Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Tara Bennett, Paul Terry
Cover Artist: Drew Struzan
Price: $39.99 (Available now!)
Cult classic Big Trouble In Little China is 30 years old and in order to celebrate Boom! Studios brings us The Official Making Of Big Trouble In Little China, described by the website as “..the only official, comprehensive behind-the-scenes look into the making of the 1986 cult classic film…” Written and compiled by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry, with a foreword by director John Carpenter and afterword by Kurt Russell, The Official Making Of features new cast and crew interviews, photos from the film set, and an in-depth look into how many of the most iconic scenes and characters from the movie were created.
So, as a HUGE fan of the movie, I took a look at The Official Making Of Big Trouble In Little China. At first glance it’s impressive, 184 pages jam packed with photos of the actors, crew, and sets. There’s also design notes, interviews with everyone from the actors, director and scriptwriter to the cinematographer, visual effects producer and fight choreographer.
Big Trouble In Little China was an unusual concept, starting out as a 19th-century western and evolving into a modern kung fu dark fantasy that combined Chinese mysticism with 80s action. Instead of focusing on the traditional protagonist who has the most investment in the situation, which logically would be Wang (Dennis Dun) trying to rescue his kidnapped fiance, the film instead primarily follows bumbling and foolhardy sidekick Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) who is really just along for the ride and to find his stolen truck. It’s great to see from the interviews that these character decisions were very deliberate, and that Big Trouble In Little China was no exception to the headstrong creative vision that we have come to expect from John Carpenter.
The set design sections are a joy to look through. The amount of detailing and passion that went into things that were only on screen for seconds, such as the sewer demon and the hell of the upside down sinners, is remarkable. There are a couple of really cool side sections, detailing things such as deleted scenes, original storyboard drawings and even soundtrack composition.
The Making Of Big Trouble In Little China also includes sections on each of the main characters, detailing their creation, how they were cast, and even the special effects used. There’s also portions concerning how monsters for the film, such as The Guardian and The Wild Man, were created. If you’ve ever wanted to know how they did the sloped floor wheelchair scene or how they made Thunder fill with air and explode? This is for you.
It is in the character section that there are some weaknesses. Though most of the main cast were interviewed for The Making Of Big Trouble In Little China there are a few notable exceptions. Some of them cannot be helped, such as Victor Wong (Egg Shen) who passed away in 2001, and Chao Li Chi (Uncle Chu) who passed away in 2010. However, I was surprised to see that there was no interview with Suzee Pai, who played Miao Yin. Though Miao Yin is mostly silent throughout the movie, and largely acts as MacGuffin to be taken by the bad guys and retrieved by the heroes, I would have been very interested to hear what the actress had to say about her role. Instead, her section is padded out with other the other actors reminiscing about Pai which, while engaging, didn’t really give me anything new about the character.
The Making Of Big Trouble In Little China is available in digital and hardback form. At $39.99 it is a little pricey, however in my opinion it is a truly gorgeous piece of movie memorabilia that a lot of Big Trouble fans would love to own.
I think it’s fair to say that even though Big Trouble In Little China was a commercial failure upon theatrical release in the 30 years since then it has paid its dues, with a die-hard audience of fans all over the world. Though the story of the brave but dimwitted everyman thrust into a situation he can barely comprehend isn’t new the appeal of Jack Burton cannot be denied. The popularity of Big Trouble In Little China has only grown with time, so much so that a remake is potentially on the way. Will a retelling shake the pillars of heaven in the same way? I highly doubt it. However if we get something that has even half the fun and passion that went into making the original? We may just be alright. You remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”