Jackie Chan turned 54-years-old this month. He's appeared in over 90 films. He's 5-foot-8. He was born in Hong Kong and went to school at the China Drama Academy where he studied martial arts along with opera and acrobatics.
In his early 20, he had a small role in Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon." He became a household name in the United States with 1995's "Rumble in the Bronx," which won Chan a Hong Kong Film Award for best action choreography.
He is well known for doing his own stunts, often with little safety devices. He typically gets physically hurt because of it. He has his own stuntman team. His inspirations include Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. Besides "Singin in the Rain," his favorite film is "The Matrix." Chan also had his own cartoon series on the Kids' WB, as well as his own video game.
Jet Li turned 45 this month. He was born in Beijing. He stands 5-foot-6. At the age of 8, Jet Li began his training in Wushu, the national sport in China. At the age of 11, he earned his first gold medal in Wushu, which won him a trip to Washington to meet President Nixon.
Jet Li turned down Chow Yung Fat's role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," due to his wife's pregnancy. His 2002 film "Hero" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. After only appearing in about 35 films, Jet Li claimed that 2006's "Fearless" would be his last film that focused on the martial arts.
Both have become iconic martial arts stars both in the East and the West, but it is clear that while Jet Li is highly trained, Jackie Chan is probably the better actor and choreographer.
"The Forbidden Kingdom" (2008) marks their first appearance together in a movie. In the film, one character talking to both of them refers to Bruce Lee. Both look at that character like they have no idea what he's talking about. While both have lived under the shadow of Bruce Lee for years, as he has been the iconic martial artist for decades, their reaction makes sense, as they both have moved out of his shadow and carved their own roads.
To any fan of martial arts or these two individuals, the true joy comes about halfway through the movie when Jackie Chan and Jet Li fight each other. The scene is set up that one might be more inclined to have Chan win, but Jet Li is so beloved and respected that seeing him win wouldn't bother you either.
As you watch, obviously you eventually come to realize that the whole thing is choreographed down to the littlest beat. Occasionally the filmmakers will even slow down the action, as in "The Matrix," to emphasize some moves and hits. Yet, like watching a WWF match, there's still a rush and rawness about seeing these two Kung Fu masters go at each other.
You never get the feeling that one is trying to kill the other. The fight is for the possession of a magical, mystical object. Yet, there are some painful moments and some powerful strikes. The fight scene for the most part is very grounded. They're not flying all over the place or performing impossible feats. No. There's an authenticity here that makes it seem like these two really are fighting one another.
It doesn't go as far as one would like, but it is entertaining enough. But, for me, I would have to say that if it wasn't all planned out, if Jackie Chan and Jet Li got into a real fight, I think Jet Li would be the victor. Jet Li would win.
Jackie Chan has more experience. He did work with Bruce Lee, and Chan is still just as nimble now as he was decades ago. However, Jet Li is a gold medal-winner in Wushu. Jet Li is younger and fiercer, especially in his last film, "War" (2007). In that film, Jet Li played a villain who proved he's willing to go the distance to defeat an opponent. I think a lot of that spirit comes from the real Jet Li.
That fierceness, never expressed as anger or rage but merely as strength in determination, would allow him to mop the floor with his competitor. Go Jet Li!