Ranting and raving about Big Trouble in Little China

This was one of my favorite movies growing up. I got the DVD recently and have watched it front to back twice and with the commentaries. I find that I can appreciate it now a lot more than when I was a kid, where I simply liked the supernatural aspect of it and the martial arts. For those of you who also liked the film, I noticed a few things that stood out to me on careful review that confused me.

How did Lo Pan find out about Miao Yin (the girl with the green eyes)?

In the beginning of the movie, Jack (Kurt Russell) and his friend Wang go to pick up Wang’s fiancee from the airport. But the Lords of Death, the evil red/black clad gang in Chinatown is waiting there to kidnap her. Its established later that the LOD is run by the Wing Kong, who serve Lo Pan and his flunkies. But how did they know about this girl with the green eyes specifically? Chinese girls with green eyes are rare, but as Lo Pan later tries to do with Gracie (Kim Catrall), he didn’t need a green eye Chinese girl to break the curse, any green eye girl would do. How is it that he’s waited a thousand some odd years when Gracie has been practicing law in Chinatown for a decade and didn’t get noticed?

And seeing that one gang member with the white sunglasses that mimicked the squinty Asian eyes seem really racist, in retrospect. Its hilarious, I don’t know how he sees anything with that, but it seems racist. But hilarious

In the alley fight, why did the 3 Storms attack the Wing Kong?

And don’t try to tell me they didn’t. When they first appeared during the melee, both the Chang Sing (the good gang clad in yellow/black) and the Wing Kong were taken back and scared. When Jack and Wang run by the fight, I could distinctly see some guys in red fighting as well. Even if they weren’t and its just bad quality video, it still makes no sense the Wing Kong were just as scared of the Storms as the Chang Sing.

Speaking of the alley fight, why did Lo Pan make an appearance there? He’s got the girl already by this point, why even appear in public to get run over by Jack?

Why were the storms suddenly so vulnerable?

In the beginning of the alley fight, the Storms are practically invincible. They tank a bunch of bullets from the Chang Sing like they were nothing. But later, the Storms get killed by: a sword, a falling statue, and suicide bomb. My theory is that once Lo Pan became flesh and blood, his supernatural servants lost some of that power. Or that this is a comedy film and we shouldn’t look too much into things and compare the force in joules of bullets vs. a statue light enough that a 70 year old man can move it and drop it through a hole.

WTF was that sasquatch thing?

Lo Pan obviously has the Storms in his command, but was he doing genetic experiments too? They never explained that thing at all and he gets away at the end of the movie.

How does Egg Shen knows Lo Pan?

During their battle, Lo Pan makes some comment about Egg Shen and Egg obviously knows the lore of Lo Pan. How do they know each other? Is Egg also a thousand year old wizard trying to defeat Lo Pan?

Why did Lo Pan keep Jack and Wang alive?

When they are captured by Lo Pan’s flunkies, they are tied to wheelchairs and put in this round metal room. Jack asks if they are in hell and Wang replies that if Lo Pan wanted them dead, they’d be dead already. But there is no conceivable reason why Lo Pan would keep them alive at that point. He’s already got both girls with green eyes and his plans to marry them can continue with or without the guys. Why keep them alive at that point?

Why didnt he kiss her goodbye?

At the end, when Jack is leaving, Gracie’s friend the reporter says “Aren’t you even going to kiss her goodbye?”. I listened to the commentaries and they actually talk about why, but I still can’t really figure it out. Its not like kissing her would mean anything other than a kiss, so why not go for it. Besides:

Kim Catrall was really hot.

I mean just unbelievably hot. Her face was perfect, she had a sexy, slender neck, a beauty spot on her chin, and gorgeous “Come hither” eyes. The fuck is wrong with you Jack??

