Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What the Flick?! Big Trouble In Little China Remake

1986's cult classic Big Trouble In Little China is one of my favorite movies. I saw the oddball tale of blowhard trucker Jack Burton who gets caught up in a kidnapping, in between rival Chinatown gangs and ancient mysticism complete with sorcery on cable channel TBS one night as a youth and have loved it ever since. Rumors of a sequel have long persisted with a TV show once bandied about. The closest we've come is an ongoing comic book series from BOOM! Studios. Although the film has lived on through cable, VHS and DVD, it was still a flop upon release. Costing a sturdy $25 million bucks plus marketing, the film only brought in $11 million at the box office. On their entertaining commentary, director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell talk about the film's legacy with the actor wondering if the film has finally made it into the black after all these years. Carpenter answered that by simply asking, "where are my checks?" so by Hollywood accounting, the film has not made money.

News of a sequel hit the internet like a bolt of lightening Monday night with news that Thor and X-Men: First Class scribes Ashely Miller and Zack Stentz pitched an update to rights holder Fox and closed a deal to script. The bigger news? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was in talks to star as Burton and produce as the original is one of his favorite films.  Miller is a convention staple, appearing on numerous panels on genre flicks and writing so his heart is obviously in the right place. Johnson is coming off his first solo headlining hit, San Andreas, after years of reinvigorating franchises while being unable to launch his own. At first glance, he seems like a terrible choice. His over the top persona and invincible physicality would negate the original character who was always in over his head, talking a big game then getting kicked across the room and not being able to hold his own in a fight. Sidekick Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) and crusty cool old guy Egg Shen are the real heroes of Big Trouble as they're the ones who fill us in on what's going down in Chinatown and Chi punches, kicks, flips, flies and sword fights his way through goons while Burton knocks himself out or gets trapped under a fallen villain and misses the battle.

Beyond that, is Hollywood really going to bankroll a film where the cast is 90% Asian? If you'll recall, the original has Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall and Kate Burton but every other significant role is filled by the likes of James Hong, Dun, Victor Wong, James Lew, Donald Li, on and on. This is the studio that gave us a totally white version of Orange County on TV and the showrunner removed minority characters from scripts. AKA a Six Demon Bag of slightly racist and melodramatic lame. They also botched the original release by A) not getting the movie and B) having no idea how to market it. Head of studio commented that Jack Burton wasn't too good of a hero, completely missing the point. Johnson is a funny guy, maybe he sees this as a chance to go back to doing some comedy that isn't kiddie friendly like The Tooth Fairy or The Gameplan. If he diffuses his physical presence by constantly being beat up by mystically strong baddies, having no idea what's going on, talking a big game but ending up with lipstick on his face, etc, it could totally work. But if he plans on just bulldozing his way through tossing funny one liners and not knowing he's supposed to be the sidekick, we're in Biiiig Trouble. And not the Tim Allen ensemble cast kind.

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