Filmed at a record breaking budget of over USD$65 million, Dragon Blade is the latest epic martial arts blockbuster movie starring Asia’s legendary action star, Jackie Chan. The film boasts an international cast line up consisting of Hollywood A-lister actors, John Cusack and th FeAdrien Brody as well as South Korean’s famous idol group member, Choi Siwon. Based on true historical events, the movie which took seven years in the making is set to be released in Singapore on 19th February 2015.
In a media conference for the film in Singapore on Tuesday (Feb 10), Chan shared that the key message of the film is to show that “accepting difference with tolerance is the key to solving conflicts between ethic nations”. Especially in current times of war and unrest, he hopes that the film is able to promote the message of being able to “co-exist peacefully and turn enemies into friends”. Chan, who has been involved in the acting industry for 54 years also shared that the film will showcase old school martial arts style with very limited wiring scenes as well as “as little CGI as possible”. Co-stars, Cusack and Brody were also present at the media conference and they had nothing but praises for Chan. Brody mentioned, “To be able to work with Jackie is like a childhood dream come true”. Cusack then added that, “In United States, when you work with Jackie, there’s no other higher. He’s the peak”.
Dragon Blade, which was shot in Dunhuang and the Gobi Desert tells the story of a brave team of warriors in the Han Dynasty who maintained peace along the Silk Road. In the movie, Chan plays Huo An, the commander of the Silk Road Protection Squad. Huo An is a noble character who puts his life, faith and philosophy on the line for a better future. After being wrongly accused of treason, Huo An and his men were sent as slave labourers to Wild Geese Gate where they were given the impossible mission of repairing the city walls of the gate within and given an impossible mission days. There, Huo An crossed paths with Lucius (John Cusack) and later on, with Tiberius (Adrien Brody).
Quizzed on why people should watch Dragon Blade, Lin Peng who played the role of Cold Moon shared that, the film is a result of the team collaborative effort of sweat, blood, effort and heart and soul. Chan added that he hopes for the movie to be released worldwide as he believes that it tells an important message the world needs to know.
Be sure to catch Dragon Blade in cinemas on 19th February 2015!
Special thanks to Encore Films for the press coverage opportunity!
For Valentine’s DAy, I don’t think anything beats the gift of long haired 1980’s Jackie Chan frolicking by the ocean.
You can’t hit what you can’t see.
And in most modern day fighting movies, you can’t see anything.
The art of the fight is lost in modern day cinema, especially among today’s blockbuster films.
Instead, a new art has emerged: The art of the cover up.
In an interview, Jackie Chan was quoted, “When you see the camera move, that’s when you know the actor can’t fight.”
Modern day fight scenes are infamous for turning into messy, disorganized attempts to hide the fact that those actors have no business doing a fight scene.
Let’s break down some ineffective fights and show what techniques are used that really hinder today’s fighting scenes by trying to hide bad fighting.
(Warning: Gore and Explicit Language)
1. Cutting on Every Hit
When you watch most American action movies, fight scenes are exactly like this. They cut their shots on every single hit. It makes the fight jarring, in-cohesive, and at times utterly confusing from a cinematic standpoint. Starting at 2:30, our character, Jensen, hits a man with a fire hydrant, but it cuts on the hit. Without the obviously post production sound effect, it wouldn’t even feel like a “hit”, just Jensen swinging a fire hydrant and then this dude just flails backwards. The next two hits from 2:30-2:36 are exactly the same, cutting on each punch, relying on post production sound effects to link these cuts together. However, this creates a very bone crunching effect when the film actually doesn’t cut, when Jensen slams the man’s head into the vice at 2:40. This is the best hit in the entire fight, because we can actually see it. But its followed by the worst sequence of the fight from 2:41-2:54, which is 19 cuts in a mere 13 seconds! It takes the audience an average of 3 frames to register a new cut, and having that many cuts in such a short time just creates this blob of film that’s ugly and disgusting.
2. Unclear Camera
This fight, albeit epic, is severely unclear in many parts of its fight because of the unclear camera work that is done to hide its actors. For example, take a look back at 2:07-2:15. The beginning of this sequence is literally so close to the actors that I can’t see them punch each other. Its just a zoom in on one of the fighters and gives us the assumption that they’re throwing blows. Another part of the unclear camerawork is the “shaky cam” effect that is used during the segment 2:19-2:21 and again in 2:35-2:38. This effect is supposed to be used to create a sense of conflict, but ends just muddling the shot in obscurity. You already have the music and the actual fighters fighting, there’s no need to add more “conflict”, but that’s part of these blockbuster films: just trying to make every single frame an explosion of saturation that really just fails to convey a sense of direction.
Take a look more so at the beginning of this fight, from 0:00-0:15, and specifically at 0:06-0:15. What the hell is going on? I don’t know because everything is just thrown in complete darkness in the scene. And don’t complain about the low-res of the video, its just like that in the real movie. This is another technique to hide bad fighting: just make your background dark, and color correct everything blue, and have your actors all wear the same color. Easy recipe to a confusing fight scene, and that’s exactly what happens here.