Maybe its because I’m Chinese, well, probably that is the reason why, but I loved this movie. Partly its because I figured out midway through the movie that the Asian guy is the hero and Jack is the sidekick. Even though Kurt Russell got top billing, its Wang that does most of the fighting, he kicks Rain’s ass, and he’s the one who does the heroic things purposefully instead of accidentally stumbling on to them. And he even gets a girl in the movie! Ok, not THE girl, but A girl.

Though I’m glad they didn’t make a crappy sequel to this that ruined the original, I’m also sad we don’t get to see what happens to the gang after the movie’s over. Maybe he goes back to Gracie after a number of years traveling, maybe they settle down. What happened to Margo’s news story about all this? And did the authorities ever find what seemed to be a whole underground complex beneath that fake shipping company, complete with a temple with a glowing skull, a jail, and a Chinese palace?

PS: Please forgive the lateness of my reply

I really think this is a movie you have to sit back and enjoy without engaging too much brain. I don’t say that about many films - I like even my low-grade films to make sense and not be stupid. But BTILC is just so damned much fun that I can overlook small errors in logic and motivation.

Mrs. B. has a charm bracelet. One of the charms is a tiny crowbar, paired with a tiny piece of flexible cable. I gave her that one when she was finally learning to deal with assholes in her line of work instead of avoiding and placating them. Crowbar: Field of Dreams: “I’m going to take this crowbar, and beat you with it until you leave.” Cable: BTILC: elevator shaft scene: “…yeah, it’s real and I can touch it.” That’s how much I like the movie: I had a $400 charm made from it.

I love so many scenes and lines from the movie that it almost pains me every time Jack discovers the key, fires up the truck and then fumbles the line about “six point five on the Richter scale!” Well, he doesn’t fumble it as much as the editor does.

“It’s all in the reflexes”

The genius of this movie, and what I think is the answer to many of your questions, is how Carpenter has a meta-theme of overturning various hero and action movie tropes. Bad guys pontificating, beautiful women in bondage, wise old wizards. It was especially ahead of its time by dismantling the Hong Kong kung fu genre before it was little more than a small cult niche in the west.

The getting captured and escaping part (when tied to the wheelchair) is especially brilliant. I’m always in tears when Jack rolls himself to easy safety, slowly gets out, then shoves back the wheelchair into the pit.

–In the alley fight, why did the 3 Storms attack the Wing Kong?–

I think the ‘red headbands’ were just the pawns of Lo Pan that he used to get day-to-day evil done in the mortal world. When the Storms were called in, they were there to assert their power as well as remind the pawns who the real power was.

–he didn’t need a green eye Chinese girl to break the curse, any green eye girl would do.–

I don’t think Lo Pan really expected it to work with a white girl, and was surprised that his own arrogant risk paid off. He was in desperate retreat mode at this point, and may have had his own epiphany or doubt about how literal the prophecy or magic rules had to be.

–Why didnt he kiss her goodbye?–

What better way for the ultimate manly lone-wolf drifter hero to leave, than with a pithy wisecrack and heartbroken ladies. In his own mind, he thought he was coming across like Clint Eastwood, when the rest of the room was thinking "yes, he really is that stupid.’ I also think it was a deliberate counterpoint to the earlier scenes where he was running around with smeared lipstick on his face.

As for the rest of your questions, “You were not brought upon this world to ‘get it’, Mr. YogSosoth”

“This really pisses me off to no end!”

One of my favorite lines to use in daily life.

Something to remember about Big Trouble - the main character (Jack Burton) is not really the Hero; he’s the Comic Sidekick (speaking as character types). Except for the climax, he’s bumbling about, not a clue in the world, and way in over his head. Everything that he does, and everything that happens to him, is the sort of thing that happens to (say) C-3PO, etc.

My favorite line (well two lines) is:

“It will never come out again!”
“What? What will never come out again?”

This is a common element in a lot of movies. What good was Luke in Empire? Indy in Raiders? etc.

As to Lo Pan knowing about Miao? Lo Pan’s agents in Hong Kong (?) might have seen her at the airport there and alerted the boss. They might have even known about her for some time, just waiting for her to go to America.

