As you can gather from my reviews here, I’ve watched a lot of movies. Not as many as some, though. I have different tastes than most. Very little of current cinema catches my interest. Nor do I consider myself a “scholar” of the art form. I’m just a person who has a bit more than a mere passing interest in movies.
And since I have this blog, I therefore have free rein to write about them.
Naturally, I imagine the sort of movie I would like to see. And that’s a topic for a post or three.
First, a reimagination.
The character of Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. An early archetype of the genius supervillain, he was everything the era was afraid of when it came to the Orient (“the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”). Yes, it was racist AF. But the novels – and the movies made from them – were incredibly popular in their day, and the character still haunts pop culture.
There’s actually been an origin story for him – The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929). Let’s do it again, but tinker with the point of view.
I’d make it darned clear that the character (who MUST be played by a Chinese actor) is sympathetic, and rather justified in his actions. After all, the “prologue” in the 1929 movie has his entire family being killed by the carelessness of Western forces during the Boxer Rebellion. His rival on the side of Justice is Sir Nayland Smith. We don’t know much about Smith’s background other than that he served in India and Burma as a police commissioner. Let’s change that so he’s spent time in China as well – and is therefore the authorities “go to” person on criminal matters involving London’s Asian population. His experiences in the Orient have led him to be not just knowledgeable but sympathetic, and he opposes the racist treatment they’re getting.
I’d still make it clear that while Smith understands Fu Manchu’s hatred and anger, he cannot let that justify the ruination of others.
I’m picturing Fu Manchu (which CANNOT be his real name, as it is nonsensical in Chinese) giving a lengthy speech listing all the insults that the West has inflicted on his country – the racism, the military invasions, the condescension – to which Smith replies “You’re certainly right – but that doesn’t give you the reason to destroy others in return.”
Smith cannot actually defeat Fu Manchu; he can just foil any evil schemes.
Can it be remade, taking out the racism? I suppose it depends how much you can have the character of Nayland Smith speak out against the racism of other characters. If you make it clear that the racism is wrong, will that be OK?
Give it a steampunk vibe, and just maybe it might work.