In fact it’s so very far from “good,” that I’d so far as to say it’s “bad.”
That’s right, I called a kung fu movie bad.
Trust me folks, if you’re looking for signs of the approaching apocalypse, me hating on a kung fu movie is one of them.
While Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip’s Ip Man films were at times melodramatic, and often predictable; both films did so while wielding style and production values that few pure martial arts movies can match.
That, and they had Donnie Yen leading the cast.
He might not be the best actor, but he beats people like no other; and in a martial arts flick sometimes that’s all you need.
Sadly, The Legend is Born has none of these various pluses going for it.
While it has a rather large cast of “name” genre actors, the production fails to utilize them properly by giving them a bland script, placing them amid lifeless and fake-y soundstages, and generally making no attempt to film the fight sequences in an interesting manner.
For those that care to know Sammo Hung is barely in it and truly seems like he’s “between projects,” (most likely he was filming Ip Man 2 simultaneously) Yuen Biao does pretty well given his limited role in the movie, and Fan Siu Wong is his always awesome self.
Despite the cast, it’s a horrendously mediocre film that fails to impress is any area, and ultimately left me feeling robbed of an hour and a half of my life.
To sum up, (as briefly as possible) the plot is basically a horribly fabricated account of Ip Man’s life from childhood to right up until just before the beginning of the first Wilson Yip Ip Man film in the early 1930′s.
In case you are wondering, the whole “Ip Man fighting ninjas” thing was indeed fabricated, as was the vast majority of the events in this film.
The film’s biggest, and most visible disappointment, comes in the form of the casting of Dennis To as Ip Man.
As I mentioned in my pre-screening thoughts on this movie, To did not strike me as leading man material.
Turns out I was right, as To’s performance, both as an actor and a fighter, is as wooden and vanilla as can be.
As an actor taking on a film that bears the same name as his character, most of the story relies on his performance, to which he brings absolutely no spark of life or zeal.
While his Wing Chun form is quite good, and indeed indicative of his background in the martial art, his posture is extremely rigid and more importantly, his strikes lack any sort of weight or power behind them.
While the speed and accuracy of the close-quarters sparring is actually quite impressive, the lack of power behind the strikes is a problem with most of the choreography, that and the cinematography simply isn’t up to snuff.
Aside from a decent fight between Dennis To and the real life son of Ip Man, Ip Chun, (which makes heavy use of stunt doubles for Chun) and a lengthy and surprisingly physical brawl between To and Fan Siu Wong, there really aren’t any outstanding fights in The Legend is Born.
Though I’ve seen reviews crediting Sammo Hung as the choreographer for this film, I honestly have trouble believing that.
If he was in fact the choreographer, I’m sorry to say, very little, if any; of the movements and camera angles in The Legend is Born bear Sammo’s mark, and as such, the action simply doesn’t hold up to anything in his filmography.
The basic plot of the film is that of your basic “Japanese threaten Chinese culture and property, martial artist rectifies situation with fists” genre trope, however it does so in a very inorganic and just plain stupid manner.
I shit you not, nearly all of the dozen or so fights in The Legend is Born (seriously, there’s a lot of them) come about as a result of someone literally walking into a room and yelling:
“Your Wing Chun is good, show me some of it!”
Even for a kung fu movie, that’s just plain lazy.
Anyway, I was initially planning to do a seriously in-depth review of The Legend is Born, much like I did Ip Man 2 and Undisputed 3: Redemption, however I found that this movie simply wasn’t worth the effort.
If you really wanna’ see mediocre fighting, bland acting, and *sigh…* Ip Man fighting ninjas, then by all means, give The Legend is Born: Ip Man a chance.
I for one, am going to be kicking myself over this purchase for some time, being as I knew this movie was going to suck, but still let my hopes and dreams guide my wallet.