Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Chosen One and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

Heroes and villains are the most important characters in any story.  There are varying degrees of hero.  There could be someone like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia who stood up to the man in order to protect his rights.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have the ship’s crew in the movie Sunshine who had to reignite the sun to save the solar system.  The conflicts can be minor or huge but there will always be a good guy and a bad guy.  That’s what makes the conflict entertaining.

There is one type of hero in storytelling that has always manages to take centre stage as the most important person in the history of civilization.  This person is commonly referred to as “the chosen one” and is the one person destined to save humanity, the world, or the universe from destruction at the hands of their arch-nemesis, the ultimate bad guy.  Many examples of this style of storytelling exist thanks to writers writing what they know.  They’ve seen many stories of this style and emulate what they know when framing a new tale.

This week’s movie was Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, a spoof of martial arts movies that used footage from the 1976 movie Tiger and Crane Fist.  The new, comedic version of the tale turned the story into one of a “chosen one” named The Chosen One who journeyed to avenge the death of his family at the hands of Master Pain.  It was your classic story of the chosen one being the only person who could stop the evil that was filling the world.  In this case, the evil was a violent martial artist with iron claw weapons.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was a perfect archetype to the “chosen one” style of storytelling.  It was intentional, as indicated by naming the main character The Chosen One.  The character went through a traumatic experience at a young age, with his parents and siblings being killed by a ferocious murderer.  He spent much of his life training to get revenge.  He wanted to find Master Pain and kill him for ruining his life at such a young age.  Eventually he would face off against his enemy and use his life’s learnings to take the bad guy down.

The “chosen one” style of storytelling has been used time and time again.  Throughout this post, I will look at a few other examples and explain the beats that show that they fit the “chosen one” blueprint that Kung Pow: Enter the Fist used.  Some of these will be well known, big, blockbuster movies or popular books, while others will be movies that I’ve covered in previous Sunday “Bad” Movie installments.  Remember, these are movies where the hero has been destined to be the savior These aren’t movies where they simply end up in a situation where they need to be the savior.  This is a difference in the hero that comes from the beginning of the hero’s life.

The Matrix
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way, with its twist on how the whole destiny thing is born.  In most cases of the “chosen one” storyline, the villain causes their own downfall by trying to rid themselves of the hero early in the hero’s life.  The Matrix is a little bit different in that the main character comes into the story as an adult but ends up being the one that is destined to save the world.  Neo was living in the matrix when he was pulled into the real world by Morpheus.  That moment signified his birth.  Though the main character was already an adult, he was living in the real world as though he was a child.  He learned things like a child learns in their early years.  It was instilled into him early in his real life that he was “The One” and that he had to save the human race.

The training in The Matrix happened fairly quickly.  It was programmed into Neo’s head through the technology that they had.  In the end, it helped him become more powerful than any of the other people trying to fight the agents in the matrix.  Neo trained himself to become The One, fulfilling the prophecy.  He was the only person strong enough to defeat the enemy.

That was a fairly straight forward one because he was called The One.  It was the same as Kung Pow: Enter the Fist calling the main character The Chosen One.  The only difference was the word “chosen” being dropped.  The stories were a little bit different.  Kung Pow: Enter the Fist told a story of revenge while The Matrix told a story of enlightenment.  Both used the “chosen one” method to tell the stories.

Harry Potter
Perhaps one of the most popular right now is the Harry Potter franchise.  Where other young adult series such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner began with the characters getting thrown into situations, Harry Potter was a boy who lived a life of being hailed as “The Boy Who Lived.”  His parents were killed when he was a baby and the wizard who killed them tried to kill him at the same time.  It didn’t work and it created the myth of an invincible boy.  Harry didn’t know this until he was eleven because he was sent to live with his non-magical aunt and uncle.  When Harry turned eleven, he was brought back into the wizarding world and learned about being a legend.  He trained through seven books or eight movies, depending on the version of the story, to once again go into battle against the wizard that killed his parents.

The stories of Harry Potter and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist sound very similar.  Yet there was one big difference in them and it came from the main characters.  The Chosen One’s entire life was based around getting revenge.  That was the reason that he did anything.  Harry Potter had a life outside of the whole Voldemort thing.  He was in school.  He was looking forward to an adult life.  He was falling in love with different people during his teenage years.  It was puberty, a part of The Chosen One’s life that we never saw.

The Hunger Games could be seen as a “chosen one” story, but it also could not.  People believed that Katniss was going to be the one to take down The Capitol.  She was a big part of it because of the way people treated her.  It was never her destiny, though, which is why I wouldn’t count these as “chosen one” stories.  The whole first movie/book was just her ending up in the situation of the games.  She wasn’t even chosen.  She volunteered.  The second time around she was chosen for the games but so were a bunch of people.  She wasn’t destined to win.  There was no prophecy or legend.  She was just liked because of her love story from the first game she experienced.  The final book and two movies were where the chosen one aspect may have come into play.  She was the most popular player in any games at that point and was pushed as the figurehead of a resistance.  People worked to save her so that she could save the less wealthy regions of Panem.  The crucial thing that the story was missing was the training section where she improved her skills to go after the villain.  She was always a master bowman.  There was no struggle to her skill.  The chosen one must work to prove their worth, not have it simply placed on them.

