My brother is in town this week and recommended I watch Ip Man with him. I have seen the iconic cover on Netflix’s gallery, but stayed away because of how little patience I have for foreign films, subtitled films, and martial arts films that for some reason have developed a stigma of slow starts with little interest in the characters. Netflix has plenty of poorly acted, minimally empathetic character films, so my initial reaction to unknown films is to assume the worst. I’m really glad that my brother made me watch Ip Man, though, because it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while–and much better than the two films I saw in theathers last weekend, Elysium and The World’s End.
Ip Man has a slow start, with acting that is a little over-the-top, but once main character, Ip Man, starts fighting, all is forgiven. Actor, Donnie Yen, plays the “nearly” perfect gentleman, offering to let the town’s newest martial art’s teacher fight him (once he’s done with dinner and a smoke, of course). Ip Man is endearing to the audience because he is reluctant at first to let this stranger interrupt his family time as well as to offer his guest to sit and eat with them. We are also introduced to his inner conflict of loving to fight while not neglecting family time. This relationship struggle with his wife strengthens her character, and the end of her arc is truly touching. Many of the characters, including ones I thought were over-the-top in the beginning, had touching endings/growths in their arcs.
The setup has Ip Man as a wealthy home owner who is the best fighter in town, but who does not wish to teach. There is a sense of humility in how he dodges the requests for him to start a school, by saying that there are many worthy teachers who teach the same as he does. As my brother said, there is a strong twist in the story, as we see the effects of Japan’s invasion into China during World War II. Ip Man’s home is confiscated and his family is on the brink of starvation.
The persecution aspect to the story further endears the audience to his and his country’s plight. There are moments were I was inspired in a warrior type of heart to stand up for my people–expand however you wish, be it your country, your family, your ideological system, etc. When faced with death or even just a tougher way of life, do you stand up for what you believe in, or do you buckle? Very inspirational.
On top of some strongly emotional storylines is some of the best martial arts I’ve ever seen. Donnie Yen is, apparently, one of the best Chinese martial artist actors, and I believe it after seeing this movie. Ip Man 2 is next in my queue, and now Netflix has a bunch of his other movies for me to try out. Whereas Elysium‘s action scenes focused on technological advances to awe, Ip Man awes by showing how fast the human body can move and how quickly one motion can flow into the next in a pummelling that seems impossible, but is clearly not a string and slow motion trickery that some films use. Every battle amazes, and the final battle tops all, as it should.
The Grandmaster is in U.S. theaters right now, with a new actor and director for an Ip Man story. While reviews are mixed, there seems to be enough enthusiasm that The Grandmaster may be better than Ip Man in some ways. A young Bruce Lee is portrayed in The Grandmaster, as Ip Man trained him, initially. Reviews claim the film may be more poetic, but also rely a little too much on the slow motion action that I mentioned above as being a good thing for not having a place in Ip Man. We’ll see.
Timothy C. Ward‘s first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. He is looking for beta readers for his novel, Kaimerus, described as “Firefly crashes on Avatar and wakes up 28 Days Later.”
Check out this week’s podcast, AISFP 229 – John Picacio, Hugo Award Winner, Best Professional Artist