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The Legend Is Born: Ip Man

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • The Legend Is Born: Ip Man



    Released By: Funimation
    Released On: 12/13/2011
    Director: Herman Yau
    Cast: Donnie To, Fan Siu-Wong, Yuen Biao, Huang Yi, Sammo Hung
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Film:

    If you're anything like me, you hadn't heard of Ip Man (or Yip Man) until the hugely successful Donnie Yen martial arts flicks hit the shelves. Even so, most folks are not aware that he was a real person, and that without him and his teachings of Wing Chun martial arts, we might not have heard of Bruce Lee, his most famous student. While the first two films release focused (loosely) on Ip Man's life around the years leading up to the Second World War, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man tells the story of Ip's schooling in Wing Chun and later at college in Hong Kong.

    Starting in 1905, Man and his adopted brother, Tin Chi, are dropped off at the Wing Chun Martial Arts School by their father, who is going away on business. Under the tutelage of Chan Wah-Shun (Sammo Hung), both brothers learn the traditional fighting style while mingling with the other students, becoming very close with Mei Wai who develops a crush on Man. Shortly after Ip and Tin Chi's arrival, Chan Wah-Shun passes into the great beyond, leaving his successor to run the school.

    Flashing forward to 1915, we find Ip Man at St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong, learning English and becoming familiar with the works of Shakespeare, his need for Wing Chun seemingly left behind in Foshan. However, during a soccer match, Man is forced into a confrontation with a man who makes a comment about “Chinese Pigs”. Beating the man effortlessly, Man becomes the talk of the town, his reputation leading him to an introduction with a local shop-keeper, a former student of the Wing Chun style of fighting. Despite the fact that his progressive technique had him ousted from the school, he shows Man a thing or two, defeating him in a fight within seconds. Ip Man becomes his student, later returning to Foshan to show the other students (and his brother) his fancy new moves.

    Things aren't all rosy in Foshan, however; Tin Chi has opened a dumpling stand and become involved with some questionable businessmen, and the school (echoing shades of Fist of Fury) is being threatened with a takeover. Mei Wai is now grown up, and though Tin Chi has his eye on her, her heart clearly belongs to Man. And although he is berated for the non-traditional fighting technique he has brought back to the school, it is those moves and Ip Man's loyalty that are required to save the day when the bad guys show up, in the form of some mafia-like businessmen who have enough dirt on Tin Chi to convince him to do just about whatever they want....including turning on his brother and his school.

    Historically accurate? Not really. Writer Erica Lee has taken a lot of liberties with the story of Ip Man, in an attempt to make it more interesting than it really is. And although she may have succeeded on that level, The Legend is Born is really not that interesting of a film. With Donnie Yen publicly swearing to never do another film about Ip Man, a newcomer had to be brought in; and Donnie To is definitely up to the challenge; the acting is certainly not the problem in the film. Nor is Herman Yau's direction, which is done tastefully, with a good eye for composition and taking advantage of some amazing setpieces. The costumes are also well-done, and there seems to be a severe attention to detail in the props. One gets the feeling that they've been transported back in time to Foshan. The problem is that the film never really gets past mundane, despite the twists and turns that Lee has thrown in. It's a shame, really; the fight scenes are choreographed well (though there definitely could be more of them) and it's such a nice film to look at, a little more substance would've been welcome. All in all, The Legend is Born is not a bad film, but considering the subject matter, it should have been excellent.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Legend is Born: Ip Man comes to blu-ray in a great looking 2.35:1 transfer. The colours are wonderful for the most part, with good black levels and a lot to look at in the form of scenery. There are also two audio tracks to choose from, an English and a Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option. While the English option has its laughable moments with over the top dubbing, it's definitely the track with more punch to it. The Cantonese track is fine as well, and sounds great, it just doesn't seem to have the same dynamics. Both tracks make good use of the surrounds, and the dialogue is clear and consistent throughout.

    There are also a couple of extra features on the disc, the first one being a Making of that runs just over 13 minutes. There are interviews with a number of the actors as they discuss their characters and other aspects of filming. Be warned, there are some pretty major spoilers in there as well.

    Next up is a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as 8 other trailers.

    The Final Word:


    Those expecting Donnie Yen-like awesomeness prevalent in the first two films will more than likely be disappointed in this instalment. Taken on its own, The Legend is Born: Ip Man is mildly entertaining on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you've got nothing else going on.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















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