So now that I’ve shown you how not do a fight scene, the questions begs itself:
How you do you go mano y mano correctly?
Simple: just watch Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan.
These two men have taken part in some of the best fights I’ve ever seen, and because they can fight and work with actors that can fight as well, they have nothing to hide, which creates a very different product from the above examples.
Here are their techniques to create great fighting scenes, of course accompanied by video examples.
1. No Cuts!
Both have such incredibly amazing and effective fight scenes because of the fact that they hold their cuts much longer. There is a rhythm to a fight, and by holding their cuts, they allow the audience to feel it. Instead of using post production sounds to “link” different cuts, the sounds play into the almost musical style of their fights, allowing the audience to feel the ebb and flow of combat; one fighter gaining ground, another retreating, but then back again and again, until one wins and one is defeated, and so goes the fight. Take a look at Video 1 at 1:15-1:18, this is the exact opposite of cutting, I get the entire sequence, in clear picture, and I can feel the fight happening because I can see it. I can clearly see each move and counter. Its a real fight.
Holding cuts also allows action and reaction to be in the same shot. The punch and the person getting punched and their reaction are in the same frame, creating a much more powerful hit than just if they cut at the instant of the hit. Just watch ALL of Video 2, then entire thing is Jackie getting hurt in the same frame. The two fighters exchange punches and kicks with electrifying speed.
2. Clear Camerawork!
Both of these men’s fights are trademarked by their simple camera style. Both usually, more so with Jackie, have the camera on a wide angle, showing the full fight in its glory rather than just cutting on hits. Donnie’s fights have a little more cuts and little more dramatic editing, but his principle is the same: show the actual fight.
Both of these fights predominantly feature shots in the wide angle, and allow us to really see the flow of the fight. Once again, action and reaction are in the same shot, giving us the real impact of hits. Rhythm is better established and the clearness of the camerawork is easy and simple to follow. There are hardly moving camera angles or shaky cams, because the conflict is already there for us to see, no need to be excessive.
Antithetical to the previous American examples, both men expertly use clarity in their shots to help the audience follow the action. Unlike American films, there is no bland background that blends the actors, and the actors aren’t all wearing the same color to camouflage themselves.
In Video 1, just for bias purposes, this is my favorite fight scene of all time, there is darkness in the scene, but it is in areas not of importance in the frame, in the backs of the room. There is bright and specific lighting for the scene, giving extra clarity, making the darkness not an obscure background, but a thematic draw, just like how the Lakers stadium dims the seating areas and only lights the court to put emphasis on it. Donnie dons a black martial arts robe, while the Japanese black belts wear white, but are the bad guys, a clear reversal of color roles and of “good and bad.”
In Video 2, the clarity should be obvious. The background is unique, strewn with white paper and packaging. Jackie is wearing white, his opponent, black, as we see this time we follow the roles of white and black and good and bad, respectively. There is no darkness in the scene, but instead lit extensively so that we don’t miss a single second of the action.
Let’s stop wasting people’s money NOT showing them the fight. Let’s start showing the action, the conflict, the REASON we have fight scenes in the first place. But if we want that we’ll have to fight for it by removing those overly-complicated,and over cut scenes, replacing them with the simplicity of wide angle shots and clear colors, and steady cameras. Fight for better fight scenes.
Action superstar Jackie Chan, notable Hollywood actors Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Hallyu star Choi Siwon from popular K-pop boyband Super Junior and Chinese actresses Mika Wang and Lin Peng were in Singapore from the 9th to 11th February 2015 to promote their new historical action movie, Dragon Blade.
Dragon Blade is Jackie Chan’s latest film after 7 years of preparation. It is helmed by 14 Blades’ director Daniel Lee, based on true historical events, where Hou An (Jackie Chan), the Commander of the Silk Road Protection squad together with his group on men tries to protect the peace on Silk Road among 36 nations in the region. Together with Yin Po (Choi Siwon), Hou An’s trustable subordinate, they safeguard China’s borders. Hou An was later framed for treason where he was exiled to Wild Geese Gate. There, he encountered Lucius (John Cusack) a Roman general tasked to protect the young Roman prince, Publius (Jozef Waite) from his power-hungry older brother Tiberius (Adrien Brody).
During the press conference held in the morning on 10th of February at Pan Pacific Hotel, Jackie assured audiences that if they liked his past productions, Dragon Blade will not disappoint. This production is said to be one of the most expensive Chinese film produced to date, with a budget of US$65 million. Jackie also shared that it was shot at Dunhuang and the Gobi Desert mainly for its dramatic natural backdrop, for a total of 112 days. 800 extras, 350 crew members, 200 horses were involved in the filming and 2,000 bottles of water (excluding other drinks such as coffee and tea) were consumed over a span of five days; showing the weather intensity of the filming location.
