Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

I remember distinctly going to the theater in my home town to see Big Trouble in Little China, the John Carpenter film starring Kurt Russell, and coming out not liking it. Over the next thirty plus years, I heard a lot of people support the film, some even going as far as to place it on lists of the greatest ever. I have been considering doing a Do Over with Big Trouble for a few years now, but I never got around to it. Tonight, taking a break from the Genre-ary, I rented the film off Vudu and watched it for the second time. Sadly, I still did not like it much.

According to IMDB, “Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) arrives in Chinatown, San Francisco, and goes to the airport with his Chinese friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) to welcome his green-eyed fiancée Miao Yin (Suzee Pai)who is arriving from China. However she is kidnapped on the arrival by a Chinese street gang and Jack and Wang chase the group. Soon they learn that the powerful evil sorcerer called David Lo Pan (James Hong), who has been 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 (Kim Cattrail), the bus driver and sorcerer apprentice Egg Shen (Victor Wong) and their friends and embark in a great adventure in the underground of Chinatown, where they face a world of magicians and magic, monsters and martial arts fighters.

I found this movie to be ridiculous. I did enjoy Kurt Russell’s performance in the film as the overly macho doofus Jack Burton. His over-the-top antics fit in with the tone of the film.

The special effects do not hold up very well. To be fair, it was 1986 and even the best films at the times have some difficulty holding up, but this did not feel as strong in special effects as Ghostbusters did a few years prior. There were more practical effects in this movie, such as the Wild-Man character.

There did seem to be plenty of the Chinese racial stereotypes heavily used through the film, and there can be no denying that Jack Burton is the personification of the “white savior” trope that has been prevalent in so many movies. Of course, Jack was not as significant of a fighter as his sidekick, Wang Chi. He is overshadowed by the charismatic Russell. This is the type of movie that would never be made today.

Big Trouble in Little China almost felt like a satire or a parody of the martial arts style of movie, but I do not think it works very well. There is humor in the film and it, at times, overwhelms the movie.

I guess my initial reaction to the film is maintained. Maybe I’ll try it in another 35 years.

2 thoughts on “Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

  1. Ouch. I too watched the film back in its original cinema run and I remember being one of the few who loved it. It just seemed to be the wrong film at the wrong film for many. I have bought the film on VHS, DVD, of course Blu-ray, and the soundtrack on cassette and later expanded CD. I guess you can definitely call me a fan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always pleased when someone finds a piece of entertainment that speaks to them. Big Trouble did not do it for me, but I know there are plenty of people who see it as a classic. This is the wonder of movies.


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