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J. Johnson’s Review: ‘Marco Polo’ (2014)

Oh yes, I’m actually a year behind of this series being “new” with the chance to talk about like everyone else, but I know one thing is certain when it comes to reviewing anything no matter any opinion is still granted. So here’s my take on this original Netflix series.

Now we can plainly see how original series whether it be from TV cable channels, online streaming (ie Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu) and other outlets have become the source to capture some riveting stories and display unforgettable characters along the way. Netflix has definitely been able to attract viewers to enjoy classic movies, past tv series, and even enjoy some new original programming. NBC, CW, and NBC have their ‘Gotham’, ‘Hannibal’, ”Flash’, ‘Arrow’, ‘Modern Family’, and much more. Simply put, shows featured on Netflix from ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ have garnished many viewers that see recurring eyes to want more.

Although there those shows are my favorite ones on Netflix, I personally grown to like one show in particular for trying to capture the essence for what it is. ‘Marco Polo’ is an American drama series about Marco Polo’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan, the Khagan of the Mongolian Empire and the founder of the Yuan dynasty, which lasted from 1271–1368. The show premiered on Netflix on December 12, 2014. The series was written and created by John Fusco and stars Lorenzo Richelmy in the title role. The series is produced by The Weinstein Company. On January 7, 2015, Marco Polo was renewed by Netflix for a 10-episode second season.

Marco Polo’s Chinese exploration lasted for more than two decades.

Perhaps, this is why the producers behind the new Netflix series “Marco Polo” opted to use such glacial pacing when adapting the famous 14th century merchant’s historic tale. For instance, viewers will have to endure 40 minutes of dialogue and strategy before any action takes place on the pilot alone.

Thankfully, the plot accelerates and the number of beautifully choreographed martial arts sequences increase with time. Best of all, each episode ends on a cliffhanger making “Marco Polo” a perfect fit in Netflix’s binge-viewing universe. Borrowing a little hedonism from “Game of Thrones,” the 10-part series also amps up the number of sex scenes with each installment. This includes a gaggle of wanton and topless concubines and a location called the “hall of five desires.”

Personally, I don’t think it needs to be another ‘Game of Thrones’ because, the compelling storytelling along with interesting characters are more than enough to blossom this latest series into a champion. Luckily, about halfway through its inaugural season, Marco Polo stops trying to be something it isn’t and starts letting its (mostly) intriguing cast of characters carry the show. It helps that the title character doesn’t seem to take up as much screen time, because nearly every other character is more interesting and has a bigger impact on the story. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely viewers will make it to the much better second half.

I believe it’s ACTUALLY refreshing to watch a piece about a Western foreigner in Eastern land that doesn’t reduce its supporting cast to a menagerie of Asian caricatures a la “The Last Samurai.” Yes, this series is called “Marco Polo” but given how imposing Wong is, a more accurate title would’ve been “Kublai Khan.”

Viewers can also expect noteworthy performances from Olivia Cheng as Mei Lin, an intelligent and deadly concubine-turned-spy, and Remy Hii as Kublai Khan’s power hungry son Prince Jingim.

Ultimately, once viewers overcome the sluggish pace there’s something for everyone with “Marco Polo.” History lovers will enjoy Googling along with the series as historical names and battles are introduced while martial arts fans will appreciate the intricately choreographed fight scenes. Although the series isn’t as riveting as “Game of Thrones,” strong performances and impeccable visuals make it worthy of a watch on a slow and rainy afternoon.

Rating: 646aa-2-5stars

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