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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Enter the Warriors Gate is an action-packed, martial arts fantasy-adventure in which a mild-mannered, bullied teen is magically transported to a barbaric world. On his mission to find and save a beautiful princess, he encounters a powerful villain who wants to marry the princess, kill her, and then become emperor of China. He meets assorted warriors and a magician, all the while learning as much about himself as he does about ancient codes of behavior and the skills of the martial arts. The beleaguered young hero is no sooner out of danger than he's caught up in another fight for his life. Expect fearsome battles with swordplay, knives, all manner of medieval weaponry, fire, and many deaths during the explosive combat. In a running "joke," a henchman runs his sword through the midsection of innocents. The princess is strong, skilled in martial arts, and able to hold her own against the armies of men who would capture her, except when she's hanging from handcuffs or held captive. Occasional profanity includes "s--t," "butt," "a--hole," and "d--kweed." Teen action lovers will find much to like.
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What's the story?
It's not a good time for teen Jack Thornton (the excellent Uriah Shelton) when ENTER THE WARRIORS GATE opens. He's low on self-confidence and funds and the perennial victim of a gang of bullies from his high school. His best moments come from beating back the hordes of villains on his favorite video game. In the game, Jack is "the black knight," an invincible warrior. Late at night, just after his employer, the owner of a Chinese antique shop, has given him a centuries-old wooden chest, Jack is astounded to see Su Lin (Ni Ni) a beautiful young woman, emerge from the chest, chased by knife- and sword-wielding ruffians from an ancient time. Jack is incredulous at first; then his disbelief falls away and he's caught up in the magic of Su Lin's presence. It isn't long before she's in danger again, and Jack follows her as she escapes into the chest. Jack lands centuries back in time where he's suddenly in the center of a dangerous villain's game. He meets Zhao (Mark Chao), a Chinese hero, and Arun (Dave Bautista), a power-hungry murderer, along with a fantastical wizard, all of whom push or mentor Jack to find his inner strength. He willingly joins Zhao on his mission: to find the princess and save her from Arun. The battles mount; the perils accelerate. By the tale's finale, Jack just may turn out to be the black knight of the game he loves.
Is it any good?
An endearing performance by Uriah Shelton as the hero, a hint of romance, and countless fierce battle sequences will please young adventure fans and might also appeal to lovers of fairy tales. Working from a script co-written by action-master Luc Besson and directed with flair by Matthias Hoene, Enter the Warriors Gate has enough humor and character development to make a routine "save the princess" story special. The fish-out-of-water time-travel sequences work well. And while teen bullying isn't an original concept, impressive bicycle chases make that story element sing. The martial arts sequences are not of the ethereal, balletic genre but are hard-hitting and bloodletting and include an array of graphic killings, all well shot. On the down side, a few odd song choices distract from the story at hand, and not all the performances are stellar. This film is best for teens, especially those who like wizards, magic, mentors, and teens coming into their own, along with brutal action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Jack's evolution from victim to hero in Enter the Warriors Gate. Which character traits did he develop (or become aware of) that turned his life around? What role did Zhao play in his transformation? What does it mean to be a hero?
Think about the character of Su Lin. In what ways is she a typical "damsel in distress"? In what ways is she more typical of modern heroines?
What is the meaning of the term "fish out of water" in films? How do the fish-out-of-water moments (with both Jack and Su Lin) provide the movie's humor?
- On DVD or streaming: June 6, 2017
- Cast: Uriah Shelton, Mark Chao, Ni Ni, Dave Bautista
- Director: Matthias Hoene
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, High School
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: martial arts, fantasy violence
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