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The Lost Empire

3.8 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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(Jun 19, 2001)
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Editorial Reviews


This three-hour made-for-television epic based on the classic Chinese story Journey to the West is an engaging mix of fantasy and martial-arts adventure, and it features a veritable tsunami of special effects. The plot involves an American China scholar (played by Thomas Gibson) whose knowledge of Asian mythology becomes astoundingly useful when he is magically transported into other dimensions by terra cotta warriors who come to life. The American scholar soon finds himself face to face with a wisecracking Monkey King (Russell Wong), a mystical warrior whose martial-arts skills are matched only by his sarcastic one-liners. The mismatched heroes have only three days to find an ancient manuscript and thereby save the world from destruction, and they're assisted by the timely interventions of the Goddess of Mercy (played by Bai Ling). The rambling plot puts the characters into confrontations with tigers, dragons, and evil giants, and at times they're joined by such unorthodox allies as a human with the head of a pig. As his quest progresses, the scholar has to learn to think like a warrior, and there are innumerable obstacles put in his path. Even if the plot doesn't always seem terribly coherent, the computer-generated special effects are entertaining, and the film has no shortage of bizarre villains, flashy martial-arts scenes, and sardonic quips from the Monkey King. --Robert J. McNamara

Special Features

  • Making Of

Product Details

  • Actors: Thomas Gibson, Bai Ling, Russell Wong, Ric Young, Kabir Bedi
  • Directors: Peter MacDonald
  • Writers: David Henry Hwang
  • Producers: David Henry Hwang, Robert Halmi Jr., Robert Halmi Sr., Steve Harding, Tomas Krejci
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Hallmark
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2001
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005BIFV
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,637 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Lost Empire" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 13, 2006
Format: DVD
OK, I rounded up to 4 stars. This really isn't bad, though.

It's an idiom that most American viewers won't be familiar with. The major characters are Kuan Yin, Confucius, and a flock of other gods, godlings, immortals, buddhas, figures from myth, and other well-known figures and stereotypes from the Chinese pantheon. There are the flying heroes, improbable weapons, and acting at least on a par with the Dr. Who series. In other words, lots of viewers will see it as alien, disconnected, and amateurish, as well as being filled overly convenient miracles.

But it's not in the Western idiom, so parts of it have to be taken in their own terms. And it has the look of a low-budget film, so you won't see effects on the Star Wars scale. And it is a bit cheesy and over-the-top, which is part of the appeal.

The fights are bloodless, the romance is chaste, and all but the youngest kids will understand the characters. If you don't take it or yourself too seriously, there's a lot of fun in this one.

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Format: DVD
The Lost Empire / The Monkey King is a mini series that tells the story of Nicholas Orton (Thomas Gibson) who finds himself on a save-the-world mission. The plot itself is a bit difficult to follow - it is loosely inspired by 'Journey to the West'- the famous chinese epic. However in this version, it shows us what would happen if 'Journey to the West' had never existed. Demons are trying to destroy the book (for the simple reason of that's what evil demons do with their spare time) and the world is running backwards because of it, deleting all the things that 'Journey to the West' helped inspire (which includes buildings and clocks, strangely enough). So the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Ying (Ling Bai) travels from her world to find the prophesied Scholar from Above - our own Nick Orton. He is 'above' because all of the mythological characters he later mets live in a copy of China in one of the (very, very, very large) unexcavated tombs, under the musuem. So with the help of Kwan Ying and the famous terracotta warriors that come to life, Nick finds himself inside the tomb/copy of mythological China, faced with the sacastic Monkey King (Russell Wong) who was been trapped inside a mountain by those same demons that are out to destroy 'Journey to the West'.
As you can see, the premise is quite confusing, so if you like to sit down and get a nice, logical plot, you might want to give this one a miss, as our heroes do a lot of wandering around and your not actually sure where they're going or why.
However, if you are a fan of other Hallmark fantasy mini-series (the Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, Merlin, Arabian Nights, the 10th Kingdom, the Voyage of the Unicorn) then this is the movie for you.
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Format: DVD
If you are at all familiar with Chinese fantasy stories this was right in line with that genre: Huge monsters, forbidden places, animal-men who kick martial art (...).

Was this A Chinese Ghost Story I, II or III? No.
But it was still fun to watch and a lot more kid oriented then the Chinese Ghost story movies or many of the Chinese fantasy movies made. Not to mention it is in English so you don't have to read subtitles or hear a bad dub.

I think the biggest downer of this movie was the main protagonist (played by Thomas Gibson) just isn't a good actor. The rest of the cast was just fine. Does Russell Wong ever age?

This movie not up to par with the direction or story telling as the Hallmark verion of Gulliver's Travels or The Odyssey, which in my opinion are more serious stories made for adults anyway.

My kids thought Piggsy (the pig-man) kicking martial arts (...) with a rake was hilarious. They didn't get the love story aspect of the movie, nor was it directed well so you felt a connection with the story and actors. They loved when Monkey was flying in the sky and how cool he was. Overall it was a satisfying family movie that my four small kids and I enjoyed together.
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Format: DVD
I picked 3 stars as a medium for this movie.

For those of you who enjoy mythical worlds for entertainment purposes, then you might rank this as high as 4 stars. Though the acting by Thomas Gibson (playing journalist Nick Orton, the Scholar) falls a bit flat, Russell Wong makes for an enthusiastic and entertaining Monkey King. The costumes are nicely done, particularly that of Pigsy, and the martial arts scenes are well choregraphed though a little cheesy sometimes. The special effects, while not perfect quality, give the movie character and a touch of humor.

For those of you who favor accuracy, this probably falls as low as two stars. (1 if you are an extremist, but then why did you even bother watching this?) The movie was created with little regard of the historical/modern origins of Buddhist religion. Issues of particular note are:
1. the Goddess Kwan Ying's deception/drunkenness at the begining of the movie and the romantic feelings throughout the film conflicting with the modern view of the holy figure Guan Yin (whom Kwan Ying is based on)**
2. the portrayal of Confucious as greedy and selfish instead of wise
3. (though not a religious issue) there seems to be a little bit of a dig at Chinese communism in the movie's second half which may be too much for the politically sensitive. There is some obvious emphasis on Western values such as individualism vs the collectivism of the Chinese.

** For those of you crying bloody murder over the portrayal of Guan Yin and looking for a warped version of a Christian holy figure, see the movie series 'Prophecy' by Gregory Widen. (Interestingly, Russell Wong is also a lead in Prophecy II as Danyael.) The archangel Gabriel has turned against the Christian God and the humans of God's creation.
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