Marco Polo (2007)
Director: Kevin Connor.
Starring: Ian Somerhalder (Marco Polo), B.D. Wong (Pedro), Desiree Ann Siahaan (Temulun / Kensai), Brian Dennehy (Kublai Khan), Kay Tong Lim (Lord Chenchu), Christian Lee (Cogatai), Yan Luo (Chabi), Michael Chow (Chi), Mark Jax (Niccolo Polo), Alan Shearman (Maffeo Polo), Michael O'Hagan (Old Marco Polo), Ramin Razaghi Sefati (Persian Physician), Jiaolong Sun (Chonggu), Zi Ge Fang (Achmath), Rodger Bumpass (Rustigielo).
the adventures, including love ones, for Marco Polo
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Venice, Italy, Sunday, January 8, 1324. A priest comes to the Polo home. He asks: "Has he recanted?" No. The priest asks Marco Polo to repent of his lies before it is too late. But Polo will have nothing to do with that: He says: "I went to China to the court of the Great Khan. I served him and I ruled under him." He adds: "This small piece of stone one day will blow up your world."
Flashback. Genoa, Italy, 1298. War between Genoa and Venice. Marco Polo is a prisoner held for ransom. His cellmate, Rustigielo, is a Genoan also being held for ransom. Polo tells his cellmate that he was in prison before, in China.
Flashback in a flashback. As a boy Marco Polo was entranced by ships and sailors. He was from a family of Venetian traders. His father and uncle show him a sold gold piece from the court of the great Kublai Khan, grandson of the infamous Genghis Khan, used for safe passage in the kingdom. From an early age Marco decided he would go to China.
And he gets his chance. With his father and uncle, Marco travels to Jerusalem where they pick up some holy oil. From there they travel to Tabriz by the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea. The next stop is Kerman in Persia, followed by Afghanistan. Not far from Balkh, they cross the mountains. Along with them travel two priests. Kublai Khan had asked that priests be brought to him. But the priests are not used to long treks and they complain a great deal. On the other side of the mountains the priests run off. Later in the journey, Marco falls to his knees from weariness. Marco becomes ill. A Persian doctor helps Marco get better.
The Polos travel part way with a caravan. They have to go across deserts. The journey will take 45 days just to reach the first well. Marco keeps a journal which upsets dad and uncle. They don't want Marco to tell all their secrets to everyone.
After more travel, Marco's father shouts: "China!" They come to a village that has been destroyed. Obviously, it is the handiwork of Kublai Khan to punish the village's defiance. Then a number of horsemen descend on them. They have explosives that they throw. When they learn that the travelers are the Polos, the whole situation changes. The men are Khan's cavalry who have come to give safe passage to the Polos. Marco is given a young man named Pedro as his slave. (The two would grow very close to one another.)
Marco Polo starts to see the first of many interesting things. A fish-shaped piece of metal is placed in a bowl of water and it functions as a compass. They run into the great silk caravans sent out by the Khan. The Polos travel to Kashggar and then on to Zhangye to the Great Wall of China. Their destination is reached when they reach Shangtu, the summer capital of the Khan. The three Polos are escorted to the palace. To meet the Khan they have to crawl to him on rugs and then get up on their knees. The Khan first asks: "Where are the priests?" The Polos explain. Kublai Khan is very disappointed. He asks: "Does the celestial kingdom have anything to fear from the west?" Marco says no. The Khan asks if they might be able to civilize this young barbarian. He adds that Marco will stay her in China for his lifetime. The Khan asks Lord Chenchu to take Marco under his wing. (One thing the Polos have going for themselves is that the empress likes them.)
The safest course is for Marco not to be noticed. Lord Chenchu asks him if he wants to keep his slave. "Yes, I am used to him", says Marco. Dad and Uncle want Marco to come back home with them, but Marco is determined to stay. So his father asks him to write about his adventures for men back home need proof.
Marco sees more wonders. He sees paper money for the first time and is amazed. As the cavalry ride down the street, Marco gets knocked down and receives an injury to his right shoulder. He is astonished when acupuncture actually makes his shoulder feel much better. Then he enjoys his first "snow cone".
Back to the prison. Rustigielo asks Marco if he had a girlfriend in China. Yes, he did. She was brought to court against her will.
Flashback in a flashback. The Khan's cavalry surrounds the village of the beautiful Temulun. They examine all the young women. Temulun's boyfriend Honshu arrives and is restrained by the cavalry. Temulun jumps on a horse in an attempt to get away, but she is caught. They examine her and decide that she will make a fine trophy for the Khan. The women are taken to the Khan's court. Pedro sees his fellow clansman Temulun. The young women will get one night and one night only in the royal bed with the Khan. If they do not please the Khan, the penalty will be death. If they please the Khan, then they will be given to another important person connected with the court.
