Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cool Characters: Seek Shelter From The Three Storms

By Scott Tre

Some characters are meant simply to make a memorable entrance and look really cool.  Though they leave a huge impression you, you'd be hard pressed to explain their appeal to anyone if asked.  Your explanation would probably consist of describing a single moment, line of dialogue, or even a visual cue.  The younger you are the better, as cynicism and over analysis have yet to set in and ruin the enjoyment of such simple pleasures.

The three storms are the servants of David Lo Pan, the villain of John Carpenters cult classic Big Trouble in little China.  They are Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong), and lightening (James Pax).  They each have the power to control the element they are named after and combine it with unrivaled martial skill.    They have very little dialogue, and the few lines they do speak are barely understandable to western ears.

Their show stopping moment comes when they crash a melee between the Chang Sings and the Wing Kong, the two fighting Tongs of San Francisco's Chinatown.  The storms descend out of the sky and dish out superpowered whup ass.  As each one lands, they give a quick exhibition before getting down to business.  This is also the moment where the film itself goes into full on fantasy territory.

The costume design is a big part of the storms appeal.  The straw hats, capes and armor make the them look like bouncers in the Chinese mythological equivalent of an old west saloon.  Aficionados of martial arts cinema should recognize Carter Wong from his roles in the productions of Joseph Kuo.  Video Gamers should instantly recognize Lightening as the basis for the character Raiden in the video game series Mortal Kombat.

Though the storms had an absolute minimum of screen time, they played a huge role in earning Big Trouble it's cult status.  The film itself gave Western audiences a taste of Wuxia style imagery long before the conventions of Hong Kong action cinema were appropriated by Hollywood.  Perhaps in an alternate universe exists a prequel to Big Trouble in Little China that focuses solely on the storms, showing them laying waste to entire armies at Lo Pan's bidding.  One can only dream (sigh).