“Many people like to watch movies like Iron Man, Batman and Spiderman, but I want to preserve my traditional way of filming martial arts, with as little CGI as possible, keeping it all real”, Jackie shared. He also assured audiences that not a single scene in the movie was bought.
Both Hollywood actors claimed to be ardent fans of Jackie Chan since they were kids and have had desires to work with Jackie in an action movie which was their childhood dream. They have also mentioned that to them, working with Jackie is like reaching the peak in the area of action movies.
Action was an essential part of the movie, K-pop star and Super Junior’s member, Siwon shared that comparing dancing and singing to fighting in an action movie, both tasks are difficult but he will do his best. It was also an honour for him to receive personal martial arts coaching from Jackie Chan himself.
Chinese actress Mika Wang, who plays Hou An’s wife Xiuqing, is very honoured to be part of Dragon Blade and she has learnt a lot from Jackie not only in terms of acting but also about life. Another Chinese actress Lin Peng, plays the role of Huns warrior Cold Moon who is a skilled fighter. Lin Peng shared that during the filming; she sustained numerous injuries and was under a lot of stress due to the Jackie’s high standards for the quality of martial arts in the film.
Jackie also acclaimed much credit to the production crew and support staff that had to wake up at 2:30am everyday working even harder than the casts. The huge difference in temperature in day and night made it even tougher to film in the Gobi desert while wearing heavy costumes. The casts also shared that they had to film in adverse conditions such as sandstorms; “due to weather constraints, sometimes we were only able to film 2 scenes in one day” Jackie said. Casts joked that the Gobi desert would be a place where women will love since they will be able to “exfoliate their skin” and “return looking prettier”.
It was also mentioned that during the production of Dragon Blade, Jackie had the responsibility of taking care of a large number of staff such as his students, extras from many different countries and casts, teaching them the basics as well as making sure they felt comfortable while filming in China. It was definitely evident that Jackie takes good care of his casts not only during the harsh conditions at the movie filming but also from simple gestures such as topping up their water during the press conference.
Jackie also shared that he wishes this movie could be played all over the world especially in current times of war and unrest as the most important message from the movie is Peace, to live for peace and turn enemies into friends.
After press conference earlier in the day, the casts also met fans and audiences at NEX mall for a meet and greet event followed by gracing the red carpet at Vivo City Golden Village before attending the Gala Premiere in different cinema halls. Both events drew an astonishing crowd, showing the tremendous success of the events.
Dragon Blade, co-distributed by Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures in Singapore will be released on 19 February 2015. In 2 months, it will be Jackie Chan’s 54th year in the movie industry; we wish Dragon Blade all the best!
At Korean Updates, we would like to extend our many thanks to Encore Films for the media invitation. Do head on to our Facebook page for more pictures from the event and do follow our Twitter for more updates about your favourite K-pop stars!
Article by: Jia. Photos by: Zen and Jia (Singapore)
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The casts of <Dragon Blade 天将雄师> were here in Singapore from Feb 9th- 10th to promote their movie which will be in cinema’s this Chinese New Year, Feb 19th 2015.
Directed by Daniel Lee, with main casts; Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Choi Siwon (Super Junior), Wang Ruoxin (Mika) & Lin Peng, the movie is filmed at a budget of US$65 million, the highest budget yet for a Chinese film. Inspired by true historical events, the story of <Dragon Blade 天将雄师> begins with the discovery of an ancient “military journal” featuring different totem symbols. The film shoots in Dunhuang and the Gobi Desert, which form the dramatic natural backdrop. The environment was harsh to the crew as well as the actors, with sandstorms and rains, there were times where filming had to be delayed or the scene to be changed without prior notice.
During the press conference, Jackie Chan was saying the most tiring people in the film are actually the production crew, the ones behind the camera. They were the ones who had to be the first to arrive and the last to leave, unlike the actors. The passionate crew also moved John Cusack and Adrien Brody with their passion, as they always feel very happy to be working with them. Then Jackie teased them about how they will find him after the filming. Jackie is also the co-producer of this film, so after the filming, he will have to do a lot of editing, planning, etc. Both John and Adrien will always find Jackie in his room to talk to him so Jackie was really tired everyday just by entertaining them. But we all know that he was actually teasing the both of them because Jackie was really caring for all his casts and crew.
In a scene, Lin Peng actually fell from two meters onto gravel when her wires broke. She landed hard on her left side of her body and luckily her head was protected by Jackie. She said it hurts a lot but accidents happen which cannot be helped. She plays the icy Hun warrior Cold Moon and she feels very stressful because of her role. Other than acting alongside with the top actors, her role requires her to be very good in martial arts. Jackie has a very high expectation of her martial arts so she was really stressed in filming her role.
The other main female character, Mika Wang, plays Jackie’s wife in the film. She expressed that she is very honoured to be a part of Jackie’s film and she has learned a lot from the films, not just acting but also in terms of life.
When asked which is easier, dancing or dodging swords, Siwon feels that both are totally different things. Whenever he has to film a scene, Jackie will always tell the actors about what this scene is about or what he wants this scene to bring so Siwon is very thankful to be able to work with Da Ge- Jackie.
