As Netflix’s most ambitious project to-date, Marco Polo chronicles the travels and activities of the famed Venetian traveller. Marco Polo proves to be broad in scope, filming abroad at locations such as Italy, Kazakstan, and Malaysia. This Netflix original series received a budget of $90 million, its priciest production thus far and second most expensive television series, next to the critically acclaimed hit, Game of Thrones.
The series follows Marco Polo, son of a well-respected trader from Venice, Italy. Upon meeting his father for the first time, Marco quickly finds that his father, Niccolò Polo, is to set sail once again. After sneaking aboard his father’s ship, the Polo family soon finds themselves at the mercy of the great Kublai Khan. Initially displeasing the revered “Khan of Khans,” Niccolò volunteers to leave his son behind as a tribute to the Mongolian emperor. As a guest of Kublai Khan, Marco quickly moves up through the ranks and finds himself in a favorable position with the Mongolian emperor. With its broad vision, martial arts sequences, and its intriguing historical accuracies, Marco Polo aims high and hardly stumbles.
Surprisingly, Marco Polo remains true to the Venetian traveller’s history, as well as the history of the Mongol Empire. However, there are some exceptions. Lady Chabi, empress and wife to Kublai Khan, has hardly any mention in ancient texts, so the writers of the show took some creative liberties when crafting this character. Not many will have heard of the travels of this famed Venetian, but this original series succeeds in providing a history lesson, of sorts, and cultivating a desire to see more. Marco Polo also succeeds by integrating martial arts in a spectacular way. While the Mongols simply display their brute force, others like “Hundred Eyes” and the “Cricket Minister” show off their talents in expertly choreographed fight scenes that harken back to films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The cast is another phenomenal aspect of this series, meaning that the acting rarely falters. Lorenzo Richly (Marco Polo) masterfully captures the character and his struggles. Other noteworthy performances include Tom Wu (Hundred Eyes), Chin Han (Jia Sidao), and Zhu Zhu (Kokachin). Sadly, Benedict Wong’s performance as the great Kublai Khan does tend to fall short. His lines and acting often fail to capture this warrior and emperor, but he does manage to repeatedly captivate the audience.
Stream Marco Polo on Netflix and leave your thoughts in the comments!