22 November 2008

I recently had the opportunity, while bored in a hotel, to watch some of The Legend of Bruce Lee, a 50 part series that cost China Central Television around 50 million RMB (6.4 million dollars). [nb]!

It’s terrible. It has some redeeming qualities. I like the fact that despite having a great deal of dialogue in English and other languages, its entirely dubbed in Mandarin, creating the Mandarin version of the bad English dubbing every Bruce Lee movie received. I like that its chock full of salty language, such as lil’ Bruce telling a bully he’s going to “kick him in the balls” – (踢他的睾丸 Ti tade Gaowan) and the other night I heard a few “turtle eggs” - (王八蛋). But the editing is atrocious, trying to move the story quickly but leaving it feeling like its rushing to cover too much. Alot of it feels like they tried to do scene coverage as quickly and cheaply as possible. One scene in particular, Bruce is expounding his wisdom to his class, and they intersperse it with a single tracking shot across the front row of students. Then they cut back and forth to a shot crossing back the way they came. One decent closeup profile of a student listening in rapture would have done way better - and other Chinese TV shows know the difference, so why not for Bruce? Also, I spotted some wire-fu, which I think Bruce would have considered cheating.

Meanwhile, you can always entertain yourself by trying to spot the incontinuities in the mise-en-scene. Look, a Justin Timberlake t-shirt! The Space Needle! Look, acid washed jeans and air conditioners*! Most of this was spotted in the first few episodes. The producers actually issued a statement saying “Look, even a bigshot like Spielberg had more than 70 mistakes in Saving Private Ryan”. Moviemistakes.com has about 15 factual errors for Saving Private Ryan, on the order of a 1950s phone in a 1940s farmhouse, or Soviet tank treads that ought to be German. I don’t remember seeing Matt Damon wearing a Rain t-shirt. So much was really just a matter of poor framing or location scouting, they didn’t need to CGI it all.

And then there’s the English theme song, sung by Italian singer Emma Re. The lyrics are Chinglish, but that’s not what bothers me. No, for half the song the lyrics are completely out of sync with the beat. Or vice versa. Or something. It sounds like someone trying to force a Chinglish translation onto a rhythm written for the original Chinese. Listen for yourself, and try to spot the 21st Century FedEx van!

And now, an excellent Nokia ad with Bruce Lee, nunchukus and ping pong to cleanse your palate (also here and here):

And then he went on to play with matches:

There, all better now.

  • This poster said the program should be renamed “The Legend of Air Conditioners”.

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