Old Legends, Neo-Heroes and Modern Dragons
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FATE OF THE FURIOUS The Fast & Furious �ilms began as drag-racing movies, yet with Fast Five (2011) and Furious 7 (201) — which introduced CIA agent
uke obbs as Dom Toretto’s ( in Diesel) nemesis and Jason tatham as Deckard haw — the franchise morphed into an in-car-nation of outrageous, high-velocity auto stunts and martial arts potency.
In 1999 Diesel was telling me about his love for 1970s haw Brothers kung fu �ilms when he said, “ould’ve been cool to be in one of those movies.” In a twist of fate, Diesel �inally got to do that ’70s �lick with a estern twist. In Fate of the Furious (aka Furious 8), a villain named Cipher uses ruinous video evidence to force Dom underground, turn him against his team and coerce him into becoming Cipher’s partner in nuclear crime. Only one person has the ability to �ind Domǣ archenemy haw.
Diesel’s combat style can best be described as “car fu.” One scene pays homage to the “rope snare” �ights seen in Chinese wuxia �ilms, in which the hero is trapped like a �ly in a spiderweb of cordage. ueh ua in Killer Clans (197) immediately comes to mind. In Fate, Dom in his car is entangled by a web of metal cables shot from attacking vehicles.
Fate also highlights an action sequence inspired by the classic Chinese kung fu novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which the redfaced, long-bearded warrior uan
ong is carrying the baby emperorto-be while mowing down enemy infantry with his guan dao. At battle’s end, uan is moved by the fact that the baby never cries.
As haw carries a baby in a car seat in Furious 8 and wreaks bone-breaking havoc on Cypher’s goons, he revels because the baby smiles and giggles during the melee. POWER RANGERS This 2017 �ilm is based on the 1990s T series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It pits angstridden teen outcasts against ita
epulsa, her boulder buddies and a beast named oldar.
hen MMPR debuted on Fox in 1993, it featured scenes with nglishspeaking actors, but the series got its source material, rubber-costumed monsters, props and martial arts footage from the T show Kyoryu Sentai Jurenja (1992-93), part of Toei tudio’s long-running Super Sentai series. A big in�luence on Super Sentai action came from The Super Inframan, a 197
haw Brothers release. Its ong KongȂ style �ights, compliments of Bruce e, upped the ante over the pre- Inframan
Japanese-shot combative action. By the time MMPR hit stateside, Super Sentai programs also were inspired by Hong Kong’s wuxia action and Jackie Chan’s new �ight style from Police Story (1985). Thus, by 1993, the Japanese-shot �ights in MMPR sparkled with fast-paced samurai swordplay and martial arts.
Fast-forward to 2017ǣ Power Rangers producers decided to use stuntmen in full body suits for the main �ight sequences, but the action lacks logic and rhythm. A anger might �lash a capoeira skill or fancy spinning kick, but the moves seem out of context, seemingly edited into the �ilm so the hero can strike a CGI villain.
The action features too many closeups and “earthquake cam” shots in which the �ighters do one to three moves per exchange, after which the footage is spliced into sequences that mirror dance routines from music videos. Despite its shortcomings, when the Rangers turn into Dinozords as Go Go Power Rangers plays in the background, the audience and I cheered. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 When Guardians of the Galaxy joined Marvel’s cinematic universe in 201[, the movie de�ied superhero conventions with its jocular distortions and non sequitur humor. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is even more hilarious and frenied. In the same way that Star Wars focused on the force, which is inspired by an understanding of chi that comes from the Chinese and Japanese martial arts, Vol. 2 borrows a similar form of Eastern martial arts esotericism.