John have been watching Jackie’s films since young and he together with Adrien really admired him. John was very happy and feel very excited to be able to work with Jackie. Both Adrien and John said that it was a fantasy came true for them to be able to work and act along with Jackie in a martial art film. In U.S, Jackie’s martial art films are always the best. So working with Jackie is already the peak, they will not be able to experience better with anyone else.
This is going to be Jackie’s 54 years in the movie industry. He feels like there is no more competition in the movie industry in terms of ticket sales as compared to last time. He just want every film to do well and he wants to deliver the important message of ‘World Peace’ through the film. In every movie, he will put in his heart and soul in it so Jackie believes that <Dragon Blade 天将雄师> will not fail everyone’s expectations.
The show was prepared for 7 years, and filmed for 6 months, with the editing and all, a year plus. If the audience love the movie, Jackie will feel worth it and satisfied despite the pain, injuries, sweat and even blood. So be sure to watch the movie, <Dragon Blade 天将雄师> in cinemas this Chinese New Year!
Photos here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.888110804572662.1073741847.253229304727485&type=1&l=5bb91152b2
Chinese Kung Fu and Karate Expo 9 with Sifu Cliff Kupper and Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff
(courtesy of nubianfist.web.com) (courtesy of ackungfu.com)
The magic continues as we welcome back our special guests Sifu Cliff Kupper and Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff. On today’s podcast we discuss the upcoming Chinese Kung Fu and Karate Expo 9, The Martialist, Empire, kung fu movies (of…
Chinese Kung Fu and Karate Expo 9 with Sifu Cliff Kupper and Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff
(courtesy of nubianfist.web.com) (courtesy of ackungfu.com)
The magic continues as we welcome back our special guests Sifu Cliff Kupper and Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff. On today’s podcast we discuss the upcoming Chinese Kung Fu and Karate Expo 9, The Martialist, Empire, kung fu movies (of course), interests of martial artists, kung fu reality show, and more. Thanks for tuning in to the Dojo Podcast! Please view the links below for some cool footage and information from our guests, friends, and supporters. Thanks!
Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff’s Website
Soke Michael Kariim Ratcliff in action
Sifu Cliff at past Expos
Various Demos at past expos
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Okay, most of you are probably going to think that this review is going to be biased because I like Siwon and he is in this movie. But let me start but telling my initial concerns and thoughts about this movie.
Initially I thought…
- With such a stellar cast, will the movie fall flat? We all know that when you put good actors together, it doesn’t always produce awesome results.
- Siwon, as much as I like him, can’t act. Let me remind you how I have never ever watched any of his dramas. 미안해, 시원이~
- After watching the trailer and realising it’s a mix of Mandarin and English, my reaction, “OMG. Why!” Because frankly, more often than not, when they mix languages, the dialogues don’t flow.
- Jackie Chan. I was quite done with the martial arts x body gag. Love watching his re-runs on TV but another movie along the same concept? Uh-uh.
Would I pay to go watch the watch? Probably not.
The press conference
Tagged along with my friend to the press conference and saw Siwon up close *fangirl scream* after it, I was kinda looking forward to watching the movie at night (Adeline won tickets!).
I don’t know. Chemistry between the cast was awesome. Throughout the press conference, you can see them whispering to each other and John Cusack and Jackie Chan was quite buddy buddy with each other! Jackie Chan even helped John Cusack to refill his cup when he noticed that he was running low on water.
And through the videos they were showing prior to the start of the press conference, it seems like the movie is quite logical? Jackie Chan came up with a tiny arm shield thingy because he figured that his character is a mobile peace corp and need to be able to travel light. Therefore, he thinks it’s not practical for him to carry around a normal shield so he came up with the idea of a portable shield. Yes, small things like this impress me more than big ones.
Also, throughout the interview, Jackie Chan’s sincerity just shone through? How he said that the crew has it the hardest because they have to go early to set up and end late. I mean, I feel kind of sorry for the actress that said the wrong thing and triggered him. But his point came through. He also handled the press pretty well when they asked about his son. Yes, he is a star, he is used to it. Well, just because he is used to it doesn’t mean he should tolerate it. But tolerate he did.
Oh yeah. Jackie Chan also said that the movie carries the message of unity. How people with different background can come together to achieve something good. How we can turn our ‘enemies’ into our friends. I liked how the cast all agreed in unison when Jackie Chan said that it’s an important message in recent days. BUT! Despite this, I was especially skeptical because the message he wanted to send for “The Zodiac” was kinda lost on me.
The movie itself…
You made it! HAAHAHA. Okay, here’s a photo of Siwon to break the long paragraphs.
My intial concerns were moot (not sure if I am using this word correctly).
Siwon’s acting? From his <5 minutes of screentime, it seems like he has improved quite a bit in his acting. Good job, Mr Choi. Hahaha. Plus. it’s like a breather for the eyes when he comes on screen. He still manage to look good despite the beard and dirt. DO NOT KEEP A BEARD, MR CHOI.
