The film we watched on Monday “Birth of the Dragon”, unfortunately, was my first time watching a movie about Bruce Lee.
I just hadn’t gotten around to the kung fu movie genre, I don’t have any real reason, but I wish I had seen something more than “Kung Fu Panda”, “The Adventures of Jackie Chan”, “The Karate Kid” (old and new) and “The Matrix” as far as martial arts type media goes. If I wanted to really stretch it I would put down “Star Wars” because the lightsaber forms are based on a mix of different Japanese swordsmanship techniques.
I’ve taken judo and have learn bits and pieces from a classmate in high school about kendo, so not just anime and manga, but as for martial arts movies, yeah, the new “The Karate Kid” is as close as it comes for me…
So I was very grateful for the clip of “The finger and the moon” scene on Friday which actually had Bruce Lee. I liked that less than two minute clip better than the entire “Birth of the Dragon” movie.
But in the discussion afterwards, I too noticed the white savoir narrative, the white guy also had to be a buffoon to legitimize the authority of a non-caucasian lead and he was only after the girl. I was inwardly groaning most the movie, with the character Steve acting like a third-wheel on a first date who has to make the whole thing that’s not about him, about him. And because he’s so clueless, everyone just nods and walks away, hoping he will get the hint, but the few too many hits to the head seem to have knocked him senseless.
As an audience member, I was bored and irritated at the annoying, instead of lovable nostalgic, cheesiness of the whole film. Again, annoyed and bored aside from a few laughs from the generic slapstick humor and punchlines. No pun intended.
As a film critic, the dialog was cheap, the plot lazy with the basic camerawork and editing a mess of shot after shot of unaddressed chromatic aberration issues. Overall, “Birth of the Dragon” was a rushed, poorly executed, contrived attempt to recreate the feeling of nostalgia tied to the martial arts genre of film. Within the scope of the longstanding issues of Hollywood’s racial exclusivity, it fails to pay the proper homage owed to both the defining actor of the film, Bruce Lee, and the audiences that cheered him on. From my perspective, this film is a dirty low blow to the genre, in an industry that is already in over its head using cheap tricks and underhanded tactics to justify and continue to ignore its own narcissistic, white savoir complex, even in the face of intense, justified scrutiny.
(I used to write film reviews for my previous school paper, so there was at least one published film critic in the room actually.)
So, technically my scholar, audience and film critic views overlap, mostly because in each area, there was still something that was irritating, lazy or “it’s actually about dimwitted Steve” with the execution of this film.
I actually don’t understand, racial issues aside for a moment, how this film even got the green light to be made from a basic plot and dialog standpoint. Even from an action standpoint, there wasn’t very much action and what action there was, wasn’t done very well at all, which I think had largely to do with the poor, generic camerawork and the poor pacing of the cuts in editing for a martial arts film.
If I bring back in the racial aspect, it’s just another Hollywood token film pretending to promote diversity but actually about some dimwit named Steve out to rescue the girl and not Bruce Lee! A film about Bruce Lee should be about Brunce Lee. I haven’t watched a Bruce Lee film, but if I thought they were all like this one, I wouldn’t want to watch the others.
Thankfully they’re not, like I said that two minute clip was better than that whole hour and thirty-eight minutes of me checking the clock on the wall to see when it was over.
(Clock on the wall because I forgot I have a wrist watch now and keep forgetting…I’m a transguy and that watch is both my first watch and first gift I’ve gotten that is specific to being a guy that I didn’t pick out myself. Random, but I really like that watch.)
So likely I will be watching “Enter the Dragon” over break, and maybe the new “Karate Kid”, to see what I didn’t know was there before, prior to this class. A couple of compare and contrast things for myself.