Netflix’s Marco Polo a solid journey

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Netflix took some liberties regarding the history books when it released its retelling of the story of Marco Polo. Set in the 13th century, the show has a fictional take on the early life of one of the world’s most famous travelers while he grows into a young man and adapts to new environments.

Lorenzo Richelmy stars as Marco Polo, and takes us on a journey inside Kublai Khan’s court.

Benedict Wong’s portrayal of Khan is one of the show’s best aspects. Through Khan, Wong has dominance on-screen and doesn’t look like a leader who relies solely on his advisers to survive. He knows how to fight and is not scared to show sympathy to those who ask for it. He is very open-minded, and it can be seen how this fat and aging emperor can still hold the empire his grandfather built and he was even able to expand it.

Marco Polo starts rather slow while it is trying to introduce the audience to its characters and have us start to support Marco Polo. It was hard following most of the dialogue because everyone spoke with their characters’ accents, from Mongolian to Chinese. There’s nothing wrong with authenticity, but if the actors were going to be authentic, they should just speak the language and give the audience subtitles instead.

The action does pick up, however, and Marco Polo has the feel of a classic kung fu movie. Like such films, the characters fight and move in kung fu style, and are cartoonish, like Hundred Eyes, who is a blind martial arts master who can see better than most with his ears and is always eager to give the young protagonist advice even when he is not asked of it. There are other characters who have such astounding abilities, like Mei Lin, who is a concubine and adept at assassinations.

Several media outlets have compared Marco Polo to HBO’s Game of Thrones, especially its huge production value. But, the similarities end at a few topless women and some gore. However, Marco Polo is still a good show and doesn’t need justification through comparison.

There is a lot of focus on the danger that Polo faces every day, and it can get frustrating when he does something stupid because the show portrays him as such a deep and forward thinker. It can be confusing when Polo is depicted as such a wise young man, but also a young man trying to find his way in a strange land. However, it was done well enough that the character is still very relatable and I wanted him to succeed in his endeavors.

The end of the season is tense, and other than Polo and Khan, there’s a feeling that the other characters might not make it. There are swerves in the show to give audiences a feel of suspense especially since it is based on real people. There are some aspects that are questionable, like a character allowing himself to die a gruesome death, but overall the show is still a good one despite its flaws.

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