Directed by Matt Codd
Starring Federico Castelluccio, Stana Katic, Peter Kwong, Aaron Hendry, Dion Basco and James Hong
Marco Polo is getting ready to leave China, together with his entourage of Italian explorers. When the emperor (James Hong) gives Marco a bundle of gifts, evil priest guy Shang Sel (Peter Kwong of Big Trouble in Little China fame) smuggles some kind of mystical dragon thingummy into it so that dragons will follow Marco and kill him? He doesn’t like westerners or something.
Anyway, eventually the dragons kill everyone except Marco, his brother(?) Giovanni and kung-fu-vengeance tagalong Gao Ling (Dion Basco). They meet up with a plucky blacksmith’s daughter (Castle‘s Stana Katic) along the way, and eventually get back to Italy, where they have to fend off another dragon attack. In the end, goodness triumphs, Marco gets the girl, etc.
What’s wrong with it?
There are two fundamental problems with the film. The first will be familiar to anyone who has previously watched one of these Sci-Fi original fantasyesque things: it is boring and it sucks. From fights to romance to jokes, everything is just off-brand and inept. There’s no reason to care about any of the characters, and when it comes to mindless spectacle it’s not like you don’t have other options.
The second problem is also something that emerges from a lot of these things: it’s weird, but it’s not weird enough. Like, at one point it’s suggested that one group of generic barbarians are the descendants of a Roman legion. Now, this is not an uncommon theory — that prisoners taken by the Parthians after the Battle of Carrhae wound up in China. And there have been some fun Romans-in-China stories, including what might be a future BMM feature, Dragon Blade.
But nothing comes of this point — it’s just there to explain why the actors are white (I assume that the emperor’s guards wear face masks for the same reason). Why not double down? These dang movies never commit. OK, The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake did, at least partly.
What’s right with it?
It’s nice that James Hong is in things. And it’s not, like, super racist.
How bad is it really?
It’s just so dumb, but not dumb in an over-the-top good way. It has tons of fights and chase scenes, but not a lot of tension or excitement. And I am not an expert on medieval China, but I’m pretty sure that this is … not right.
Best bit (if such there is)?
When someone said “Marco!” fellow bad movie veteran Tim shouted out: “Polo!” I realise that’s not actually part of the movie, but you have to gake what you can get.
What’s up with…?
- Chinese dragons looking very much like their European counterparts?
- Marco’s grasp of geography: I don’t know a lot about exploration, but I think China is very big, and that Italy is not just right outside it. And I don’t know where that ship is supposed to be sailing.
- The ship! It’s the same damn ship that was in Grendel, Dark Relic and The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake! Did they get a bulk discount?
Production values The dragons look OK, but their interaction with anything else is dodgy. And the fights are atrocious. Can’t we get Jon Foo in here for a day or two to do a little low-budget kicking? 15.
Dialogue and performances James Hong is good value for money, but Stana Katic has been a lot better elsewhere. Everyone else is boring. 16.
Plot and execution I guess that in this case “linear” might actually be a compliment. 15.
Randomness Why is it even Marco Polo in the first place? 18.
Waste of potential I could write a better Marco Polo vs Dragons script on a three-day drunk. Maybe even while sober. 16.