Throwback Thursday: Big Trouble In Little China
“Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”
I still remember the first time I saw Big Trouble In Little China. It was 1986 and we lived in West Germany, where my dad was posted. We were cut off from everything happening back in the States, so besides trading VHS tapes full of American TV and commercials, going to the movies was a way to stay connected. This was a time before IMDB and internet spoilers, so my dad and I honestly had no idea what we were getting into when the lights went down and the screen lit up. Walking out as the credits rolled, we still had no idea what we’d watched but we knew that we’d had a fun time.
“See? That was nothing. But that’s how it always begins–very small.”
To the uninitiated into the epic cheesy awesomeness that is Big Trouble In Little China, Kurt Russell plays hard-boiled truck driver Jack Burton. Jack arrives in Chinatown, San Francisco, and goes to the airport with his Chinese friend Wang Chi to welcome his green-eyed fiancée Miao Yin who is arriving from China. She’s kidnapped from the airport terminal by a Chinese street gang, and Jack and Wang chase the group. Soon they learn that the powerful evil sorcerer called David Lo Pan was cursed more than two thousand years ago to exist without physical body, needs to marry a woman with green eyes to retrieve his physical body and Miao is the chosen one. Jack and Wang team-up with the lawyer Gracie Law, the bus driver and sorcerer apprentice Egg Shen and their friends and embark on a rescue mission in the underground of Chinatown, where they face a world of magicians and magic, monsters and martial arts fighters.
What I truly love about this movie is that it fools you into thinking that Jack is the hero, when in fact he’s the fumbling sidekick. The true hero of the movie is Wang Chi. Everything is focused around Wang trying to get Miao Yin back. Wang is the martial artist that uses his skills to take on hordes of enemies, to include Lo Pan’s supernatural henchmen, The Storms. Jack’s main motivation, besides the money that Wang owes him, is to get his truck back–at first, anyways. It’s not to say that Jack doesn’t have any heroic tendencies, it’s just that they tend to manifest themselves by accident and in funny ways. He’s full of blustery bravado, while Wang let’s his feet and fists do the talking.
Earlier this year, the rumor started circulating that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was in talks to star in a remake. While remakes of John Carpenter films haven’t been truly successful or wanted (the 2011 prequel to The Thing comes to mind), what excites me about this is that Johnson wants for John Carpenter himself to be involved.
“My response is: know that I come to the project with nothing but love and respect for the original, which is why we want to bring on John Carpenter.”
My only concern is that they’ll want to change the Jack-as-sidekick dynamic that worked so well in the original. Dwayne Johnson can definitely pull off the action, but he has the comedic chops to pull off the role just right.
In the process of writing this, I sat in my kitchen and watched the movie as I wrote. On my second watching, my dad joined me and I we were again transported to that movie theater nearly 30 years ago. He still smiled and chuckled, but I still don’t think he quite gets it–nothing’s changed–but I know we had a good time.
Big Trouble In Little China still gets 5 out of 5 Six Demon Bags.
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