Does 'Dragon Blade' Really Look That Bad?

Jackie Chan's newest picture looks kind of cool.

Lionsgate Pictures

What is it about movies that look so bad that they could be so good?

Last week, the theatrical trailer for Dragon Blade debuted online and confused people everywhere asked, “Is that Jackie Chan and John Cusack? Yes. Yes it is.

A different trailer went online months ago, and its consensus: Dragon Blade looks like garbage. “[T]his looks like a joke from ‘Funny or Die,’” wrote SuicideSlide on Reddit. “This is gonna suck so hard and I’m going to love every second it,” wrote MetaProtagonist.

After the new trailer premiered last week, YouTubers made their own reaction videos because this is 2015 and this is normal now. This particular reaction ends with the guy literally scratching his head.

So what gives? Is everyone seeing the same trailer I’m seeing? I’m failing to observe the perceived awful stink from Dragon Blade. No one is telling me.

Is it because of its inaccurate history?

Dragon Blade’s story is based on what archaeologists speculate was a Roman city established in ancient China. It’s a little-acknowledged place in history that was made possible by the Silk Road.

Evidence lies in the locals who live in the area today, who possess Italian and other Caucasian features distinct from other Chinese. (They also have a karaoke bar called Caesars, so they’re probably a fun bunch.)

The existence of a Roman city or any significant Roman presence has been disputed. Next to zero artifacts have been recovered during this time and people of Caucasian-like features existed in central China long before the supposed establishment of the Romans. So there is reason to believe none of this happened.

Still, it’s fun to think about and rich with a scope that can make great movies out of. So why not? Loads and loads of other movies have taken supreme liberties with history, and they can get away with it because it’s a movie. We all seemed pretty okay with 300.

Is it because it looks generic?

It really doesn’t. Yes, it has the hallmarks of a big period piece war movie, but its unique setting — the pseudo-fictional account of Roman soldiers in China — certainly makes it stand apart from other sword-and-shield affairs.

Chances are we’ll be seeing Roman legions in gigantic kung-fu fights. When was the last time you saw that?

Is it because of the mismatched casting?

Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody, and John Cusack. Why is this casting funny, and unintentionally so?

It’s weird to realize that Jackie Chan hasn’t starred in a lot of movies where he co-starred with anyone, let alone Oscar winners like Adrien Brody… and whatever you might consider John Cusack to be. But being one of the top-billed stars in Asia, he doesn’t need to, he brings with him enough box office receipts on his own.

But domestically, Jackie Chan is a punchline. A funny clown that can kick. Unless you’ve seen Police Story or Legend of the Drunken Master, this is probably the only image you have of Jackie Chan.

By casting the three leads they have, Dragon Blade looks like someone rummaged through the bargain DVDs at Best Buy and picked out the first three names they saw. But that shouldn’t be funny, that should be awesome.

The mastery of Jackie Chan is deeper than how funny he is. He’s a notorious perfectionist, and he wouldn’t work with anyone unless he knew they were up to snuff. John Cusack might be best remembered for late-’90s dramas, rom-coms, and one bad Edgar Allen Poe, but he’s taken up a fascinating route into genre action and quiet indie fares in the last few years.

Adrien Brody, meanwhile, is a solid performer with the appropriate accolades to back up his talent. No, not everything he’s in is gold (and whatever mob-related blackmail that inexplicably forced him to do InAPPropriate Comedy has been paid off), but he’s exactly the kind of prestige talent that makes his pairing against Jackie Chan so damn fascinating. Think about it: It’s an Oscar-winner staring down the guy who did this on film:

It just doesn’t look good.

The film will be released in the US in September. Early reviews have ranged from mixed to positive, but only you need to be the judge then.

The film will be released in the U.S. in September. Early reviews have ranged from mixed to positive, but only you need to be the judge.

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