Hi all! Remember us? We were those two guys that said we were going to talk about films at some point, and well, here we are! Say hi to the nice people of our audience Cain.
Cain: Hello puny meat humans!
Okay erm…right! Let’s get this party started! Over to you Cain!
Cain: Now, this is a movie both of us got excited about. I know it’s a classic in my book, and I’m pretty sure it’s one in yours as well. What is it about this movie that makes it stand out?
Well, you don’t even have to say pretty sure: it is! I mean I own a Deckbuilding game, a book about the making of the film ,an illustrated book that continues the story, so yeah you could say that I have a thing for this movie. Erm, not in a weird way just to make sure I’m not misunderstood here.
Cain: Yeah, no, I don’t see how anybody could call you mildly obsessed.
Raist: It’s a good question though. I think one of the things that I really like about this one is that it seems like there is a lot of serious stuff going on, but it’s also very much a comedy. And well, as you know I’m not a real fan of comedies, but in this film it all works so well, that you can’t help but laugh. Another reason though is it’s many colourful and memorable characters. Jack Burton, Wang Chi, Egg, they are all just so much fun! I also liked the fact that this movie blends together quite a few genres, horror, action and martial arts flicks without becoming a total mess. Usually such cocktails don’t work well, but here they do! That’s my take on it though, how about you?
Cain: I totally agree. I love the way this movie blends genres so perfectly. It really does seem effortless. Won’t lie, as a writer myself, I’ve always held this movie as an example of how to blend genres, and frequently try to emulate it, especially where the comedy aspects are woven in. Which is funny, becaus as I’m sure you know, this movie was originally going to be a western. How do you think that would have worked?
Well, that is my second genre of movies that I’m not a real fan of: westerns! Combined with comedy I don’t know if I would have liked it as much if they went down that road. I mean I how would Jack Burton act in a western? I just don’t see it. Then again with the mystical angle added it could have maybe become quite the interesting blend of genres, but eh, I like it as it is now. So to answer your question, I don’t think it would have worked, but maybe that’s just me: how about you?
Cain: Eh. I can see it, only because of shows like Wild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, but considering how well the Wild Wild West remake went, probably wise they didn’t go that route.
Let’s just say that remake was a bit too erm….wild? Yeah, I know that one was really bad. And I’m not even talking about the movie.
Cain: The next really big question I wanted to ask was about the strangely subversive nature of the movie. Jack carries himself as if he’s the hero, but in reality, he’s the sidekick to Wang Chi. Jack affects the plot very little, and even comically knocks himself out at the start of the big final fight. What are your thoughts on the way the movie subverts expectations, both of action movies, and the way protagonist characters are handled?
Wow, that really is a big question, and honestly one that I had to think about for a bit. When this film came out, people didn’t really get it. Was this an action movie? Horror? A comedy? It was just a movie that honestly was ahead of it’s time. Maybe when people see it now, they might even still not comprehend it fully, but one can’t deny that it’s a movie that really tries to be different. Usually action movies are all about big setpieces, chases, explosions and such. Here though, we have a film that quite frankly at times makes fun of things such as that. Jack himself is a great example of that. Here’s this guy who is totally full of himself, but as we both know isn’t all that great when it comes to being a hero. Well, not in his mind of course but you know what I mean. Usually in films such as this, especially in the 80’s we have these big brawny guys, that spit out a few oneliners, are able to kill 100 people in five seconds without getting a scratch on themselves. Jack though in his mind thinks he can do things like that, is well, a bit of a nerd for lack of a better term. We all think in the beginning of this film that he’s going to save the day…but erm..well spoiler alert, he really doesn’t. So in that regard, yeah it really is a film that subverts expecatations, and at times can even be viewed as a parody of action flicks.
Cain: It’s funny you should say it was ahead of it’s time. Do you think this movie might have worked better being made now? Or perhaps remade?
