COMIC-CON: 'CZ12' AND THE LEGACY OF JACKIE CHAN

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HULK DOES NOT USE THE WORD HERO LIGHTLY… JACKIE CHAN IS ONE OF HULK’S HEROES.

THAT MAY SOUND SILLY GIVEN THAT A FEW OF HULK’S REGULAR READERS KNOW THAT HULK’S CINEMATIC HEROES INCLUDE THE RANKS OF  KUBRICK, FELLINI, BERGMAN, TARKOVSKY, AND BREILLAT, BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY 100% TRUE. JACKIE CHAN IS ONE OF CINEMA’S UNIQUE TREASURES. AND AT HIS BEST, HULK THINKS HE IS THE GREAT HEIR TO THE TRADITION OF BUSTER KEATON.

MOST PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY FAMILIAR WITH JACKIE CHAN. SOME FANS GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO HIS EARLY FILMS IN HONG KONG (SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW, DRUNKEN MASTER, POLICE STORY, ARMOUR OF GOD). SOME FANS CAME IN WITH RUMBLE IN THE BRONX WHICH BEGAN THIS INTERESTING RUN IN THE LATE 80′S/EARLY 90′S OF FILMS MADE-FOR-AMERICA-BUT-STILL-DUBBED-WITH-FOREIGN-ACTORS. AND MORE STILL CAME ON BOARD WITH HIS FULL-ON TRANSFER TO AMERICAN FILMS IN THE WAKE OF RUSH HOUR AND SHANGHAI NOON. THROUGH ALL THOSE FILMS, JACKIE HAS INSURED A LONG ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER FULL OF CRAZY STUNTS, JAW-DROPPING-MARTIAL ARTS, AND HAREBRAINED SILLINESS… AND AFTER HIS LONG JOURNEY TO THE AMERICAN FOREFRONT, HE IS RETURNING TO HIS HONG KONG ROOTS WITH THE UPCOMING CZ12 (AN ACRONYM FOR THE ORIGINAL TITLE “CHINESE ZODIAC“).

AND THIS FILM IS THE REASON THAT JACKIE CHAN APPEARED AT COMIC-CON FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

THE BEYOND-HUMUNGOUS HALL H GREETED HIM WITH A STANDING OVATION. HE ELICITED LAUGHS AND CHEERS NEARLY THE ENTIRE PANEL. AND WHEN IT WAS OVER THRONGS OF FANS LINED THE MICROPHONES AND COULD ONLY SEEM TO TALK ABOUT JUST HOW MUCH OF AN IMPACT CHAN HAD ON THEIR LIVES. IT’S EASY TO DERIDE THESE SORTS OF GLOWING NON-QUESTIONS, BUT HONESTLY HULK WOULD HAVE LIKELY DONE THE SAME. AND WHAT PROMPTS ALL THIS LAUDING BEHAVIOR OVER JACKIE CHAN? A MAN WHOSE FILMS DO WELL ENOUGH, BUT DON’T SET THE BOX OFFICE ON FIRE OR ANYTHING? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS ONE ACTION STAR THAT MAKES HIM SO BELOVED AND RESPECTED THE WORLD OVER?

AS SILLY AND INNOCENT AS MANY OF HIS MOVIES CAN BE, WHAT MAKES JACKIE CHAN RESONATE SO MUCH IS WHAT HULK WILL CALL THE WEIGHT OF PERFORMANCE. TO ILLUSTRATE WHAT THIS MEANS, PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE PREVIOUSLY LIVED IN A STUNT-MAN BASED CULTURE AND NOW LIVE IN CGI-CULTURE. ORIGINALLY AN ACTOR WOULD CLIMB OUT OF WINDOW AND WE’D SUDDENLY CUT TO A LONG SHOT OF STUNT MAN DONNING THE SAME CLOTHES AND WIG DOING SOMETHING CRAZY AWESOME. NOW WE DON’T EVEN HAVE A REAL PERSON DOING SOMETHING CRAZY AWESOME. IT’S ALL CREATED THROUGH CGI. ACTORS ARE DROPPED INTO DIGITAL BACKGROUNDS. FACES ARE CROPPED ONTO SOMEONE ELSE. AND AS PRETTY AS THIS OVERTLY CONSTRUCTED ACTION CAN BE, IT STILL ALWAYS SEEMS TO FEEL WEIGHTLESS. BUT JACKIE? JACKIE CHAN REALLY DOES IT ALL HIMSELF. JACKIE TRANSCENDED BOTH CULTURES. THERE’S NO CUTAWAYS TO STUNTMEN. NO DIGITAL FACES. IT’S SIMPLY HIM. BUT THE THRILL ISN’T THAT WE ARE SIMPLY ADMIRING HIS GUMPTION AND SHOUTING “YUP, THAT’S HIM! HE’S CRAZY!” THE THRILL IS THAT A MOVIE IS BEING TRANSFORMED FROM A CONSTRUCTION AND INTO SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY:

WE ARE WATCHING A PERFORMANCE.

