Marco Polo

You know who I have always been fascinated about?

The Mongols.

I mean, think about it, a bunch of goat herders one day decided to “fuck this shit” and just went around conquering the whole of Asia and about half of Europe.

And they did it through the will power of one man – Temujin.

When Temujin was a wee lad, his papa died. His papa was a chief of a small tribe and on his death, his rivals, usurped the power and kicked out wee Temujin, his mama and his younger brothers and sisters. They were destitute people, they had to go and hide in a jungle to save themselves from being killed by the rivals.

They survived -well duh – but later when he got married, some dumbasses kidnapped his wife and raped her. (Naturally, he was able to rescue her and they spent a long and loving life together after that.)

The point being, that from such humble beginnings Temujin was able to consolidate all the tribes and create the Mongol nation who then proceeded to open a can of whoop ass on the world’s arse.

He destroyed the Chinese and annihilated (in every sense of the word) the Khwarazeim Empire. He (or rather his generals) destroyed the armies of Russia, Poland, Hungary etc and it was only his death that stopped Subutai (the greatest army general in the history of the earth) from conquering the whole of Europe

Temujin was succeeded by his son Ogedai, who was succeeded by Kublai. Kublai was a great king and it was during his reign that the Italian Marco Polo came to China.

 

And that is the basis of a new Netflix series titled Marco Polo.

 

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This is Kublai Khan.

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This is Kublai Khan’s enemy – Jia Sidao – a brilliant strategist and the Song Emperor’s Chancellor and later de facto ruler.

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This is Jia’s sister – Mei Lin. She is a legendary assassin and seductress. Her brother forces her to do all the dirty work by kidnapping her own daughter. She is a complete badass and spends most of Season 1 naked (to the great joy of millions of viewers worldwide)

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These are Kublai’s prisoners. The one one the left is blind martial arts expert. Kublai employs him to teahc marco Polo kung fu.

The one on the right is a complete waste in the grand scheme of things – she is the love interest of Polo.

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These are Kublai’s sons.

 

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The story is good, the action sequences very good, the costume, make up and cinematography excellent.

 

The producers and directors deserve special praise.

Hundreds of hours of painstaking research have culminated in this – its not easy recreating medieval Mongol customs, especially with so little written records. apart from that gargantuan task, the producers also had to recreate the Song dynasty’s court, costumes and practices.

Its all these cultural aspects which make the series so fascinating for me. Its like going into a time machine and getting a glimpse of the lives of such a mysterious group of people (mysterious mainly because of a lack of written materials).

The story drags on a bit – especially wherever its Marco Polo and his lady love. The whole lady love thing is so so unnecessary.

Acting wise, some of it is brilliant. The actors playing Kublai (Benedict Wong), his queen (Joan Chen), his son (Remy Hill), Jia Sidao (Chin Han) and Mei Lin (Olivia Cheng) have done a splendid job.

Benedict Wong (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0938950/?ref_=tt_cl_t2) is easily the best of the lot. His attention to the smallest detail and those small mannerisms that he portrays in the character makes it one of the best pieces of acting in a long time.

Chin Han is an old established solid dependable actor. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1977856/?ref_=tt_cl_t10

Special mention to Olivia Cheng (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2138746/?ref_=tt_cl_t8) who plays Mei Lin  – it takes a whole deal of courage, professionalism and talent to act that well and do all those stunts while being butt naked more or less all the time.

That blind kung fu master is a bit cliched though.

And that lady love character is an unnecessary distraction and adds diddly squat to the overall narrative.

In the last couple of decades, Hollywood has slowly realized the brilliance of black actors and actresses – – IMO Don Cheadle is the best actor in Hollywood. Other brilliant actors include Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, Forrest Whitaker, Terrence Howard, Morgan Freeman, Samuel motherfu**ing Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Will Smith, Djimon Honsou, Terry Crewes, Viola Davies, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, the OITNB lot etc etc.

Hopefully, this series – along with Rajesh Ramayan Kuthrapalli – will open Hollywood and America up to the brilliance of Asian actors and actresses in all roles, not just the cliched ones.

So far being Asian means you either play in kung fu movies or are portrayed as the cliched doctor/grocer/IT nerd/immigrant with bad English/slumdog or Arab terrorist.

The Asian Terminator helps.

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