Remade? That’s blasphemy! You don’t remake a movie such as this! It’s too good! But yeah I do think that it would have worked better now. People in this day and age seem in general to more accepting of things, and with a list of movies that is as long as Route 66 (see what I did there?) people are more used to weird stuff. Then again, this is still a pretty weird movie, as much as I enjoy it, I do think we also have to admit that this film isn’t for everyone.
Cain: I’m not sure they could pull it off now anyway, to be honest. I mean, with this one, everything came together right, from the script to the cast to the director. Every aspect of it works together. These days, the studio would micromanage the crap out of it, and we’d get something tepid at best.
I don’t know. It might be as cool as Wild Wild West. Why are you looking at me like that?
Cain: Shifting gears, this movie has some very weird looking creatures in it. How do you think the special effects have held up over the years?
Well, I could give you a very simple answer to this question, but that would be too easy. Eh let’s just go with, not so much no. I mean one of the scariest creatures of this film is obviously a guy in a suit. Some of the creatures look like puppets, but you know what….it doesn’t bother me one bit because well, for some reason it just works, and adds to the movies charm. Sure when compared to modern movie making this is not even coming close to modern day special effects. But this is a film that was made in the 80’s and with their limited budget I still think they did one heck of a job, and created some memorable and certainly strange looking creatures! And that for me is honestly what’s important! Not every special effects needs to be top notch for a movie to work you know, and no matter what the effects in this film just work in bringing life to this crazy and weird mystical world.
Cain: That’s something the jumped out at me, too. Like, the eyeball critter is obviously green screen in, yet the practical and mechanical effects that made it move and work were actually pretty good, even if the blending wasn’t. Then, there was all the neon. Nothing says ancient China like neon, am I right?
Of course you are right! Neo Tokyo here we come…erm wait, that’s Japan right? Never mind forget I just said anything.
Dude, we watch way too many movies.
Cain: Something else I really want to touch on calls back to a previous question. The movie features a predominately Asian cast, which was very uncommon for American movies in the 80′s. Hell, it’s uncommon now. How well do you think this movie approaches representation of Asian culture, and more importantly, do you think it ever falls into stereotypes and being racist in it’s portrayal?
Raist: You know, I have adressed this many times on my blog, if there is one culture that I have the utmost respect for, it’s Asian culture. I love so many of their customs, and one of the things on my bucket list is to one day go to an Asian country. But before I got too far of topic, back in those days it was very, very uncommon! It even says so in the making off book that I own, that even the Asian community themselves were very skeptical when they first got wind of this film. But Carpenter insisted on getting a bunch of Asian actors to work on this movie, and he was right in that decision. Does this mean that it’s a fair representation of Asian culture though? Eh…there are certainly a couple of sterotypical roles in this film, but as this movie also doesn’t take itself too seriously one has to wonder if that was also the intention of the director. I don’t think there are moments in this film where it disrespects Asian culture though. We are talking about a film that features creatures, mystic arts and stuff like that, and one that’s not set out to make some kind of political statement. But while I know something about Asian culture, I’m also by no means an expert. What’s your take on it Cain?
Cain: Considering that they wove in actual history of not just Chinatown, but real Chinese mythology, I think the attempt to represent Asian culture, especially Chinese, was being done with sincerity. Which was pretty crazy back in the 80′s, let’s be honest. How Impressive is it, though, that they really did try, right?
You are so right Cain. The Asian actors in this film were also very appreciative of the fact that they really did make an effort. And one has to remember, those were very different times, and it was quite unheard back then, as you stated yourself as well. So I guess this really is another positive note to put on this film. As if there weren’t already enough positive notes!
Cain: Let’s talk about the cast for a minute. Obviously, there’s an impressive one here, so why don’t you drool over them first?
Erm…do I really have to drool, there’s already so much slime in this film. But okay, drool it is! Well, the cast really is part of the fun! Kurt Russell of course is great, but well we’ve talked about his character so much already that I don’t want to talk too much about him. Suffice it to say he’s simply playing yet another role that’s just so cool, that no one else but him could have played it.
