I’m not an expert, but there seems to be a whole genre of Chinese historical-fantasy-war movies (wuxia). At any rate, that’s what this was. It had a dose of romance in it, too. Big budget. Nice effects. Entertaining. From my standpoint, actually, not that weird. It was good practice for me to listen to the Mandarin.
For a while now, I’ve had two Robin Hood mass-market paperbacks on the same shelf (one by Roger Lancelyn Green and one by Howard Pyle). Just now my spreadsheet told me I also have one by Henry Gilbert that I bought in 2010. My copy of Green is from 2008 and Pyle must have been before July 2004. So I have three versions. Plus Robin McKinley’s Outlaws of Sherwood.
I also have three movie versions: Disney, Elwes and Flynn. And a 2006 TV series from the BBC!
For me, buying this movie was a bit like buying a German-Spanish dictionary, in that it made me a consumer of the product of two cultures, neither of them mine.
Chandni Chowk to China is a Hindi musical martial arts comedy.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
The main character is a superstitious Indian guy named Sidhu who works as a lowly vegetable cutter in a place called Chandni Chowk in Delhi. He has a lot of self-pity but not a lot of motivation to improve his station in life. (One day while cutting potatoes, he finds one that looks like the elephant-headed god Ganesha, and uses the coincidence as an excuse to neglect his duties, which earns him a kick in the pants from his foster father.)
His life changes when two Chinese guys somehow decide he’s a Chinese hero reincarnated and a Chinese fortune-teller friend convinces him to go to China. It’s wacky but kinda fun.
See below for more about the movie, including SPOILERS.
I am reminded vaguely of:
- Blade Runner, because the cyborg was contemplating its identity.
- Firefly, because it was set in Hong Kong in the future, where there was both English and Chinese.
- X-Men, because it had a theme of mutation and change as necessary for progress.
- Childhood’s End, because evolution made a huge leap to something transcendental.
- RahXephon, because it had weird music.
- The Matrix, because of the green numbers and the neck plugs.
IMO, the exposition was too heavy-handed for the whole thing to come off as subtle and beautiful and deep.
I didn’t like the American voice actors’ performance, which seemed flat or dull, perfunctory. Also, the English subtitles were completely different from the English spoken track.
The source material is Japanese, but the setting really is Hong Kong… In one scene there’s even a jet coming in for a landing at Kai Tak Airport right over the city.
The special features on the disc showcased the beginning of the use of CGI and digital editing; the movie was a combination of hand-drawn and computer techniques.
I am a fan of Tom Cruise, but I thought The Last Samurai was boring and overly sentimentalized.
The patronizing characterization of the Japanese as savages transformed into blind idealization of the Japanese as being actually quite lovely and graceful and heroic, which is just as patronizing.
Technology is depicted as inherently, thoroughly bad because it can magnify the consequences of unjust wars.
The emperor of Japan was portrayed as spineless, right up until the end, where suddenly he cared about the protagonist and his Samurai rebel leader friend.
I like fight scenes that are clever and funny, but all these were either loud, chaotic, and bloody, or slo-mo and serious. Nothing in the movie was funny. I was bored by the entire thing and had to go and get something to do while watching it. Not a winner.