Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trailer Tuesday - Dragon Blade

I love a good historical fiction, but as a historian, I am often left disappointed. I judge costuming, props, dialogue, and facts all a bit too harshly. I try not to be too judgey, I promise, but if comic book fanboys get to pick over every detail of the latest Marvel offering, I should get to share my elation or disappointment over my genre of choice.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that I don't know all that there is to know about every historical period. I'm particularly deficient in world history Eastern history and there is a great deal that I have left to learn. A class on samurai a few years ago helped fill in my gaps on Japanese history, but I need a refresher on Chinese history, since my last experience with it was actually in elementary school. So, when I heard about a new historical film starring Jackie Chan as a Chinese commander would be released in 2015, I was pretty excited. The trailer, however, looks like a hot mess.

I don't even really know where to begin with this. Dragon Blade stars Jackie Chan as Huo An, a commander in China's Han Dynasty. John Cusack plays Lucius, a Roman general who somehow ends up in the middle of Chinese forces, and Adrien Brody as Tiberius, another Roman who is tasked with trying to find him. There's not a lot to discern from the trailer, but from what I can tell, Tiberius is trying to rescue Lucius. Perhaps Lucius somehow becomes a Chinese citizen and swears his allegiance to Jackie Chan's character? At the end of the trailer Brody accuses Cusack of his loyalty being placed elsewhere. Of course, I was so distracted by the flashiness of it all and the horrible dubbing to truly understand what was going on.

It seems that this movie is based on the very minute possibility that Roman legions did come in contact with Chinese soldiers during the Han dynasty. This film is set circa 48 BCE and while the Roman Empire as we know it went on to last until roughly 476 BCE (later depending how you look at it). Anyway, this film takes this legend and builds the story of two Romans and a Chinese general in a weird love triangle that is overshadowed by special effects and atrocious sound editing. The only thing I can say for certain that I know about this film is that an attempt is made to unify nations along the Silk Road, but Rome won't acquiesce? I'm not even certain that they're speaking of Rome specifically when talking to Cusack's character. This is all a bit confusing.

For those unfamiliar, the Silk Road refers to a series of trade routes stretching from Europe into Indo-China. It extends over 4,000km and expanded during the Han dynasty during which the film takes place. Trade on the Silk Road was particularly valuable to China, India, and Persia, on which water was not a viable means of trade. So, having a group of Romans make their way into China is plausible, but not documented within Classical history. Did they just wander across the entirety of Europe? Were they already on the Eastern front? This causes so many questions for me that I need answered, including, "What is up with that armor?"

Let's face it, Dragon Blade does not look like a masterpiece of cinema. I'll admit that I didn't see 47 Ronin, but I'll have to compare the two after Dragon Blade is released. Dragon Blade hits Chinese cinema on February 15, the first day of the Chinese Year of the Goat. No word yet on a US release.

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