Mix of English and Mandarin and a ton of other languages? It’s pretty entertaining. Surprisingly so! And the dialogues made sense. It didn’t feel awkward. So, woots!
Good actor + good actor + good actor = ? One fantastic show. I thought I will get bored (I fell asleep watching Up) but nope! Like I said, the chemistry between the cast was awesome. It showed on screen (: Adrien Brody…Wah. His brand of evil is effortless? He looked so lazy but yet the evil “aura” was off the radar. Awesome! The cast can all speak with their eyes so it’s very easy to watch.
Yet another Jackie Chan movie? 아니요. Not quite. No body gag this time. No pointless fighting. It’s all good! And did the message he wanted to convey come through? Yes.
Though at some point, I can’t bring myself to watch cos the scenes reminded me of recent terror events :(
Should you watch?
If you like unity unity kind of movie, yes! Because this show is full of it. Touched me a teeny weeny bit.
If you have always liked Jackie Chan’s movie and yet shared my initial concern, just go watch (:
I might even suggest to bring the family to watch during CNY. Honestly, I can’t wait for Ch8 to buy the movie and then play countless re-runs on it ;p
How many popcorns? 3.5-4 popcorns!
okay, heading to bed. it’s late and I just realised I didn’t eat the entire day. No wonder my gastric is acting up. Going to edit the pictures tomorrow!
Yesterday was slightly more surreal than usual.
I decided to take a kettle of water to fill my car’s windscreen washers.
As I stood by the kettle in the office kitchen, a white-haired old chap decided to tell me about the time he got attacked.
He then physically acted out his Jackie Chan style moves, complete with high kicks and kung fu grimaces.
OK, so I left and reached the car – where a chap appeared at my side.
He was out smoking a rollup from the nearby Travelodge.
He was once a Danish spy he explained, and was involved in counter espionage before retiring to a farm on Bornholm where his wife died and he then took up with a young lass who was a deep sea diving photographer… the rest I cannot tell you as it’s classified…ffs
It’s no surprise that the three major card companies in the US have been taking advantage of being the first with Apple Pay out the door and that the majority of their latest ads and promotions have centered around the new payment service. The latest comes from American Express with a just released ad focusing on highlighting Apple Pay as “The Next Evolution of Membership.”
The ad is supposed to be a quick history lesson of sorts, showing the evolution of American Express by stitching together some of the company’s ads from over the years, many of which featured celebrities such as Tina Fey, Jackie Chan, and Jerry Seinfeld. The point of the ad is to showcase Apple Pay as the latest innovation for card tech, and it’s certainly interesting to see all of the card companies take a similar approach in their latest advertising (perhaps they are contractually obliged through deals with Apple).
The other card companies have launched similar campaigns for Apple Pay with MasterCard’s most recent being a promotion to bring the payment service to the PGA Tour. MasterCard, Chase, and others have aired their own commercials in the past focusing on Apple Pay.
Apple Pay is now available through Visa, MasterCard, and American Express cards issued by over 60 banks and credit unions in the US.
The Thriller Review’s top five movie showdowns.
5. D’Artagnan vs. Febre (The Musketeer)
The Musketeer is the American 2001 remake of the Three Musketeers. The story follows young musketeer to be d’Artagnan as he travels to Paris to pursue his dreams. His main enemy is technically Cardinal Richelieu, but the real bad guy of the film is the Cardinal’s right hand killing machine: Febre the man in black. Febre embodies everything good about this movie. Since The Musketeer is an American remake it’s undergone Americanization. So all the good story stuff, characterization etc. is thrown out the window and replaced with over the top action, sex, and violence. That may usually seem like a bad thing, mainly because it usually is a bad thing, but here it’s all worth it for the Febre character. First of all, he’s played by Tim Roth. That’s right, the guy from Lie to Me.
Second, Febre is probably the most interesting and complex character in what is otherwise a sub par movie. He’s basically the Joker from Nolan’s The Dark Knight, except with an eye patch, a rapier, and ruthless nigh unstoppable swordsmanship. This is a guy who’s first appearance in the film is him killing the protagonist’s parents. He even becomes so crazy that his own allies try to stop them and when he kills them, it forces the Cardinal to side with the good guys. This is important because by all accounts Febre seems and can be described as your typical two dimensional villain. It’s true he has no redeemable qualities, but even though he’s borderline crazy he’s played by a guy who’s really good at playing crazy villains. (I say this because I’m pretty sure that Febre’s awesomeness is not so much due to the writing here, but the acting) By good, I don’t mean Tim Roth is just great at acting crazy (even though he defiantly is) I mean as evil as this guy is, he makes the character likeable. I’m not really sure what to call it: sympathetic? charismatic? Roth plays Febre with powerful intensity. He’s often calm and delights in killing others. He’s sadistic and cruel, but there’s something in the performance that makes him seem as if he’s not entirely in control of his actions. That his madness and excessive pride are what drive him. The protagonist blinds Febre in the beginning of the movie. Usually Febre is calm and calculating when facing any challenge, but when he confronts the guy who took his eye, his control seems to drop and he goes crazier than Rafiki from the Lion King when he has to fight those hyenas.
