Six Degrees of Schwarzenegger Podcast – Big Trouble in Little China Ep. 9


Highlights from this section of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

  • “I feel kind of invincible.”
  • Lo Pan becomes flesh
  • Jack knocks himself out of commission
  • Wang versus Rain, Egg versus Lo Pan
  • Jack and Gracie finally kiss

When a sidekick doesn’t know his role

The brilliance of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA lies in its unconventional character dynamics.  Jack Burton, the film’s leading man, enters as the swaggering American “John-Wayne” archetype who’s come along to save the day.  The only problem is he’s more or less a bumbling idiot, constantly in over his head and relying on his buddy Wang Chi to bail him out.

“Nobody had ever done a leading man who didn’t realize he wasn’t the leading man,” Kurt Russell told USA Today.  “He behaves like the sidekick but doesn’t know that.  That hadn’t been done and it was difficult for the studio to get around in terms of promoting it, too.” 

Kurt Russell pins the film’s box office shortcomings on poor marketing, and there might be something to his assessment.  Advertisements for the film (watch the trailer below) present the film as more of a traditional action movie with Jack Burton as the film’s savior.  BTiLC’s trailer doesn’t accurately relay the amount of comedy on the film, which probably comes in equal measure to the film’s action, and certainly doesn’t fully depict Jack’s ineptitude.

Russell plays the role of Jack Burton to maximum effect with tremendous charisma and crack comedic timing, but this subversion of the traditional action hero tropes must have come as a shock to movie-goers who were excited to see the next chapter of the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell partnership after ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE THING.  Imagine going to see a Batman movie, then coming to realize that in this movie Batman is a dunce and Robin is the real hero.  It’s the sort of bait-and-switch that can lead to confusion and negative word of mouth.


One Last Thing…

In tribute to Gracie Law’s questionable karate kiai, here’s a supercut of Miss Piggy kicking butt (and her epic squeal, a clear spoof of/tribute to Bruce Lee).

Further reading: Words of wisdom from Jack Burton