The 13th Century medieval epic has arrived on Netflix. I spent the entire weekend between stomach flu and a migraine to watch the ten episodes starring Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, among plenty others.
The critics of television hate it; the viewers on Netflix give it five stars; Imdb is averaging out at 8.4; and Rotten Tomatoes critics 27%, compared to 93% reviewers who like it. What do I give it? Well, I’m going to have to slice my review with a Mongolian sword to give you an accurate picture of how Marco Polo came across through my sick weekend. It could be the migraine I suffered half-way through the series, might have been the result of my viewing.
To start off, Marco Polo is Netflix’s $90 million dollar baby. If you like history, especially about barbarians slicing everyone up, diverse and different lives, and interesting costumes, you might like it. Set in Kublai Khan’s court, it’s about young Marco Polo who is a stowaway on his father’s return to the east. The arduous trip, which back in those days was a great feat to travel thousands of miles from Venice to Mongolia, begins Marco’s adventures. When he reaches the court of Kublai Kahn, his father is successful in keeping open the trade routes, but leaves his son as a slave in Kahn’s court (nice going dad).
Marco is left to adapt to a world far different from his own, but eventually acclimates to his surroundings and forges a relationship with the great Khan. His relationship, however, is not viewed kindly by his son or Kahn’s advisers who view Marco with jealousy and suspicion for having risen to such favor. Unfortunately, his favor puts him in danger throughout the series.
As far as the storyline goes, it rises and falls from intriguing to boring, like a roller coast ride across the desert. Like any other empire, there are those who wish to overthrow and kill the Kahn for their own gain. Then there’s the Kahn, who is out to take over the world. The story morphs back and forth between various subplots that can make you dizzy (along with flashbacks to confuse you even more). I did use that convenient fast-forward button on my remote a few times.
If you enjoy crouching tiger-type choreographed scenes of ladies and men fighting with sticks and swords, you’ll be plastered to the television every time one of those slicing acts play out. As far as gore factor, it’s bloody in spots, but I’ve seen far worse on screen. Now, if you take it to the cruelty factor, if you can’t stand the thought of seeing human beings impaled upon sticks, you might want to close your eyes on the first episode.
I had no complaints about the acting. Probably not award-worthy (except for perhaps Benedict Wong as Kahn). The most obvious complaint about the show is the over-the-top gratuitous sex. Believe me, Fifty Shades of Grey will be tame compared to this show. Let’s move it over to NX-17 rating, because you’re going to see females with total frontal nudity (front and back). I’m not talking about one or two, I’m talking about a harem full of concubines having sex with one another as entertainment before others (including the Netflix viewers) and sex with the Kahn. Forget about the naked men — it’s all about the women who are sex slaves. If you don’t have the stomach for this type of film-making, then Marco Polo is not for you.
Could the series have been done differently? Yes, get rid of the naked bodies! I don’t care if that was the way it was for the great Kahn. Every one of those scenes could have been done with less skin and orgy-like, orgasmic outcomes. If your kids have access to NetFlix, make sure they don’t tune in on this series. If graphic sexually acts on screen don’t bother you, then the scenes will have no shock factor.
I cannot in all honesty recommend this series, though it did have some merits to it. Parts of it were a good four kernels, but the sexuality just ruined it. I like the court intrigue, the vies for the throne, and seeing different cultures brought to life from centuries past. Netflix had a great opportunity, but chose a road that has garnished a lot of criticism. In spite of it though, I have a sense it may stay a Netflix five-star rating.
For me (swinging my sword): It’s a four kernel, minus two kernel, equals two kernel.
I’ll be back to tuning into my English crime standbys. At least everyone is dressed in those scenes.