I also don’t have answers to your questions, but also love this movie.

It’s so damn quotable and so damn fun. I think I’m going to watch it again tonight.

Galen’s talking about something very different.
BTinLC isn’t a situation like “Hero should have stayed home” like in Raiders.

Wang Chi is the hero archetype in Big Trouble in Little China. HIS girl gets kidnapped. He’s the one with the skills and abilities. Jack is his witless sidekick. We just see the movie from his perspective --until the climax where he actually becomes the focal point and the hero.

People don’t seem to say “I don’t get it” very often anymore, but when they do, saying that line with the Lo Pan accent (and calling them ‘Mr. Burton’) is always fun.

Smart, subversive, and a killer script, wonderfully delivered. My favourite scene is when they’re trapped in the flooding vault:

“Two, three feet thick, I’ll bet. Probably welded shut from the outside, and covered with brick by now!”

“Don’t give up, Jack!”

“Oh, okay, I won’t, Wang! Let’s just chew our way outta here!”

Kurt Russell’s manic exasperation just sells that last line.


Kurt Russell is right up there at the top of my favorite actors list. The guy can sell a role, whether it’s Captain Ron or Wyatt Earp (a role for which he should have at least been nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe).


My take has always been it was just dumb luck.

The gangbangers at the airport were grabbing random Asian girls coming over from China. Much like forced home break-ins in SF have traditionally been a purely Asian on Asian crime ( i.e. Asian gangs victimizing members of the Asian community ). They made a stab at Grace Law’s bud, missed, grabbed Miao Yin instead and only later found they’d nabbed a green-eyed Chinese girl. This then slowly got communicated up the chain until Lo Pan heard about it and he immediately dispatched his three storms to fetch her from the whore house.

They didn’t, see above.

Who pays attention to anglos? Or maybe he figured it just wouldn’t work with her. Maybe he’s tried others before but they all were failures.

*“There have been others, to be sure. There are always others, are there not? You seem to be one who knows the difficulties between men and women. How seldom it works out.” * :wink:

I think Catrall’s character was supposed to be at least part Chinese.

This. It’s never quite said, but her appearance (natural plus makeup) and name, “Lee,” seem to indicate that she’s supposed to have some Chinese ancestry. Chalk it up to another point lost in the whirlwind story.

Trust me. I can see things… now.

As I recall, the curse is designed to make Lo Pan suffer. He’s supposed to marry a girl with green eyes, that he really lusts for, and then kill her to appease the first sovereign emperor, he has to sacrifice her.

Lo Pan doesn’t dig white chicks. Which isn’t that hard to believe, since he grew up in what would be China.

He wanted Gracie Law so he could marry Mao Yin and sacrifice Law to fulfill the letter of the curse.

OMG, someone started a thread about this movie!

Favorite growing up, still holds up today… My girlfriend had never heard of it so we watched it together last week.

And thanks to the invisible hand of the modern economic engine, you can buy a copy of the same shirt Jack wears in the movie:

I always loved the “six demon bag” - wind, fire, all that kind of thing! You see, depression & anxiety are feelings I struggle with often - so I sometimes cope by imagining that I drank one myself and am, for a time, invincible and capable. Egg Shen delivered those lines perfectly…

In terms of the street fight, I get the impression that the Wing Kong, or at least the street-fighter-level members of it, had no idea they were working for Lo Pan. And they certainly never had seen the Storms before. Remember Wang’s line about Lo Pan? “We learn about all this stuff when we’re kids. Then we grow up and pretend we don’t believe it.”

“Nothing or double Jack. Nothing or double.”

I introduced this movie to my daughters over Christmas break. The nine and eleven year olds loved it. The thirteen year old claimed it was boring, but she didn’t leave the room or even play with her phone until it was over. Since then, I’ve been trying to use “Sit tight, hold down the fort, and keep the home fires burning. If I’m not back by dawn, call the President.” every time I leave the house.