Pedro's sister was killed by Baron Achmath. The Baron seems to have a lot of enemies, because a whole passel of men, including Pedro, gather to kill him. Acmath is told that one of the Khan's sons wants to see him. He leaves his domain and gets an arrow to the chest from the group of assassins. This starts a big fight between the forces of the Baron and the assassins. The Khan is informed that there is a rebellion in the old city. The emperor just says to wake him if they manage to reach the palace. The Baron's archers kill many of the rebels and the rest are arrested. (Pedro is able to slip away.)
Because the slave Pedro was involved in the assassination and rebellion, the Khan calls Marco on the carpet. He accuses him of committing treason. Marco's only real defense is that Baron Acmath did what he did in the name of Kublai Khan. With his head sticking out of a hole in a large board, he is thrown into prison. The Khan is upset that the Baron used his name and especially so because not one of his men told him.
The Khan sends for Marco. He tells him that he needs a man with no loyalties to anyone but the Khan himself. And Marco seems to be the man for the job. The Khan is so pleased with Marco that he gives Temulun to him. Marco proceed to fall in love with the beautiful young woman. He realized that she never will love him like he loves her, but he philosophizes that under the circumstances how could she? He tells Temulun that he wants to know all about her. She tells him to ask Pedro, her clansman. He knows all about it.
Back to the prison. Rustigielo is really excited about the tales he has been hearing. He tells Marco that he wants to write "The Travels of Marco Polo". To that end he asks Marco if there were enemies all around him. Yes.
Flashback in a flashback. There is some fear that the rebel leader now in prison being tortured may start naming names at any minute. Pedro tells Marco that he is going to turn himself in, but Marco tells him that he really needs him. And Temulun tells Pedro to listen to Marco. Later Lord Chenchu delivers some poison to the tortured rebel leader in prison and the prisoner drinks it.
The empress asks Lord Chenchu if the barbarian (Marco) is still head strong. She adds: "It is time for him to prove his loyalty." The Khan is going to send him and Pedro on a long river voyage. He will serve as ambassador to a rebellious city. The Khan wants to know if he can trust him with such a delicate mission. Temulun introduces her little sister Kensai to Marco. She tells her young sister that Marco has been very good to her. Temulun tells Marco that Kensai is alone too and that she will need a protector. Marco tells her that he will protect her.
On the boat on the river. Pedro asks Marco: "Will you go back? . . . . Do you miss it?" Marco answers that Venice fades like a dream in his mind. It seems like a lifetime ago that he was in Venice. A soldier steals some of Marco's drawings and writings to show to the Khan. The Governor speaks with Marco. He is not impressed by the barbarian. But he is worried what the Khan might do to him. Marco tries to assure him that he will put a good word in for him and the governor relaxes a bit. But when the gates are openrf, Marco and the Governor realize that the Khan and his huge army are massed before them. All of a sudden, the cavalry charges into the city killing everyone they can get their hands on. The Khan speaks with Marco (who secretly feels very used by the emperor). The Khan tells him it was a test and that Marco did very well. The city needs a governor and he wants Marco to take the position. Then the emperor orders Marco to give the command for the decapitation of the governor and his staff. Marco doesn't want to do it, but he knows he has no choice. He gives the order for the decapitations.
Marco says that at the end of the day he never knew if he would be alive by dawn. And then the situation gets worse. Temulun tries to escape to get back to her true love Honshu. But the gates close in her face and the Khan's soldiers grab her. She is then killed.
Back to the prison. Rustigielo does not understand the reluctance of Marco to talk about some aspects of his adventures. He asks: "What is so painful?"
Flashback in a flashback. Marco is very upset at the news of the death of Temulun. Then he learns that her sister has been sent to the House of Women.
The Japanese (land of the rising sun) send a reply to the Khan's demands: the heads of his two ambassadors to their land.
The Khan tells Marco to return to the summer capital with the keys to the city. Back at court, the Khan tells Marco that he was a good governor, but it is not a good idea to let one man rule the same area for a long time. He will give Marco a new assignment. He wants Marco to go off on an exploratory trip to map the unknown areas for the Khan. The head of cavalry, who indirectly got placed in prison for awhile for running over Marco, tells the Khan that Marco cannot be trusted. The Khan, however, does not trust his judgment because he knows the cavalry officer hates Marco.
Given a lot of men and resources, Marco sets out on his exploratory journey. He sees new lands and new peoples. He reaches a Buddhist monastery and is amazed at what he sees. He travels into the mountains. In fact, his journey becomes a 15 year long trip. He wants to keep going, but the men start to mutiny. Pedro saves Marco from a possible stabbing by one of the unhappy men. Then Pedro tells Marco that there is no food and that men are dying everyday. It's time to turn back. Marco really doesn't want to go back, but the next morning when he checks the compass, he decides to turn south instead of keep going north. The men are very happy they are going home.
