Notes On John Carpenter’s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

Movies In Focus and the National Justice Museum’s John Carpenter Film Season continued with Big Trouble In Little China (the first was The Fog). I once again introduced the film, offering the audience a little insight into the 1986 film.

Here are some of my notes…

Big Trouble In Little China is a film that covers multiple genres – action, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, romantic comedy and horror. It’s a proper cult film – adored by those who love it and misunderstood by those who ‘just don’t get it’.

Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein’s original script was a western and it was rewritten by W.D. Richter, transposing the film to 1980s San Francisco. One of the elements which remains is the fact Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) carries a saddle bag for no apparent reason, other than it looks cool.

The film inverts the traditional hero/sidekick dynamic, with Jack Burton, the film’s nominal hero being the foolish comic relief, while Dennis Dunn’s Wang handles nearly all the action.

The film was Carpenter and Russell’s fourth collaboration following on from Elvis, Escape From New York and The Thing.

Russell’s swaggering Jack Burton is an homage to John Wayne’s all-American heroes.

The film has a lot of Hawksian elements – the interplay between Russell’s Burton and Kim Cattrall’s Gracie Law has that quick-fire banter.

The film was a box office flop on its release, with audiences – and the studio (20th Century Fox) never fully engaging with its tone. The east-meets-west tone was too much for an audience expecting something like Indiana Jones. The studio effectively dumped the film in cinemas.

The film uses of ‘wire-fu’ (a favourite in asian cinema) 15 years before it became popular in the Wachowski’s The Matrix.

Read the Movies In Focus review of Big Trouble In Little China