Directed by James Gunn, Vol. 2 follows the uardians as they �ight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the galaxy to unravel the mysteries of eter uill’s (Chris
ratt) true parentage — a celestial being named Ego. When Ego tells
uill to cup his hands and feel the energy pulsing between them, then to slowly move his hands apart and feel it expand, a ball of blue energy appears between his appendages. Awed, uill is told to move one hand above the other to rotate the ball. Then he pulls
his hands apart, and the ball grows. Son Quill and dad Ego go on to have a Kevin Costner Field of Dreams moment on a cosmic scale.
In the �ilm, uill learns how to create, rotate, grow, project and receive energy. In real life, tai chi practitioners do the same thing using the art’s ballof-energy exercise. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD This Guy Ritchie movie is how I imagined the real monarch did battle. It’s no wonder that when I �irst saw wuxia �ilms about Chinese legends and knight-errant swordsmen, I felt right at home.
King Arthur was a British leader who fought axon invaders in the late �ifth and early sixth centuries. Details of his heroics are steeped in folklore. Not until 00 years later were they committed to writing in eoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (1136). As the author describes how Arthur’s sword skills defeated supernatural enemies, he introduces numerous story arcs, including xcalibur (Arthur’s sword), Guinevere (Arthur’s wife), Merlin and the epic battle against Mordred. French writer Chr±tien de Troyes later added Sir Lancelot, the Holy Grail and the Knights of the
ound Table. itchie’s �ilm focuses on most of these elements while adding some self-indulgent ideas and visions.
In many cultures, swords are symbols of bravery, justice and honor. In Chinese folklore, swords often have names. After they taste blood, they develop a spirit, which is frequently depicted by the high-pitched shiinng sound they make when they’re drawn from a scabbard. They’re not weapons; they’re living entities. They’re not an extension of the hand; they are the hand. Thus, the key character in Legend is xcalibur. Besides using the shiinng sound to good effect, Arthur (Charlie
unnam) engages in sword �ights that reveal how the two became one. One of the highlights comes from a cameo involving Tom Wu, who played Hundred
yes in et�lix’s Marco Polo. In Legend, he portrays Arthur’s unarmed-combat teacher to good effect. Yes, the young king learns some basic grappling and blocking moves, but his sword �ights rely on typical British hack-n-whack broadsword skills, albeit with panache. AMAZING SHANGHAI DRAGONS Whenever Sammo Hung is attached to a martial arts project, the �ights are fresh. They’re �illed with innovative choreography and over�lowing with mind-blowing visuals. Chances are that will be the case this summer when Hung stars in a U.S./China joint venture titled The Amazing Shanghai Dragons. The U.S. half is headed by Charles Jameson, with martial artist Gene Gause serving as a project adviser. On the Sino side is China Films.
Gause recruited three martial arts standouts for supporting rolesǣ Dennis Brown, a master of tien shan pai kung fu and Black Belt Hall of Famer; Suh
ung-Jin, a master of kuk sool and the son of the art’s founder uh In- yukǢ and Cynthia othrock, the former tournament champ who’s starred in more than 50 movies. Incidentally, Rothrock shared that this �ilm will include a �ight between her and Hung. It was 31 years ago when they had their �irst duel in Millionaires Express.
Jameson’s initial script focused on social media bad-mouthing between teenage martial arts teams from China and the nites tates. Then an American member is kidnapped in China, leaving U.S. and Chinese authorities �lummoxed. The teams decide to unite to launch a rescue mission, much to the dismay of the authorities.
In late May 2017, Gause gave me an update on the evolving project. “Dragons isn’t a pure martial arts �ilmǢ it’s more like the Bourne and Expendables movies,” he said. “ȏIt’sȐ action-adventure with martial arts, comedy and hair-raising chases. Filming begins in August.”
The storyline is changing as more stars come on board, ause said. “everal famous Chinese and U.S. stars will make surprise cameos in unexpected roles. Due to Chinese contract laws, I’m not allowed to reveal their names or Sammo’s director and choreographer choices, but if I did, you’d faint with joy.”
Stay tuned to Screen Shots for continuing coverage of The Amazing Shanghai Dragons.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword