Big Trouble in Little China and the Hero’s Journey

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Trying to solve big problems on your own is not always the best way to handle a situation, no matter the size. Today, I will be demonstrating the heroes journey and the lesson learned of the main character in the fantastic 80’s fantasy-comedy, Big Trouble in Little China. Big Trouble in Little China tells the story of Jack Burton, a big-talking semi-truck driver, who must help his best friend Wang Chi save Chi’s green-eyed fiancee from a group of San Francisco Chinatown bandits.

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They soon find themselves in the underworld of Chinatown, where they go against David Lo Pan, a sorcerer who requires a woman with green eyes to break a centuries-old curse. Now, let us talk about the hero’s journey.

Our story and our hero’s journey starts with Burton winning a bet with his friend Wang Chi. To make sure Wang pays up, Burton accompanies him to the airport to pick up Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin. Our hero’s call to adventure arrives when a San Francisco Chinatown street gang known as the Lords of Death kidnap Miao Yin. Jack and Wang chase the gang to the back alleys of Chinatown, where a funeral procession breaks out into a battle between two ancient Chinese societies, the Wing Kong and the Chang Sing. Three weather-themed warriors, the three storms, appear almost out of nowhere and slaughter the Chang Sing. Jack attempts to flee, driving his truck through the alley, running over David Lo Pan, an ancient sorcerer who controls the three storms. Jack and Wang get out of the rig, only to find that Lo Pan is unphased and blinds Jack with his glowing magic. Jack and Wang escape through tunnels, but Jack’s truck has been stolen. Jack’s refusal of the call comes when Wang urges Jack to help him retrieve his fiancee, but Jack doesn’t want to help, only wanting his truck back. Jack eventually agrees to help Wang, albeit reluctantly, to help save Miao Yin (with his only real motive to get his truck back) with the help of a lawyer named Gracie, a journalist named Margo, and a local expert on ancient Chinatown and magician Egg Chen, sparking the beginning of the adventure.

We then see our initiation, with Jack’s road of trials. We see Jack having to infiltrate a brothel where Miao Yin is being held, however, Jack is interrupted by the Storms, who tear off the roof and steal Miao Yin, taking her to Lo Pan. Jack and Wang then impersonate electricians to gain access to the Wing Kong Exchange, Lo Pan’s front business, but are caught and beaten by the three storms. The two then meet Lo Pan, who now appears as a handicapped old man. The two are then tied up and kept in a dark cell, where Burton learns of Lo Pan’s need for a girl with green eyes to break an ancient curse, and Miao Yin is set to be his sacrifice. The gang attempts to save Jack and Wang, but are also caught. Jack and Wang escape, freeing the rest of the gang and more of Lo Pan’s prisoners. Gracie Law begins to warm up to Jack, and while this isn’t unconditional love, her appeal towards Jack definitely encourages him to keep going. During the escape, everyone makes it out, except for Gracie who is taken by a monster. The gang celebrates, but realize quickly that Gracie is still inside. With the may trials completed, this is where the story shifts a small bit from the template because while the escape is a reward, it is not the ultimate goal.

After this, we see Jack’s final challenge. He can’t leave just and return to the real world yet, as Gracie and Miao Yin are still in Lo Pan’s hands, and his truck hasn’t been retrieved. In our magic flight, Egg Chen recruits the remaining of the Chang Sing to help infiltrate the underground and stop Lo Pan’s ceremony before Gracie is sacrificed and Miao Yin is married to Lo Pan. A large fight breaks out between the members of the Wing Kong attending the wedding and the Chang Sing, Wang and the three storms, and Egg and Lo Pan. Gracie escapes, but Lo Pan gets away with Miao Yin. Jack finds him, now mortal, with Miao Yin. Jack kills Lo Pan with a skillful knife throw and the gang escapes, killing off the remaining members of the three storms as they make their way out. They find Jack’s truck and deal with Lo Pan’s guards, and escape to Wang Chi’s restaurant. The real boon is achieved. The girls are returned safely, and he has his truck back. The gang celebrates, and Jack leaves and returns to the known world and with his past of being more of a lone wolf, he now retains the knowledge and lesson that working alone is not always the best way to go and that some situations are better handled as a team.

A hero’s journey is usually not the way one would learn a life lesson, so I hope that this essay has shown that working on your own is not always the way to go and that sometimes you need the help of your friends and those around you. With that in mind, how will you use your learned lesson in the known world?

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Big Trouble In Little China and The Hero's Journey. (2020, Jan 24). Retrieved from