I know what you’re thinking what does all this have to do with a fight? Well to understand what makes the fight to awesome, you need to understand what kind of character Febre is and how dangerous the battle becomes. So D’Atagnan leads a small army against Febre’s castle. By this time he’s already captured the queen and the main love interest. I’ve forgotten their names, but frankly they’re so bland and two dimensional, they aren’t really worth mentioning. The same goes for most characters in the movie. Maybe, if you really push, the musketeers themselves have some semblance of character, but they’re really more like caricatures of their novel counterparts. When D’Artagnan and Febre finally clash, they have a brutal and daring fight with Febre gaining the upper hand. He’s almost playing with the hero until they reach the place where the real fight begins: the ladder room.
Febre and D’Artagnan have to use all their skill, wits, and acrobatic skills as they fight high above the ground with strategically placed ladders standing between them and certain death. That’s right ladders. The fight scene is very unique and well choreographed. I had never seen a fight scene like it before and I’ve never really seen one like it before. It’s tense, suspenseful, and all around awesome. I highly recommend you watch the movie just for this scene. Or, I guess, you can just look it up on YouTube. But it won’t be engaging without having gone through the build up to the final confrontation.
4. Anakin Skywalker vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi (The Revenge of the Sith)
The Star Wars prequels have gotten quite an infamous reputation over the years, but even crap can have some good elements to it. Like helping the flowers grow.
This is supposed to be the legendary battle between two old friends turned enemies and mark the death of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader. After many long years of war. After all the lies, betrayals, and deceit. After the questioning of morals and comparing philosophies, poster boy heroes of the republic Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker come to blows in a battle to the death on the hellish world of Mustafar. Now I’ve heard a lot of criticisms on this scene. That it’s too over the top. Too symbolic. Way too long. Others often pick the fight between Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Darth Maul in Episode I. This might be correct. In my opinion, however, this fight is a lot more meaningful and does a lot of things right that people tend to miss. People might say that all the lava and jets of fire is way too flashy and unrealistic. I mean they don’t even sweat. It’s like they’re in a big video game. Although some of that is true. The over-the-top fire and lava is actually something the movie gets right. Lucas was trying to run parallels between the fall of Anakin Skywalker and John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost with Mustafar symbolizing the hell Anakin had chosen. Sure you could have had subtle imagery and that’s usually the right direction to go, but I think this symbol as an environment works better for this particular fight scene. If you pay close attention, the world around them actually acts to emphasize on Anakin’s emotional turmoil. There’s splashes and explosions. Everything is crashing and falling apart. The whole planet is in absolute chaos. The fight really isn’t supposed to be about realism. It’s supposed to show the boiling chaos inside Anakin’s heart. The same turmoil that caused him to turn against the one’s he called his allies for so long. That nearly made him kill the one he loved.
Another excellent design choice was the emphasis placed on their matching lightsabers. They’re both blue. Some of you might have missed it or just let it pass by, but this happens almost the second they start fighting. Suddenly the screen is enveloped and flashes of blue light. Some much so, that it’s really rather hard to focus on anything else. It may not seem this way, but this is actually a major call to how different these characters are. Yes, for once the prequels got characterization right. Okay, I’m admittedly not an expert when it comes to Star Wars lore and everything. My knowledge is pretty much limited to the movies and a game or two, but I learned somewhere that a Jedi’s lightsaber color is a depiction of their rank within the order: Guardian, Sentinel, Consular and…master pimp?
I’m not sure which color corresponds to which, but the fact that both Anakin and Obi-Wan had the same colored lightsaber means that not only were they both Jedi, they were both Jedi with the same basic motivations and ideals. The fact that one character was able to stick to his principals while the other faltered so magnificently speaks volumes about how different these two men are while also showing how much they were once alike. Finally, Anakin being burned. Although when I first saw this scene, I thought it seemed more like a dotting of the “I” than a real change(He has to get in the Vader suit somehow right?), after a closer look I found how great a symbol this actually is. If you accept my argument that the raging fires of Mustafar represent Anakin’s inner rage and emotional chaos, then his burning is actually visual symbol of how much he’s been destroyed by his own tragic flaws. It’s that chaos that drove Anakin against his allies and it’s that same chaos that utterly destroyed him. It’s from that chaos that Darth Vader was born.
3. John Preston vs. Dupont (Equilibrium)
Equilibrium is an action packed movie about a 1984-esque despotic future, staring that guy from Braveheart (not Mel Gibson) and a pre-Batman Christian Bale.
