'Warrior': Here's why Cinemax's series is anything but reminiscent of the 1971 Warner Bros show 'Kung Fu'
Decades ago Warner Bros. rejected Bruce Lee's idea because it was a story that demanded an Asian lead, and the studio wasn't comfortable with even Bruce Lee taking up the role
Remaking a Bruce Lee film is not a new feat in Hollywood. We all remember the outrage among fans, when in July 2018, it was reported that Lee's most iconic movie, 'Enter the Dragon' (1973), would be remade. 'Deadpool 2' director, David Leitch was in talks to direct the remake of the classic with studio Warner Bros., which produced the original film decades ago.
However, while the very news of the remake was more than enough to infuriate Asian-American fans, most of whom claimed that there can be no "rebooting of Bruce Lee", Cinemax took its chance with 'Warrior', that one series which was rejected by several studios, including Warner Bros., for its demand for an Asian lead.
Lee had himself worked on the script back in 1971 for a series, which he had originally named 'The Warrior'. It was set to see Lee play the protagonist, a martial arts warrior who had crossed the sea and immigrated to the Old West. However, Warner Bros. immediately rejected the idea claiming a series or a movie with an Asian lead is bad for business.
However, only a year later, David Carradine was the actor who had put on "yellowface" and imitated an Asian man to play his character in the studio's new series, 'Kung Fu'. Relying heavily on Lee's idea, the story followed a Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine played by David Carradine, as he traveled through the American Old West looking for his half-brother.
As he travels across the land, all he has to help him is his spiritual training and his skill with martial arts. Lee's chief motif through the story was to impart the knowledge of martial arts and educate people about its principles. Instead, it was molded by Warner Bros., white-washed to the extent of ridiculing an entire community, and in this way Lee's 'The Warrior' lost its very essence.
Even though, now, Lee's daughter Shannon handed over the original scripts to be developed by Justin Lin and created by Jonathan Trooper, it cannot be said 'Warrior' is a reminiscent of 'Kung Fu'. In fact, it should be said 'Warrior' is the original story which Lee had initially come up with.
Based in late 19th century San Fransisco, the show takes into account the plight of an extremely skillful martial arts warrior, Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), who travels to the Old West in search of someone very close to him. While on one hand he has the option of giving in to the torture of slavery, on the other hand he might just be pulled in by the Chinese Lords of the Tongs who are about to set a series of Tong Wars.
Ah Sahm has nothing with him other than his learning and knowledge in martial arts but how far will that take him? Will it help him find the one he is looking for or will he be pulled into the deeper dungeons of Chinatown? This is the premise of 'Warrior', and what is unique about the show, it is being led by a chain of extremely talented Asian actors.
Other than Koji, there are Jason Tobin (Young Jun), Olivia Cheng (Ah Toy), Dianne Doan (Mai Ling), and Hoon Lee (Wang Chao). Moreover, even when we look at the characters and the way they have been represented, it almost refreshing to see the history of other communities coming under focus. It is quite normal to imagine white men, straddled up on their horses and swinging guns, every time we hear the words Old Wild West.
However, people hardly spare a thought for the men and women who would often be tied up by these white men on their horses. There was a lot more to the West at that time, it was nothing less than a melting point of diverse communities coming together to make a fortune for themselves, just like the white conquerors had done. Instead, they were reduced to almost nothing, their history on the land nearly being obliterated.
'Warrior' is a large leap towards bringing out the stories of the communities of the East who travelled across the world to the West. It is not a reminder of a whitewashed history, but a true story which was silently kept aside for a very long time. 'Warrior' is set to premiere April 6 on Cinemax.