Road House
Going back to the Sunday “Bad” Movies and how it ties into the “chosen one” archetype, we have a movie called Road House.  Much like the other movies in the “chosen one” niche, Dalton was prophesized to be the one that would fix everything.  Rather than the whole Harry Potter thing of “the boy who lived,” The Matrix’s Neo being The One, or Kung Pow: Enter the Fist having The Chosen One, Dalton was just known to be a really good cooler for seedy bars.  He was brought to the Double Deuce bar based on the legend of his success to clean up the dirty dealings that were happening.

The biggest difference between Road House and the other stories I’ve mentioned was that Dalton didn’t train all that much.  He was as physically capable at the end as he had been at the beginning.  What he did was build his connections within the community.  He cleaned up the Double Deuce.  He made friends with the local people in the town.  It was a strengthening of the town to better go up against the businessman who was trying to control them.  The town and the bar grew stronger.  He gave the town what it needed to take down Brad Wesley.  That was the training.  He trained the town to fight back.

Free Birds
Even more recent in the Sunday “Bad” Movies was Free Birds, an animated Thanksgiving movie about turkeys trying to keep themselves off of dinner tables during the holidays.  The “chosen one” aspect of the movie was on both a smaller scale and much larger scale at the same time.  The smaller scale was that the main character, Reggie, was only seen as the chosen one by one character.  Jake, a tough turkey, had been told by an alien being that Reggie could change history and keep turkeys from being seen as the Thanksgiving dinner of choice.  That was the big scale.  He kidnapped Reggie and the two of them went on a time travelling adventure to the first Thanksgiving to stop the turkeypocalype.

The movie fit the “chosen one” idea mostly on the prophecy that stated that Reggie was the one turkey that would change the course of history.  He didn’t train all that much, though he did learn to become less selfish and more caring of other turkeys and people.  The traumatizing event at the beginning of his “life” would have been the kidnapping that led to him starting a life in the past.  It fit the blueprint, though it had some twists to it that make you have to think about how it fit.

This is not the movie about a gang trying to get back to their home turf while all other gangs in New York are out to kill them.  Instead, this is a children’s book franchise about wild cats that fight each other while trying to live in peace without human interference.  The main character of the first series was a cat named Rusty who joined a clan of cats in the forest.  He was renamed Firepaw upon becoming the newest member of the clan and would work his way up to becoming Fireheart before becoming Firestar, the leader of the clan.

Fireheart coming to the clan was part of a prophecy that was set up in the prologue of the first novel.  “Fire alone can save our clan.”  When Rusty became curious and ventured into the forest to find the clans, they knew that his orange fur was the fire that they were looking for to save their clan.  Throughout the first four series of the Warriors novels, Firestar would prove time and time again that he trained hard to save his clan, usually from the evil of Tigerstar, his arch-nemesis.  These stories were the “chosen one” idea put through the filter of a rather violent children’s series about fighting cats.

The whole “chosen one” concept has come up time and time again throughout the history of storytelling.  A lot of movies, books, plays, and television shows have used the concept to push their characters toward the climax.  It’s a fairly easy concept to implement.  There will be a reason to want the protagonist to win.  There will be a reason to want the antagonist to lose.  Building action will be easier because the hero must move from the early moment to the climax with a clear intention.  It’s one of the simplest paths from Point A to Point B.  It is also one of the more enjoyable to watch or read.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist had a lead character named The Chosen One.  He fit the whole concept of “chosen one” characters.  He had a clear intention based on a tragedy at the beginning of the movie.  He trained to obtain that intention.  There were prophecies of him being the only one who could do what he intended to do.  And there was a good villain for him to go up against.  Those are the things that help make a “chosen one” storyline good.
Now let’s get these notes in here:

  • Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was suggested by @IPreferPi314.
  • Road House and Free Birds were mentioned in this week’s post.
  • Simon Rhee was in Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.  He was also in a movie called Alex Cross.
  • Kung Pow: Enter the Fist saw the return of Woon Young Park, who was in Tracers.
  • Have you seen Mortal Kombat?  You may have noticed that Leo Lee appeared in both that movie and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.
  • Finally, Tad Horino made his second Sunday “Bad” Movies appearance in Kung Pow: Enter the Fist after being in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.
  • Have you seen Kung Pow: Enter the Fist?  What are your thoughts on the whole “chosen one” concept?  Do you like it or not?  What other stories use that idea?  Let me know in the comments.
  • Movie suggestions are always welcome for the future weeks of the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  I could always use suggestions for movies that I don’t know about or just overlooked.  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
  • I have a snapchat where I sometimes share clips of bad movies that I watch.  You can find me on snapchat with the username jurassicgriffin.
  • Next week, I will be diving into Cannon Films with the movie Sinbad of the Seven Seas.  It starred Lou Ferrigno with someone else’s voice.  I think it’s someone else’s voice at least.  Everyone seems to be dubbed over.  We’ll see though.  I’ll give you some thoughts about the movie next week.  Come back, won’t you?  This blog wouldn’t be the same without you.

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