THINK ABOUT THAT. THINK ABOUT THE FEELING YOU GET WHEN YOU WATCH A REAL-LIFE PERFORMANCE ON THE STREET OR IN CIRQUE DE SOLEIL. THERE’S A THRILL TO THAT SENSE OF DANGER. IT’S A DAREDEVIL’S LEAP. SOMETHING YOU KNOW IS NOT A FABRICATION. THINK ABOUT HOW THAT MATTERS SO MUCH TO HOW MOVIES WORK. NO MATTER WHAT CINEMA ALWAYS THRIVES ON THE NOTION OF BELIEVABLITY. IMMERSION. STAKES. REALITY. DRAMA. AND WHEN IT COMES TO WATCHING AN ACTION SCENE THERE IS SOMETHING SO WONDERFULLY PURE ABOUT WATCHING JACKIE CHOP, HOP, DIVE, PUNCH, LEAP, FALL, TUMBLE, AND SCREAM HIS WAY THROUGH A MOVIE IN THE MOST VISCERAL WAY POSSIBLE. HULK WOULD EVEN ARGUE THAT THE JACKIE CHAN GETS TO THE CORE OF MOVIE GOING EXPERIENCE.

WHEN WE WATCH JOHN CARTER DIVE ALL OVER CGI BACKGROUNDS WE CAN THINK “OKAY, THAT LOOKED COOL.”

BUT WHEN WE WATCH JACKIE CHAN CLIMB UP THE SIDE OF WALL WE CAN’T EVEN PICK OUR JAWS UP OFF THE FLOOR.

THAT DIFFERENCE MEANS EVERYTHING.

BUT EVEN IF HE RESONATES FOR EVERYONE, TO HULK HE MAY JUST MEAN A LITTLE MORE. WE ALL HAVE OUR GENRE PREDISPOSITIONS AND LITTLE HULK’S WAS KUNG FU. SO WHEN HULK WENT FROM WATCHING SATURDAY AFTERNOON RERUNS OF 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (STILL SUPER AWESOME BY THE WAY) TO GOING INTO CHINATOWN TO SEE JACKIE’S LATEST, IT’S SAFE TO SAY THIS NEW JUMPING MENACE WAS A MASSIVE INSPIRATION… GRANTED, INSPIRATION RESULTED LITTLE HULK DOING SOME OF THE STUPIDEST THINGS A LITTLE HULK CAN DO (THE AFOREMENTIONED CHOPPING, HOPPING, DIVING, PUNCHING, LEAPING, FALLING, TUMBLING, AND SCREAMING). OKAY, HULK REALIZES THIS RUEFUL ADMITTANCE POSSIBLY PUTS JACKIE INTO THE “BAD INFLUENCE” CATEGORY IN SOME PARENTS EYES AND PERHAPS JUSTLY SO… BUT… THE THING IS… OKAY, FINE. HULK DOESN’T HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE. ALL HULK KNOWS IS THAT IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE COMPULSION AND UTTERLY ENTHRALLING. SPIELBERG WAS THE REASON HULK RAN AROUND WITH A SUPER 8 CAMERA DOING REACTIONS OF RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. AND A FEW YEARS LATER JACKIE CHAN IS THE REASON THAT LITTLE HULK WAS RUNNING AROUND WITH A VHS CAMERA DOING EVERY BIT OF KUNG FU AND STUNT WORK THAT LITTLE HULK COULD MUSTER. WHEN IT’S AN INSPIRATION, IT’S AN INSPIRATION. AND HULK WAS INSPIRED.

JACKIE SEEMS RATHER AWARE OF THE IMPACT OF HIS EARLY FILMS. WHEN PROMPTED WITH A QUESTION ABOUT ALL THE CRAZY STUFF HE DID, JACKIE LAUGHED AT HIMSELF, BUT STILL TOUCHED ON THIS WHOLE NOTION OF INSPIRATION. HE UTTERLY ADVISED PEOPLE COMING UP THE RANKS NOT TO RISK THEIR LIVES LIKE HE DID. AND LOOKING BACK, BOY DID HE RISK HIS LIFE. REALLY, THE RISK OF JACKIE’S STUNTS IS COMPLETELY UNPARALLELED FOR AN ACTION START. USUALLY THE TRACK RECORD OF INSANE STUNTS HAS A FORWARD PROGRESSION, BUT JACKIE TIPPED THE SCALES WITH HIS INSANITY BACK IN THE 80′S AND NO ONE EVEN REALLY DARED TO CHALLENGE SINCE. HE SIMPLY HIT THE MAX AHEAD OF THE CURVE.

