Old Leg­ends, Neo-Heroes and Mod­ern Dragons

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Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS - by Dr. Craig D. Reid

FATE OF THE FU­RI­OUS The Fast & Fu­ri­ous �ilms be­gan as drag-rac­ing movies, yet with Fast Five (2011) and Fu­ri­ous 7 (201Š) — 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 197Š

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 fren—ied. 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 Š00 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. 

Power Rangers

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

King Arthur: Leg­end of the Sword

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