Marco and the survivors return. The cavalry officer tells him that he has not forgotten that Marco had him put in prison all those years ago. Marco finds the Khan weak and with trembling hands. At times he stumbles as he walks. The empress tells Marco that she will die before him, so please don't let the emperor attack the land of the rising sun.
Back home Marco sees Kensai, Temulun's little sister, all grown up. He decides to make her his wife. Lord Chenchu asks him why and he says: "I need something more." Chenchu says he will see what he can do for him.
Back to the prison. Rustigielo asks Marco which of the sisters he loved the most: Temulun or Kensai. He really loved Temulun, but he not only loved Kensai, she loved him in turn. He says he could have married her if it were not for a death a thousand miles away.
Flashback in a flashback. Marco is smitten by Kensai, but politics intervenes. The Persian Khan wants a Mongolian wife and his representatives have come to find a beautiful woman for him. They choose Kensai and neither Kensai or Marco have any say in the matter. Chenchu tells Marco that now is the time to show his loyalty to the Khan. Marco will have to give up Kensai. Furthermore, he will have to accept this or he will tell Kublai Khan that Marco is guilty of treason.
Pedro is a bit upset at Marco's secret plans. He plans to steal Kensai and take her with him back to Venice. Pedro is convinced that the plan cannot be successful. At the last moment so to speak, the Khan decides to send Kensai to Persia by sea. He also decides that Marco will go with them.
Lord Chenchu is suspicious of Marco and Pedro. He asks: "What are you up to?"
Before leaving Marco speaks with the empress. She says that he is in great danger. She also tells him: "I have saved your life many times." Again the cavalry officer goes to the Khan telling him that he cannot trust the barbarian.
Terrible news arrives. The Empress is dead. In his grief, the Khan becomes very upset with Marco. Guards grab him and bring him to an angry Khan. He wants to know if Marco has plans to go back to Venice and never come back to China. Marco is saved by Lord Chenchu who stands up for the barbarian. He tells the Khan: "If he betrays you, you may have my head." This impresses Kublai.
It's time. Lord Chenchu tells Marco: "Don't come back here." Marco objects saying that he gave the Khan his word. Chenchu remains firm and stands by his advice.
On the high seas, pirate ships approach Marco's vessel. He decides to land and take an overland route north to Siam (today's Thailand), to Burma to India and, finally, to Persia. But Marco gets a surprise because the pirates attack his group on land. Luckily for the group, the natives in the area who made friends with Marco on an earlier visit come to their rescue chasing away the pirates.
Siam 1291. The Siamese tell Marco that Kublai Khan is dead. They find it hard to believe that the Mongolian/Chinese group did not know about the death, but Marco explains that they have been traveling for over a year. Marco says later that the Khan was his jailor, but also his friend. The Mongolians in China are now very weakened. The Mongolian fleet was scattered by great winds (the Japanese called the winds "divine winds" or kamikaze) and ships and sailors were lost in massive numbers. Now Timur is in charge. A little later Marco learns that the Persian Khan is also dead. Marco tells Kensai that she and he are free since both the Persian Khan and Kublai Khan are dead. They, along with Pedro, try to leave. The cavalry officer with his soldiers try to stop them. Marco throws some jewels to the soldiers and they lose all interest in stopping the lovers and their slave. But the cavalry officer fights an energetic fight with Marco and Pedro. Pedro is finally able to kill the cavalry man.
But when they reach the main gate the three escapees are stopped by the Persian forces. They tell the three that Kensai will be given to another Persian prince and that Timur has made this his new command. Marco says they will have to kill him in order to take Kensai. Kensai takes advantage of the ensuing confusion and tries to ride a horse out of the fortress. But, just like her sister, she is stopped by the closing of the gates. She is taken to Persia and Marco never knew of her fate. Marco and Pedro are given horses by the Siamese for their journey to Venice.
1303, Venice, Italy. Marco and Pedro arrive at Marco's house. They are happy to learn that Marco's father and uncle are still alive. The two old men are very happy to see Marco. But the uncle criticizes Marco for not bringing any riches back with him. But he changes his mind when Pedro and Marco spread out a great many jewels in front of him.
Back to prison. Marco tells Rustigielo that now he is a rich man and will not go back to China.
Back to the present. Marco dies in bed.
Marco's book has never been out of print in the last 800 years. Columbus had a copy with him on his 1492 voyage to the new world. Pedro became a wealthy merchant and died in 1323.
Pretty good movie, but at about three hours, a little long. Ian Somerhalder as Marco Polo and Desiree Ann Siahaan as Temulun / Kensa were both very good. Brian Dennehy as Kublai Khan was good, but he just didn't fit the part. Why couldn't they have found an Asian for the acting role?
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See "The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)" for the Historical Background.
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