BUT AS MUCH AS HE ADVISES NOT DOING THESE CRAZY THINGS, HIS PAST DOESN’T REALLY SEEM TO FAZE JACKIE EITHER. HE ADMITTED THAT THE STUNTS WORK BECAUSE “HE KNOWS WE’LL LIKE IT” AND AFTER ALL, WHY ELSE WOULD HE STILL RUNNING AROUND MAKING MOVIES AND DOING SOMEWHAT-LESS-CRAZY STUFF AT THIS AGE? THE MAN IS 52 AND CAN PUT SOME PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES TO SHAME. BUT EVEN THOUGH HE’S STILL IN BETTER CONDITION FOR THE RIGORS OF ACTION WORK, HE STILL MAINTAINS THAT CZ12 IS HIS “LAST BIG ACTION FILM.” HE SAID HE WILL PROBABLY SHOW UP IN OTHER ACTION FILMS, BUT ONE GETS THE SENSE THIS MIGHT BE LESS OF A MUSCLE FATIGUE PROBLEM AND MORE OF A CASE OF CREATIVITY. JACKIE SEEMS TO LOOK AT THE FILM AS TAKING CARE OF ONE BIG, LAST CREATIVE GOAL BEFORE MOVING ON. HE IS NOT MAUDLIN OR WISTFUL ABOUT IT IN ANY WAY EITHER. EVEN IF IT IS A THROWBACK TO HIS EARLIER HONG KONG FILMS, HE JOKINGLY MAINTAINS THAT ALL HIS WORK IS JUST IN GRAND TRADITION OF “HURTING, HURTING, HURTING.”

THIS ATTITUDE PERFECTLY EXPRESSES JACKIE CHAN. FUNNY. SELF-EFFACING. GREGARIOUS. THE MAN THROWS HIMSELF OUT THERE TO ALL OF HALL H WITH A REAL-SENSE OF SHOWMANSHIP. WHY DOES HE DO THIS? BECAUSE HE IS A PERFORMER. HE IS SO UNLIKE A TRADITIONAL ACTOR, THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO REFLECT INWARD AND FIND ALL THIS PROMOTION STUFF TO BE A BORE AND PERVERSION OF THEIR CRAFT (REFLECTIVE OF THE OLD HOLLYWOOD IDIOM “THEY DON’T PAY YOU TO ACT, THEY PAY YOU TO DO PROMOTION”), BUT JACKIE DOES NOT COME OFF THAT WAY AT ALL. HE IS FAR MORE LIKE A GRAND ENTERTAINER OF YESTERYEAR. HE THROWS HIMSELF INTO BEING THE PUBLIC REPRESENTATION OF “JACKIE CHAN” THE SAME WAY HE THROWS HIMSELF INTO HIS STUNTS: WITH ENTHUSIASTIC ABANDON.

WITH TIME RUNNING SHORT DUE TO THE HALL H PANELS RUNNING LONG, CHAN MUST EXIT SO THAT THE EXPENDABLES CAN MOVE IN. HE MENTIONS THAT THEY ASKED HIM TO BE IN THE EXPENDABLES 2, BUT HE WAS TO BUSY WITH CZ12 TO MAKE IT WORK (THOUGH HE DOESN’T RULE OUT DOING THE THIRD). BUT TO HULK THIS IS ALL FOR THE BETTER. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE GREASY MUSCLE BOUND ATTITUDE AND EDGE OF THE EXPENDABLES SERIES THAT DOESN’T QUITE FIT WITH WHAT JACKIE DOES (EVEN LI’S FILMS HAVE A BIT OF COLD, MEAN STREAK THAT FITS BETTER). JACKIE CHAN ALWAYS EMBODIES SOMETHING A BIT MORE OPTIMISTIC, VIBRANT, AND FUN.

AND CZ12 CERTAINLY FEELS LIKE JACKIE.

THE TRAILER THEY SHOWED FOR THE FILM FEATURED SOME CRAZY IMAGERY OF HIM BOUNCING ALL OVER THE WORLD, PARIS, ASIA, WHAT HAVE YOU. WE SEE HIM CLIMBING UP WALLS AND GETTING INTO HIS USUAL FISTICUFFS. A NEARBY PERSON TO HULK REMARKED THAT IT ALL LOOKED A LITTLE CHEESY AND THE PRODUCTION VALUES WERE NOT REALLY UP TO AMERICAN STANDARDS, BUT OH HOW QUICKLY PEOPLE FORGET. THAT IS THE MAN’S LEGACY. A WONDERFUL LEGACY OF FILMMAKING THAT UNDERSTANDS THAT YOU DON’T NEED THE BLOAT OF A BUDGET, OR HARD EDGED SPIRIT TO MAKE ACTION WORK.

YOU NEED A MAN PUTTING HIMSELF OUT THERE TO PERFORM.

YOU NEED SOMEONE WHO IS WILLING TO CUT THROUGH ALL THE B.S. IN THE ACTION MOVIE WORLD: THE POSTURING, THE OVER-FABRICATION, THE DISILLUSIONMENT. SOMEONE WILLING TO GET BACK TO THE HEART OF THE GENUINE THRILL OF BELIEVABILITY. THIS IS THE LEGACY OF JACKIE CHAN. THE MAN HAS SACRIFICED HIS BODY FOR 20 YEARS FOR NOTHING MORE THAN OUR ENJOYMENT.

AND WHEN IT COMES TO CINEMA, THERE IS PERHAPS NOTHING MORE HEROIC THAN THAT.

<3 HULK

FOLLOW @FILMCRITHULK

Related:
MR. HULK GOES TO COMIC-CON

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