Sean Bean is in it too, but he pulls a Sean Bean pretty early on in the film. Bale plays the part of a Cleric named Preston who turns against his own masters to free everyone from a meaningless existence. The world sort of mixes utopic and dystopic traditions in a really cool way. See, the world has essentially put an end to all war, crime, and violence. How did they do this? Through general use of a drug that eliminates all emotion. In fact emotion is so heavily despised that people who are caught feeling are killed. A Cleric’s job is sense these emotions and find who is having them. You don’t even have to be showing emotion. Not only will just owning a piece of emotion provoking contraband like paintings, dogs, or video games immediately get you killed, but Clerics are trained to sense and stomp out any inkling of emotion. So they’re kind of like Catholic priests on crack.
Clerics are also masters of the awesome, but unrealistic martial art of gun kata. There are plenty of fight scenes and by the time Preston fights the “final boss” he’s already left piles of bodies behind him as he waded his way through the most secure place in the city. The society is lead by a man only known as Father. The character Dupont is a high ranking member of the council that serves Father and his main job seems to be regulating the Clerics. Dupont and Preston slowly become enemies as Preston continues down the path of emotions and freedom. Dupont is also the one who eventually orders the death of the Preston’s rebellious love interest. And he succeeds. Yeah, the love interest dies. So Preston puts together a plan to bring down the whole council. He finds and makes friends with the underground resistance (because there’s always one) and convinces them to give themselves up. Preston will be seen as the man who brought down the rebels and be rewarded with the most prestigious gift of the all. The okay to meet Father. This is a privilege so exclusive no one has even done it before. Father had always been hidden away for fear of assassination, but since those rebels have been taken care of there’s no harm in loosening the reigns a bit. The whole idea is getting Preston close enough to Father to assassinate the guy. Unfortunately, Dupot had suspected Preston of feeling all along. Used him to bring in the rebels. Set a trap that Preston fought his way through. The big reveal is that Dupont is actually the acting Father. The original Father having died long ago and being kept “alive” through old recordings and holograms. Dupont and Preston are both masters of gun kata so when they come to blows, the battle is pretty awesome with both dodging death by mere milliseconds. Bullets flying centimeters away from their heads. All this is done at close range mind you. Both fighters have to constantly out maneuver the other by forcing his opponent to point his gun elsewhere while also trying to make a head shot.
Not only is the battle expertly choreographed with badass music to go along, it also carries a much deeper meaning. Remember Dupont is acting as Father. He isn’t Father, just the latest replacement. What this does is make Preston’s battle less about him defeating Dupont and more about fighting an idea. I say an idea and not tyranny or whatever, because what Father stood for was peace and order hence the title: Equilibrium. Preston is protagonist of this movie, but unlike your traditional depiction of a hero, he isn’t bringing peace and order. He’s bringing chaos. So depending on the viewer, Preston might be the villain and the ideals of Father might be that of a utopia. On the other hand Preston could be the good guy and Father represents tyranny. Preston pretty much takes on the same role as V from the V for Vendetta movie. He strives to dismantle a society he deems to be evil and corrupt, but to do that he must replace order with chaos. Kind of the opposite of what a hero usually does. It all depends on your own idea of what justice is. The death of Father is like the destruction of the Old Baily. Symbols are just a tangible representation of an idea and an idea is a powerful thing. Destroying that symbol is like destroying that idea. The death of Father marked the end to that dystopia.
2. Jet Li vs Jackie Chan (The Forbidden Kingdom)
Come on, do I really need to explain this one? It’s Jackie Chan and Jet Li, two legendary movie martial artist icons on screen together AND FIGHTING! If that’s not enough of an explanation as to why this scene is on the list I don’t know what to tell you. But I’ll explain why it deserves to be second on the list. The Forbidden Kingdom is a martial arts movie that’s very loosely based around Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West and like The Musketeer, it’s been fairly Americanized to center less on complex story structure and character and more on action. Come to think of it, there seems to be a strange trend going on. These American remakes may be lacking in the creamy goodness of what makes a compelling and memorable story, but they all seem to have the best action scenes ever. And I mean ever. In the history of ever. Anyway… This scene pits martial arts legends Jackie Chan and Jet against each other for the first, and likely last, time in movie history. Where the movie is concerned, it pretty much comes from nowhere, doesn’t really solve anything (the group is just up one companion), it doesn’t really make sense even in the context of the story, and nothing ever comes from it. If Jet Li didn’t also play the Monkey King, his entire role in the movie would be on the edge of pointless and really stupid.
So yeah, unlike the fight scenes before, this one pretty much made it here on star power alone. However, the fight scene itself is like a work of art. It’s one part martial arts exhibition, one part video game, and one part actor homage. The fighting styles used are not so much telling of each individual character in the story as they are telling of the actors themselves. That’s where the real depth comes in. So where the movie is concerned, the whole thing is close to meaningless, but outside the movie it’s priceless. See, although Jet Li has been in a fair share of comedic roles he is seen overall as the more dramatic actor of the two being in movies like Lethal Weapon 4, Unleashed, and Fearless. Jackie Chan has had his share of dramatic roles, but he’s seen as more of a comedic actor: Every Rush Hour Movie, Drunken Master, this movie, and I think his cartoon show would also count. He’s kind of like the kung fu Robin Williams.
