21
Aug 03

COMMENTARY CONUNDRA

Do You See • 249 views

COMMENTARY CONUNDRA

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

Commentators: John Carpenter, Kurt Russell

These two are notorious for, among other things, one of the looniest DVD commentaries ever, namely for their collaborative remake on The Thing, involving director and star, at least a six-pack and a fair amount of marijuana. This might yet be looked at in more detail, but in the meantime, this effort, far more controlled (if you will) in some senses but otherwise a ridiculous, merry mess — rather like its associated film, to be sure.

One thing’s for sure, Russell is clearly that rarest of actors, a man without pretension, or if he has any he’s saved it for the right moments or let it wear away over time (and given his decades long career since his Disney days, he’s had plenty of time to let it go). Laughing loudly and gleefully on a nearly constant level, within the first few minutes he’s chuckling and more over his character, the studio boss of the time, Harrison Ford, Rambo, the misperceptions of the film and more besides, and perhaps most importantly himself. As he says regarding the ad campaign for the film, focusing on his character of Jack Burton without mentioning his name, it probably didn’t work first and foremost simply because people didn’t recognize his face, not something most star product personnel will admit even in the throes of an E! True Hollywood Story. Carpenter in contrast is a touch more direct and less prone to busting up, but he’s quick, chattering, clearly loving hanging around with the actor that he’s most associated with over time, has the kind of voice that may be a touch nasally but is never grating. He notes how effects and technical efforts have improved over time, in terms of visual effects and martial arts choreography, but makes no apologies for the end results in the film and more than once notes, with justifiable pride, how well he and his crew were able to make them work with comparatively more primitive equipment.

And the two are off and running from the start. Belying the occasional pause to note a pretty sharp action scene, they don’t stop — and they don’t stop with the film either. There’s plenty of stories, appreciations, details of scenes, but as the film goes on they happily start catching up on various things in their own lives, letting minutes drift by on the screen while tales of how their kids are doing in hockey practice and with music, the nature of action movies in general and bits of political discussion and more. At one point Carpenter and Russell bust out over the sidetracks, Carpenter noting slyly “This is what it’s like when Kurt and I get together!” A true enough point, but there’s enough trivia to keep the hyperfans happy and enough camaraderie to allow this to function as its own enjoyable shoot-the-shit session.

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