Pure Asian Entertainment: Film, TV, Anime & Manga
Shaolin Soccer

Action & Adventure and Art House & International movie directed by Stephen Chow

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Bringing Manga Alive

  • Oct 15, 2005
  • by
I was out with some buddies this past Tuesday and, for some reason, the talk turned to what was the worst and the best comic book movie. I maintain that the best is Unbreakable, but the others wanted to limit the selection to movies that were adaptations of comics rather than simply movies that captured the underlying myths and tropes of the genre (which, typically, means superheroes, at least in the U.S.). The best adaptation that I know of is probably Spiderman, although X-Men is very close. I personally despise Burton's Batman. Although I understand my friend Matt Cutter's argument that it is Burton's Batman, I can't get over the problem that he allows actors to step outside of the roles they are supposed to be playing, making it as much of a wink-and-a-nod to the meta set rather than a faithful adaptation. I haven't seen Nolan's Batman Begins (it's in my netflix queue though), although I've heard good things about it, nor have I seen Sin City. Hellboy did a great job of capturing the look and feel of the comic that it was drawn from, but I just didn't think it was all that good of a movie.

Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer
Which brings us to Shaolin Soccer, which would have my vote for the best movie adapted from a manga, if only it had been. Instead, trivia has it that creator and star Stephen Chow had been inspired by an animated television series on soccer called "Captain Tsubasa," which may, for all I know, have been based on a manga series. Whatever, the visual effects and broad humor of the movie perfectly capture the style of manga, from the exaggerated facial expressions that Chow and his co-stars make, to the way that the soccer ball tears up the ground and grass and can blowback people in its power. The best scene, by far, is the climatic goal defense, where Mui adapts a kung fu stance and a wavering yin/yang symbol appears in the air before her while the attacking player has an evil demon in the air above him that he draws into the ball itself, which then flies through the air so fast that it becomes a fireball.

I found the movie much funnier than J did, and I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps it's because I'm more familiar with manga and the style of humor that the movie used, which is more disjointed than a Western comedy, with flights of imagination that rival Amelie in their elaborateness (such as the break into a dance sequence straight out of a music video early on). The violence was much more graphic here, as well, although its (I have to say it) "comic book violence" where no one is hurt for very long, unless it is necessary for the plot.

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More Shaolin Soccer reviews
review by . December 14, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Stephen Chow did an amazing job of creating a story involving real characters in not so real, but agreeable situations. He has given each character a personality of its own; just to create comedy, with a humor that is sometimes honest and others rough. It has some great comedy moments although, coming from the characters, very peculiar ones.    It basically all comes from the characters. You have different persons, united by one thing: Shaolin Kung-Fu. And then you have one man, …
About the reviewer
Glen Engel-Cox ()
Glen is a forty-something communications professional living near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He grew up in Texas and has also lived inLos Angeles, Colorado, Washington State, and Washington, DC. Glen also … more
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About this movie


Computer generated special effects have seldom been so giddy as inShaolin Soccer, a gleeful fusion of kung fu and a classicBad News Bearssports story. A former soccer star--whose "golden leg" was broken by a hired mob--assembles a team of former students of Shaolin martial arts, whose assorted skills (indicated by their nicknames, like Mighty Steel Leg and Iron Head) lend themselves to the swift interplay of the world's most popular game. Along the way, the team's leader (Hong Kong comic superstar Stephen Chow) meets a sticky bun baker (Vicki Zhao) whose kung fu is the equal of any of his teammates.Shaolin Socceris supremely silly--in the final match, their opponents are called Team Evil--but that's part of the fun. American movies rarely achieve this perfect balance of the absurd and the sincere. A delight.--Bret Fetzer
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Director: Stephen Chow
Screen Writer: Stephen Chow, Kan-Cheung Tsang
DVD Release Date: August 24, 2004
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: Miramax
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