Thursday, September 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Big Trouble in Little China (1986) ***

PG-13, 99 min.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W.D. Richter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Catrall, Donnie Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Donald Li, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Suzee Pai, Chao Li Chi

After finally viewing “Howard the Duck”, I felt I needed to cleanse my palate with another purely 80s flick that is much more satisfying. I had never seen “Big Trouble in Little China” either, but I was taking a bit less of a gamble, since unlike “Howard” this one holds a high cult status rather than a low one. I’d seen much of it throughout the years in bits and pieces, but never the entire thing. It is directed by one of the greatest and underappreciated filmmakers of the 80s, John Carpenter.

Like “Howard the Duck”, “Big Trouble” is intended as a spoof of its genre(s). It is filled with cheesy one-liners, it has bad acting, and after almost 30 years it is incredibly dated. Those are the similarities between the two films. The difference is that “Big Trouble” succeeds through these aspects, while they are the primary reasons “Howard”s failure.

Unlike most of Carpenter’s 80s output, “Big Trouble” is one of the few that isn’t his own script. It came during a period in which he was trying his hand with the studio process. Carpenter never let the studios gain control of his productions, however. This film is gloriously drenched in far out genre clichés. “Big Trouble” was Carpenter’s chance to honor the kung fu flicks of the seventies that he had admired to a great degree.

Like Carpenter’s biggest hits “Halloween”, “The Fog”, “The Thing”, and “Escape from New York”, the movie features the excellently lit cinematography of Dean Cundey, His use of practical lighting to highlight moments of tension in Carpenter’s flicks carry into the work he also did for Steven Spielberg in the films “Hook” and “Jurassic Park”. It also showcases one of my favorite aspects of Carpenter’s filmmaking, his own unique sounding electronic score. The simplicity of his electronic noodling has an amazing power over his images that I’ve admired since “Halloween”. This was a much better experience than “Howard the Duck”. 

No comments: