Once again, it's a weekend battle of head-to-head stars. This week we've got an honest to god versus going on. Two fighters, both world renown martial artists, in the same film (The Forbidden Kingdom) kicking the living crap out of each other. In this corner, we have one of the baddest men to ever walk, Jet Freaking Li. And in this corner we have one of the world's most famous comedians and stunt men, Jackie Freaking Chan. You know the rules. Let's drop the cage. Two men enter! One man leaves!
In the box office this weekend: Winner = Sarah Marshall
Come on, let's be honest. This movie might kick seven different kinds of ass, but against a raunchy Judd Apatow-produced comedy like Forgetting Sarah Marshall this thing is dog meat.
In the critical arena: Winner = Jet
While both men have had a rough go at the American movie scene (each having found themselves manhandled by a Hollywood that had little idea how to use them) it is Li who has turned in the most critically acclaimed films. Chan has garnered the biggest box-office returns by far (what with Rush Hour's box-office success alone, not to mention the Shanghai films and the re-releases of his Hong Kong films), but many critics have snubbed him as being too lowest common denominator. Li has still held on to some of his cred. So expect the critics to poke just at Chan while exalting Li.
In their careers: Winner = Jackie
Both men have met with great success and are living legends in their home country of China, but Chan has garnered much more world wide success. Further still, Chan has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Hong Kong action films. Back in the day, Dangerfield used his fame to headline shows that he would MC but load up with all this young, impressive comic talent. He was effectively beginning the careers of dozens of comedians by getting people to pay to come see him. To this day, a large portion of the world's notable funnymen owe their livelihood to Dangerfield.
Well, Chan is doing that in the action genre. Appearing for only a few moments in each of these new films that he produces (playing roles like the police chief) he gets people to come out and see the young talent that Chan sees as the future of action. Ten, twenty years from now we'll all be talking about the next big thing in martial arts, and odds are the star of the moment will be talking about how he owes it all to Jackie Chan. Jet Li might be a badass, but through these acts of promotion Chan looks to be earning immortality. He wins this hands down.
In a fight: Winner = Jet
Now this is right now. Chan is older and slower, mostly because he's broken every bone in his body at least once. In their prime though? I don't know. That's a debate I've been having with people for a decade and a half. I can't wait to see who wins in the movie.
Winner = Tie
By all accounts, this movie is a fun, family oriented martial arts film that really delivers. And seeing these two icons on screen together at the same time? Magic.