler, forming an unlikely alliance that has to battle through an evil witch assassin and armies of the enemy before tackling the main warlord at the end. The plot is utterly ridiculous and occasionally painful to tolerate in its conversational portions, but entertaining chemistry between Chan and Li salvage the film from total mediocrity. Their pairing did amuse critics and audiences enough to generate substantial profits for the early 2008 picture. Given the branching of the Hans Zimmer and Remote Control-related composing factory into the realm of ancient China at the time, it shouldn't be surprised that the production sought a low-budget ethnic score from this group (and its affiliates) in 2007. The assignment actually went to the offshoot ensemble of artists related to Harry Gregson-Williams, itself not a stranger to these tones. Based in part upon a rejected cue that he had written while supplying additional material for Gregson-Williams' The Number 23, associate composer David Buckley earned a chance to make The Forbidden Kingdom his second feature project. The Englishman had been a collaborator with Gregson-Williams since the mid-2000's, occasionally branching out into his own assignments, but he was one of the better known composer's several ghostwriters for a long enough period to earn an avenue into the industry. With a low budget for The Forbidden Kingdom, Buckley recorded with the sometimes lackluster Northwest Sinfonia and added extensive embellishment with the assistance of Gregson-Williams' own recording studio. The resulting score, not surprisingly, sounds significantly like an variation on the standard Remote Control and Gregson-Williams sound, albeit at its better capabilities.

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The compliment of specialty instruments to supplement the Western orchestra is key to the success of The Forbidden Kingdom, and Buckley called upon an erhu, pipa, and gu zheng to produce the expected sound for the location. A little more common is the electric violin and the various vocal effects, along with the slapping percussive sounds applied from a more conventional Gregson-Williams perspective. The mix of the ensemble is heavy on tonal force in unison, with broad bass emphasis that firmly roots this score, not surprisingly, in the derivative Remote Control realm. There have been numerous similar scores to combine the brute Zimmer adventure sound with Eastern elegance, notably The Promise by Klaus Badelt and the Kung Fu Panda scores by Zimmer and John Powell. In some basic regards, The Forbidden Kingdom is a close sibling to these other works, especially when expressing majestic thematic grace with the Western and Eastern elements in perfect synchrony. There are several crescendos of grand, melodic resonance in this score, usually accompanying the variety of beautiful vista shots in the movie but also toned back to address the mystical side of the tale in conversational scenes. Thematically, Buckley writes what sounds like a prototypical Zimmer main theme, one with progressions that wouldn't sound out of place in either the Kung Fu Panda or Madagascar franchises. Its seven notes are surprisingly malleable, and the composer skillfully adapts the idea into nearly every cue in his lengthy score, including some faint comedy references, before its culmination at the end of "As One Tale Ends...." The secondary themes are arguably stronger, starting with a reverent, dramatic idea for ancient China fully introduced in "China Begins" and figuring heavily in the finale. Also of note is the theme for the female protagonist, the Golden Sparrow receiving a heartbreaking identity fleshed out in "The Seeker of the Prophecy" and "Her Destiny Was Written." Other lesser motifs exist for a few characters as well, but none as interesting. The evil female witch receives an Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western tribute motif for electric guitar in "The Tyranny of War" and "Ni Chang & Her Cult Killers," perhaps the most distracting negative in the score (along with the inexplicable "...Another Begins"). The action sequences are the score's main fault, the rowdy rhythmic flair and pounding orchestral hits surprisingly generic and maintaining little of the ethnic appeal of the majestic portions. Fortunately, the beautiful parts of The Forbidden Kingdom occupy a significant amount of the score's length, making the whole an easily recommendable diversion. Don't expect high art in this effort (or really anything as stylishly gripping as in The Promise), but don't be surprised if this score becomes a solid "guilty pleasure" in your collection. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.66 Stars
Smart Average: 3.54 Stars*
***** 61 
**** 29 
*** 16 
** 10 
* 24 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   jeff buckley
  Jason Poopieface -- 4/26/13 (9:07 a.m.)
   I like the orchestral sounds
  Beno27 -- 4/24/13 (11:41 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 66:28

• 1. The Mountain of Fruit & Flowers (1:43)
• 2. The Peach Banquet (1:46)
• 3. Monkey Business (4:31)
• 4. China Begins (4:11)
• 5. Hops' Shop (3:07)
• 6. J&J Temple Fight (5:34)
• 7. The Legend of the Temple Staff (1:59)
• 8. Two Tigers - Two Masters (2:49)
• 9. Tea House Fight (5:07)
• 10. The Tyranny of War (5:23)
• 11. Don't Forget to Breathe (0:52)
• 12. Ni Chang & Her Cult Killers (4:35)
• 13. Drunken Master Wounded (3:40)
• 14. The Seeker of the Prophecy (5:05)
• 15. Let the Journey Begin (2:37)
• 16. Monkey King Released (2:27)
• 17. Battle of the Bride (3:01)
• 18. Her Destiny Was Written (4:12)
• 19. As One Tale Ends... (2:46)
• 20. ...Another Tale Begins (1:35)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. As in many of's "CDr on demand" products, the packaging smells incredibly foul when new.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Forbidden Kingdom are Copyright © 2008, Lionsgate Music. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/27/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.