Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Dir. Stehpen Chow

Jenn Said:
July 15, 2004 at 11:14 pm

I thought it was fun and also liked the fact that it was subtitled instead of *shudder* dubbed.

Chris Said:
September 1, 2004 at 4:33 pm

Just watched *Shaolin Soccer* again, with my sister and her husband and kids. Everybody enjoyed it including me (again). There’s a lot to this movie, but I’m mostly guessing. Anybody else out there see it/care to comment? Sure, it’s plain, fun entertainment, but the traditional vs western capitalist thing is strangely compelling. But I wonder if I’m reading my own issues into it. . . .

Reid Said:
November 20, 2004 at 11:11 pm

… I finally saw Shaolin Soccer (6 out of 10).


I loved the go-for-broke zaniness of the film and the fact that it didn’t take itself so seriously. Besides the effects, there was a b-quality and cheesiness that the film embraced fully without shame, and helped the film. The lead character really seemed to have that spirit, and I enjoyed his performance.

I also really liked the effects in the film. It’s over-the-top in a comic book sort of way, and I wish the comics-to-movies film would take more advantage of these kinds of possibilities in the film medium to adapt those comics.

I also loved the mixing genres concept, especially putting shaolin kung-fu characters in a sports film. Like Moulin Rouge (mixing contemporary pop songs into a totally different context), I wondered why no one thought to do it earlier.

I would have liked to see them follow, thereby teasing, kung-fu movies. For example, in many Kung Fu movies, the master of a Shaolin Temple is killed by a traitor or enemies, and his disciples seek revenge. You sort of had that in the film, but they didn’t build that sub=plot in a way that clearly referred to kung-fu movies. Also, the villians often have a special kind of technique that the hero(s) cannot beat in the beginning of the film. In the middle of the film, the hero(s) train to beat that technique. I wished they did the same thing except do it within the context of sports.

There were sub-plots that they could have eliminated in the beginning and use the time saved to do these things. For example, the sub-plot about wanting to promote Shaolin could have been eliminated, and you could have cut out the scenes at the bar (with the singing; fighting with the rival gang-and then you could take out the gang from the film).

They also could have done a better job developing the backstory of the villians a little more. The final game is the first time we see “Team Evil” If they developed the vilians–making them despicable, establishing their prowess and making some of kind of tension between the protagonists–this would have built up the drama and made the final game that much more satisfying.

Chris Said:
November 22, 2004 at 11:42 am

No frikin way could they take out the promotin Shaolin theme. This seemed really important, because it had to do w/ the other them about not adopting all the ‘western’ ways to succeed — rapacious greed, performance enhancing drugs, etc. Vs. Chinese values of family fidelity, respect for tradition, etc.

This was a great aspect of this movie and ditching it would have made the plot less interesting!!

I think the villians were just supposed to be extensions of the owner’s ruthless sell-out ways. For this reason, I didn’t really care that they were not developed.

Maybe I feel a little too strongly about such a popcorn movie!

Incidentally, it made quite an impression on my 3-year old niece. Weeks after seeing it, when her dad was having a really hard time zipping up her raincoat, she whispered “shaolin . . . “

Reid Said:
November 22, 2004 at 3:28 pm

Wait there’s “no frickin way” they could take out the Shaolin promotion theme? I think you are getting too wrapped up in this.

I’m surprised that you thought the traditional Chinese values (i.e. family values, etc.) versus Western values was such a significan part of the film. I didn’t get that at all, nor did I get the impression the values sub-text was a big part of the director’s intent. The conflict over values seemed to be more of a plot device to add to the rivalry–but those issues were barely touched upon, imo.

Besides, the film could have promoted traditional Chinese values (which they didn’t really do very well, imo) without the sub-plot of promoting Shaolin. And isn’t going the route of playing soccer (i.e. becoming famous, using the media, getting endorsements, etc.) using a Western/Capitalist mechanism that the traditional values are at odds with?

Personally, I thought the values sub-text was a really minor part of the film–in terms of the intent of the filmmaker.

Chris Said:
November 23, 2004 at 12:12 am

I couldn’t disagree with you more, Max. How did the film begin and end? What was the secret weapon of Team Evil? Who were the protagonists? What was their weapon? Sure, it is a comedy, and it is about soccer — but it seemed like one of the points is that soccer can be done in authentic Chinese way or you can do it in a value-less empty way. Once again, way too many feelings about this. I have no idea why.

Reid Said:
November 23, 2004 at 7:32 am

Well, I’d be interested in hearing a case for you point of view. Why do you think this is a serious point that the filmmaker wants to make versus just adding in a minor sub-plot or theme to the film?

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