Thursday, September 17, 2009

When film critic Roger Ebert watches Kung Fu movies, he thinks of John Carter of Mars

Although I never think about John Carter of Mars when I’m watching a Kung Fu movie, renowned film critic Roger Ebert does. Reprinted below is a humorous excerpt from the beginning of Ebert’s original review of T.N.T. Jackson (1975), a movie about drug-smuggling in Asia starring Jeanne Bell as the title character. The excerpt is taken from I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie (2000), a collection of more than 200 of Roger Ebert's most scathing and entertaining reviews.
You remember the story about John Carter of Mars. He was Edgar Rice Burroughs’s hero, and he galloped all over Mars on whatever passed for a horse up there. One day he was attacked and chased by a band of villains who started hacking at him with their swords.

Carter of Mars drew his own trusty blade and started hacking back at them, while trying to make it up the castle stairs. But they were too much for him. First he lost a leg. Then an arm. They were gaining on him. "The hell with this," said John Carter, throwing away his sword, drawing his atomic ray gun and zapping the bad guys into a radioactive ash heap.

I think about that story every time I see a Kung Fu movie, because Kung Fu movies depend on the same unwritten rules as John Carter novels: Nobody can have a gun. If they had a gun, they’d just shoot you, and you wouldn’t get to go through the whole “aaaaaiiiiieeeee” number and leap about with your fists flashing, your foot cocked, and your elbow of death savagely bent. It's great to have a black belt, but it’s better if the bad guys know the rules.

They do in T.N.T, Jackson, which is easily the worst movie I've seen this year (yes, worse, far worse than Rape Squad). And so we get all the obligatory postures, all the menacing glares, and especially all the slow-motion leaps through the air. At the end, so great is the heroine's wrath that she propels her fingers of vengeance all the way through the villain, who looks mighty surprised at that, let me tell you.
Hopefully, the forthcoming film John Carter of Mars (2012) will not be as bad as T.N.T Jackson!

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