The Super Powers Myth, by Ric Meyers
The last time I’ve spoke to Jackie Chan he said to me: “I’ve done everything three times” – meaning that he’s finding less and less ways, and reasons, to top himself. Unfortunately that also results in schizo, ultimately unsatisfying, films, further hampered by his unwillingness to mature his screen persona. Even so, he keeps looking for ways to challenge himself and keep busy, despite the repetition of his movie and charity work.
But Jackie’s last great film was Legend of Drunken Master (HK: Drunken Master 2) in 1994. He’s made two dozen movies since then – all which included some exceptional sequences, but none which held together anywhere close to his classics of the mid-1980s. Clearly his best films are the ones which showcase his kung-fu, but as he grows older, he keeps trying to avoid that by dwelling on vehicular stunts or repeated attempts to balance his physicality with cgi.
Even so, Sony Entertainment has taken on the task of selling his most recent productions to the American DVD market. Their latest release, and one of Chan’s most creatively bold conceptions, is The Myth, hitting stores on October 30th. It’s also one of the most expensive films in Hong Kong history, and is, if nothing else, a visually splendid treat. Sadly, the film’s central flaw is showcased by Jackie’s admonition that he wasn’t brave enough to make what his director/co-writer Stanley Tong originally wanted: an entire film about a Qin Dynasty general.
So, instead, Chan shoved in a bunch of nonsense that appears to be leftover ideas from his Armor of God series, forcing the film to bounce back and forth between two characters and eras – a Qin general protecting the emperor’s Korean mistress and a modern-day Asian Indiana Jones-type (who may or may not be the general’s reincarnation) attempting to keep the power of floating out of a greedy billionaire’s clutches (you read that right).
Chan does some of his best work as the Qin general, and these sequences are the film’s strongest, but even Jackie’s trademark/exceptional fight scenes can’t keep the world-hopping modern stuff from becoming contrived and pandering. The film is finally done in by the story’s rag-tag nature, the characters’ immaturity, and Chan’s unwillingness to go the emotional and dramatic distance, but not before a lot of very impressive ideas and images also run through the lenses.
But the true attraction in The Myth DVD are the extras – predominantly the “making of” doc and Chan’s first full-length audio commentary in English. Here he reveals all his loves, hates, doubts, rationalizations, limitations, and approaches in detail – all in his patented, tutor-resisting, Changlish, which hasn’t changed since he first phonetically learned his lines in 1980’s The Big Brawl. What’s most fun (for me, at any rate) is watching Jackie and company choreograph fights, and, happily, there’s plenty of that on display here.
The disc also includes a bunch of deservedly deleted scenes – both those removed from the original 2005 Asian release and some trimmed from the 2007 American version – two versions of the music video created for the film’s love theme, and two promotional featurettes: one touting the work of Jackie Chan’s Dragon’s Heart Foundation’s “Build a School for a Dollar” charity, and the other showcasing the charitable work and meditation admonitions of Swami Nithyananda (since a portion of the film takes place in India).
Despite the film’s failure to come, or hold, together, the DVD again proves how the format can make a illuminate and buoy a project into a satisfying, even must-have, addition to any Jackie fan’s library.
Already in stores, as of 10/23, is the two disc DC Comics Classic Collection edition of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians – a 1985 attempt to add depth and maturity to the already somewhat beloved Super Friends cartoon series. Despite the fact that director Ray Patterson and writer Alan Burnett attempted to bring Saturday morning cartoons more in line with what was happening in comic books (specifically by showing the tragic origin of Batman and the first death of Superman), they were ultimately defeated by the Hanna-Barbera production studio’s almost unbelievably cheap, unimaginative animation department.
Nevertheless, the ten episode, full-season included here can supply alternately happy and frustrated reviewing. On the one hand there are Superman, Lex Luthor, Batman, the Joker, Robin, the Penguin, Wonder Woman, Darkseid, Cyborg, Flash, Firestorm, Green Lantern, and Aquaman – voiced by the likes of Adam West, “Ghostbuster” Ernie Hudson, “Odo” Rene Auberjonois, and Casey Kasem. On the other is staggeringly shoddy cartooning and sfx.
The only extra on the discs is the “Super Friends Redux: Galactic Guardians Retrospective Featurette,” where various production team members make lemonade out of lemons – concentrating on what they were trying to do, what they managed to do, and what they wanted to do, despite HB’s iron fist of cheapjack poverty. Especially interesting is the comparison between the original Super Friends’ character designs by the legendary Alex Toth, and the Galactic Guardian ones by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (which HB manages to render almost moot).
If you can stand the creakingly awful realization, The Super Powers Team Classic Collection two-DVD set offers lots of nostalgic fun, and earns its place as the transitional series into our brave new world of Toonami, Adult Swim, and the soon-to-be lamented Kids’ WB.
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.