Kim Catrall as Gracie Law also plays a wonderful part. She is both feisty and ignorant all at the same time if that’s even possible. I loved her down to earth personality, but also not one of those really dumb damsels in distress that we see in so many other films. James Hong, who is one of my favorite American/Asian actors plays the villain part to perfection if you ask me. He’s deliciously and one could even say disgustingly evil, and even though it’s a totally over the top role, it doesn’t become too much if you catch my drift.
And who can forget Egg Shen (Victor Wong) and Wang Shi (Dennis Dun). I just loved Egg Shen as a character, even though it’s not even a big part. He just makes an impression you know? But well Dennis Dun’s performance as Wang Shi is the real hero of this film even though well it doesn’t seem like it, which is just crazy. These are all my favorites anyway…what about you?
Cain: Mostly the fact that we didn’t get Dennis Dun as a huge leading man in tons of movies after this performance here, irritates the shit out of me, but outside of that one massive fuck up my Hollywoord, I got nothing bad to say about the cast. Great actors giving great performances at every turn. Hollywood did Dennis dirty though.He was amazing in this.
Isn’t it strange how that sometimes works? I’ve seen it happening so many times and it really baffles me how some actors that are really good, just get dealt a very bad card. Honestly I don’t have an explanation for it. That’s Hollywood for you I guess.
Cain: One last big question I know I wanted to ask was about Carpenter himself. The guy is pretty well known for his horror movies, having put out stuff like The Fog and Halloween. I mean, he gave the world Michael Myers, for crying out loud. Yet here, he takes a hard left into action comedy. Escape From New York was an action movie, for sure, but this is straight up comedy woven all through. Not his typical style. What do you make of that?
Raist: Ooh, the Fog, now that’s a movie we have to rewatch at some point as well. But getting back to your question, I guess he did again with They Live you know? At some point every director or actor in the movie business is trying to find out what he or she is good at. At times it might work to just think outside the box for a moment and go try something out that may, or may not work. Even though this certainly is straight up comedy, it still has that Carpenter feel to it. It also makes me somewhat misty eyed as we haven’t seen him turn up anything decent in a long time. I wonder if he will ever return to the scene of making films. Anyways that’s my two cents on it, how about you?
Cain: Damn right we do. That’s a classic. The remake, not so much. Also, yes, you have a point with They Live. There was a lot of humor in that, though it always struck me as more satirical than Big trouble did.
Cain: Back on Carpenter, who knows? I think sometimes he hit a point where he maybe felt as if people just didn’t get his style anymore. Nobody got the satire of Vampires, for example, or the throw back pulpy quality of Ghosts of Mars. I dunno. I think there came a point where he felt like he’d done his thing, and was ready to call it a good career. I mean, he is 72 years old. though, I keep hearing rumors he’s gearing up for a sequel to Big Trouble in Little China, so who knows?
Who knows indeed, if Clint Eastwood can do it, why can’t Carpenter right?Well, I guess we are done here Cain. I don’t know about you but I had a blast writing about this film with you. We should do it again sometime. Wait why are you looking at me like that. Oh yeah, duh how could I forget, we already did it again. Why do I sound like Britney Spears now? Can you explain to our audience what I mean by that? The doing it again part, not the Britney Spears part.
Cain: Well, t starts with an Oops, and… oh… right… not that. The other thing.
Yes, we have done as we said we would do and also talked about Escape From New York, which you can read over on my blog, linked somewhere around here. I dunno where. Raist is in charge of that here. He’s Hollish. They put things in different places than Americans. We mostly put them up up our noses, or in our asses, so odds are, he’s doing something smarter.
Well it’s not really that hard to find. Just press the link here, and you magically get transported to Cain’s blog. Gotta love technology!
"Consider, can the universe be justifiably called infinite? Doubtful. It may not have a discernible end, but it had a beginning and its component parts definitely have a limited cosmological shelf-life. Splitting hairs or not, if history tells us anything, it's that scientists often make very poor poets. We're all just a ship of fools chasing phantoms, heedless of what really underwrites natural law." - Okabe Rintaro