Jet Li’s character’s fighting styles are far more formal and calculating, focusing on precise movement and rigid attacks. And you know when the word “calculating” is used to describe something it’s usually pretty serious business. Jackie Chan’s character on the other hand has a more wild and comical fighting style iconic to the roles he’s mostly known for. Hell, he even uses the bag around his neck to kick Jet Li’s ass for a bit. In full perspective, this fight scene is not only full of action and ingenious choreography, but an important piece of movie history. If it were a vase it would be in some mountain hideaway somewhere being protected by some secret order of tribesmen and then later stolen by some Indiana Jones wannabe and put into a museum. And yes, it has to happen exactly like that. Although I can’t necessarily recommend anyone see the movie, I do recommend seeing this red hot piece of action. It’s just too bad such a once in a lifetime opportunity couldn’t be in a better movie, but it was made and that’s what really counts.
1. Holmes vs. Moriarty (A Game of Shadows)
Before I start commenting on this one, I want to go ahead and admit that I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes geek. Okay? So I’ll grant that this scene getting the number one slot probably came with heaps and heaps of bias. Especially since this fight technically didn’t happen. That being said, IT’S SHERLOCK HOLMES VS MORIARTY IN AN EPIC FIST FIGHT!
There are a lot of things I dislike about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Like the fact it’s more akin to an action movie pretending to be a brainy mystery adventure rather than an actual mystery adventure. They had me all pumped when they added in really cool hints like pieces from Mozart’s Don Giovanni right at the beginning, Die Forelle by Franz Schubert, games of chess, hint of conspiracy, and a whole lot more. I thought surely all these things are going to come together in a masterful fashion and it’s going to be epic. Needless to say, I was dead wrong. All these references to famous classical music pieces, graphology, and those other nods at cultured hobbies seemed to be included because: “This is a Sherlock Holmes movie where he faces the genius criminal James Moriarty! These guys are smart! Put more smart stuff in it!” Holmes and Watson were pretty much just hollowed out shells compared to the last movie. All the good character, quick wit, and sly maneuvering was replaced with cheap low brow humor and action. They were more like those little puppets you see in movies that are usually used to make fun of famous people, except instead of puppets they were the same actors who played Holmes and Watson from the first movie (Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.) I mean the first movie was far from perfect too, but the first movie at least had genuine mystery, intrigue, and suspense. Holmes and Watson were way better characterized AND it was all supplemented by great action and genuine humor. I mean at least Holmes and Watson acted like actual friends and human being toward each other in the first movie. Finally, the greatest sin of all (something I almost couldn’t believe and nearly stopped watching). They killed off Irene Adler and replaced her with some random gypsy woman we’ve never seen before. WTF movie? I think the only reason I kept watching after that happened was becuase I couldn’t believe they actually killed her off. It being an American movie, I assumed she’d be back just in time to save the day and maybe a few orphans. But no. She never comes back.
All that aside, I still enjoyed. Heck, I bought both of them on blu ray I loved them so much. The atmosphere is great. The shots are masterful. Tension is high. The stage is set. Holmes is weakened by a near death experience. Each have managed to win their own little battles. They’re both guests at a peace conference. An impending war is looming over their heads. The action, drama, suspense, and atmosphere are very well played. Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game of chess against one another. It’s a very good representation of their relationship up until this point. Each trying to outmaneuver the other. Both on the opposite ends of the law. Both trying to outthink the other. Both are master tacticians. However, I’m not entirely convinced the creators saw this chess game as an effective metaphor. I’m pretty sure they just thought: “And then they play chess because that’s what smart people do right? They play chess?”
During the game they both stand up. Both reciting the next move. The game is being played purely in their minds. Holmes manages to get a checkmate right after he explains to Moriarty how he cleverly ruined the Professor’s life. Holmes has won the game of wits. Next comes another game of wits, but this one will be played out with a awesome match of fisticuffs. What makes this even better is it begins with Holmes doing his usual thing whenever he gets into a difficult battle. Everything slows down. He does a voiceover explaining exactly how he’s going to take down his opponent and explains how much damage each individual blow is going to do. The audience has seen this part before and we’re used to it. We’re left thinking: “Okay Sherlock has got him now.” Then after the first few exchanges, Moriarty butts in with a: “Come now, you really think you’re the only one who can play this game?” Then for the first time we see someone else pull this trick. Moriarty and Holmes state a strategy, then the other responds. The fight would be mind blowing on its own, but the voiceover gives it a whole new level of complexity. It tells the audience that not only is this a battle of strength and fighting skill, but also a game of strategy and intellect. I highly recommend watching this scene, but unlike some of the other movies on this list and I can also recommend watching the entire movie. Despite its many flaws, some of the unforgivable, it’s still a really good and entertaining movie. Robert Downey Jr. still plays a good Sherlock Holmes and Jared Harris makes for a very charismatic Moriarty. In fact I’d prefer a Moriarty like this in the BBC show Sherlock vs what we got.