Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tube Talk --- Netflix Goes East for Costume Drama 'Marco Polo' **1/ 2

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tube Talk --- Netflix Goes East for Costume Drama 'Marco Polo' **1/ 2

Article excerpt

A handsome young Italian shakes up the court of Kublai Khan in 13th century China in "Marco Polo," a lavish costume epic arriving Friday on Netflix with a clash of cymbals and a cluster of concubines.

Beautiful but dull, at least in the early going, "Marco Polo" was developed by the Weinstein Co. for Starz, which picked it up almost three years ago. When Starz dropped it, citing problems including location shooting, the Weinsteins shopped it around, and Netflix stepped in.

The 10-episode historical drama will appeal to viewers who miss miniseries of the past like "Shogun" and whose screens are big and bright enough to appreciate its rich scenery and costumes. But the storytelling feels clunky, and few of the characters are engaging in the first two hours.

Lorenzo Richelmy stars as Marco Polo, who leaves Venice in the late 1200s to accompany his trader-father to the seat of the Mongol Empire. There, Kublai Khan (Benedict Wong) rules one-fifth of the inhabited world.

The senior Polo leaves Marco behind in a swap for lucrative trading routes, and the young gentleman does his best to fit in with the court, learning martial arts from blind master Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) and engaging in forbidden lust for the Blue Princess (Zhu Zhu).

He's fascinated by court politics and power struggles, and he remembers everything; we know this because his story, dictated years later, provided the foundation for what the West knows about Asia in that era.

"Marco Polo" is being compared to HBO's groundbreaking "Game of Thrones" (although not, I suspect, by anyone who has seen both). Their budgets can be fairly compared; "Marco Polo," filmed in Kazakhstan and Malaysia as well as Italy, is reported to have cost $90 million for 10 episodes.

Buzz is welcomed by Netflix, which led the movement toward original programming for streaming video on demand services, or SVOD.

In 2013, its "House of Cards" was the first Web-only series nominated for an Emmy. This year, both the "Arrested Development" reboot and "Orange Is the New Black" got acting and writing nominations, and Robin Wright became the first actress from a streaming series to win a Golden Globe. …

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