Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Film Review: The Legend is Born - Ip Man (2010)

The Legend is Born - Ip Man (Review)
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...offers more than enough to satisfy Ip Man and martial arts/action fans."

From child to young adult, The Legend is Born - Ip Man follows the titular character, Ip Man (Dennis To), as he studies Wing Chun along with his adopted brother Ip Tin-chi (Louis Fan).

The story plays as a prequel to the original Ip Man films with Donnie Yen. The Legend is Born concerns itself more with Ip Man and his studies, rather than a strong conflict such as an invading army or other foreign affairs. The smaller scale allows us to learn and focus more on Ip Man, however. We see him study Wing Chun from several masters, as well as witness his conflicting love life. I'd say the real conflict in the film builds up in the background, then finally erupts during the final act. This makes the conflict underdeveloped and cliché; in fact, there is more plot in Ip Man's love life than the Japanese conflict. The ending features the most memorable fight sequence in the film, but feels less impactful than expected.

The action sequences in The Legend is Born are greatly choreographed. Every movement, every action is made with great precision and accuracy. However, the actual fight scenes leave little impact and feel almost lifeless. Looking back, it's hard to remember most of the fights aside from the final battle. The story is interesting, but some elements of the film are overdramatic and ineffective; I liked learning more about Ip Man, even if it is dramatized for entertainment purposes, but some scenes simply feel overdone and over-exaggerated. Much of the action feels inauthentic this time around as the stunts are amplified -- huge leaps, crazy spins, unbelievable stunts and the such make the film feel more like an action film than a biopic.

Dennis To does a great job as Ip Man with his calm and collected performance -- a more than worthy replacement for Donnie Yen, despite lacking Yen's charm and emotion in the role. The fight choreography is great, but some set pieces are forgettable. The setting and costume design felt authentic, really bring you into this world. The music was a mixed-bag, I liked some of it, the rest didn't fit well, though. Some of the editing felt inconsistent, like a TV movie of sorts; it felt like the flow was broken more than once. I liked most of the story, especially when it concerned Ip Man, his studies, and even his love life; however, the Japanese conflict was too overdramatic and forced. Solid direction from Herman Yau, too.

Overall, The Legend is Born - Ip Man is a great action/biopic blend. Ip Man's story is interesting, and the fighting is great when it wasn't so over-the-top. Not without flaws, The Legend is Born offers more than enough to satisfy Ip Man and martial arts/action fans.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Violence and some blood.

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