Friday, January 09, 2009

Manuary Film Review

Without a doubt, John Carpenter gave us some great Manuary movies.
Sorcerer From Outer Space was an instant classic which gave him the credibility with the studios to push through with Escape From New York, The Thing and Christine.
But his greatest work is generally considered among manlier circles to be Big Trouble In Little China from 1986.
I picked up a copy last night since that was the most manly movie in stock. Anywhere.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, there may be spoilers below:

Wash Dies.

The lead character in Big Trouble In Little China is Jack Burton, played by Kurt Russell, was originally envisioned as a cowboy in a western set in the 1880's. Due to the focus on Chinese Mysticism in the plot and impending direct competition from Eddie Murphy's The Golden Child, it was updated in re-writes into a more modern tale. While Jack Burton was changed from a cowboy to a truck driver, he still carries most of his possessions in saddle bags to maintain his connection to the character's origins.
This martial arts action-comedy special effects master work is more than it would appear at first viewing, however.
Jack is a metaphor for America and everything which makes America better than Canada.
However, from the perspective of 2009, having Big Trouble In Little China set in 1986 is a lot like making it a period piece for today.
We can't provide a frame of reference for the film without taking into account when it was made, and 1986 was a pretty awesome time to be in America.
The last foreign superpower was coughing out its vodka-scented last breaths and America was left alone at the top of the political dirt pile.
The fact that Jack Burton has little understanding of the foreign cultures and traditions he encounters and the fact that he bumbles about saying stupid things was not intended to be at all insulting. America pretty much does the same thing and it still turns out okay because America is The Good Guy.
Burton's trademark "It's all in the reflexes" articulates his aversion to planning anything, a stance which seems to be modeled on our own reactionary foreign affairs policies.
When he finds himself underground, literally, and surrounded by people with legends and histories which are strange to him, he does not adjust and adapt. He muscles through. Like America.
Damn right.
We don't plan for stuff when we storm a terrorist cell because planning is for girls. We leap in, cowboy boots and acid-washed jeans leading the way, intending to kick ass and doing just that.
Whether reflexes or long-term planning are more important as time goes on is not specifically addressed in Big Trouble In Little China until the last scene, which is all the more chilling when seen through the lens of recent modern history.
Whatever opinions you may have, it is a fact that Jack Burton is awesome enough to have carried Kurt Russell without significant damage right on through Overboard and Captain Ron.
This weekend a viewing of the film will be the highlight of the South Carolina Manuary Film Festival, which is being held at my house. Popcorn and sarcasm will be provided, but the event is BYOB.

1 comment:

Andrew Moore said...

Originally, Big Trouble in Little China was intended to be a sequel to Buckaroo Bonzai: Across the 8th Dimension, without a doubt one of the manliest movies ever made (and Buckaroo is a huge geek!)