Arts

A Netflix Original Thrills Fans and not Critics

Marco . . . Wait for it . . . Polo!

By Lucia Rossi

If Game of Thrones and Mulan had a love child, it would be Marco Polo.

Marco Polo premiered on Netflix on December 12, 2014 and has since caused a stir among critics and fans.

The ten-episode season is about Italian merchant Marco Polo serving under Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongolian Empire and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty in 1271. Marco Polo, played by Lorenzo Richelmy, is forced to be the eyes and ears of Kublai Khan, played by Benedict Wong, in his court when the Mongols clash with the Chinese of the Song Dynasty.

If you like ancient dynasty cultures, Kung Fu ninjas, concubine assassins, wars among rulers, lots of nudity and royal politics, then this show is for you.

Marco Polo cost $90 million to make, $9 million per episode. It was filmed in Italy, Kazakhstan, and Malaysia since they were not allowed to film in China.

All the actors did their own fight scenes and learned Kung Fu for the show. Needless to say, the making of the show was difficult but the end product was worth the effort.

Although the show exhibits historical realism, there were many scenes and actions in the show did not actually happen in history. So don’t depend on this show for accurate factual details. Although many things were exaggerated, it was all for the enjoyment of the show.

The most memorable things about the show are the scenery and the action. The show delves into the cultures of both the Mongols and Chinese during the thirteenth century with their magnificent palaces and costumes.

The blind monk called Hundred Eyes was the most badass character of show. He was Marco’s Kung Fu teacher assigned by Kublai Khan. He filled all the action scenes with energy and awe; the show wouldn’t be the same without him.

There are also quite a few inspiring female characters who are easy to admire because of their wisdom, leadership, beauty and strength. There is Kublai Khan’s favorite wife, Empress Chabi, the concubine assassin of the Song Dynasty emperor, Mei Lin, and female warrior who beats every soldier at wrestling, Kutulun.

The story does not just focus on Marco Polo, it is about Kublai Khan and those around him, his loyal family members, his servants, and his enemies. Marco is dragged into the fray and must prove his worth and build trust under Kublai all while constantly being criticized as a foreigner. Each character has a story that is interesting to hear and you build sympathy with those who oppose Kublai.

It is strange how critics gave Marco Polo only one and a half stars on Rotten Tomatoes, a 30 percent rating, but fans gave it 93 out of 100.

It is true that the characters could have been developed more and there could have been more focus on Marco Polo himself, but none of that took away from the bloodiness, the sexiness, the excitement, and the fantastical feel of it.

Although it is no Game of Thrones, this show made me want to believe in Kublai Khan as a ruler as much as Marco Polo did.

It is no surprise that as of January 7, Marco Polo was renewed for a second season.

 

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