Movie martial arts/fight scenes

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mercuryseven
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Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:23 am UTC

I haven't found a thread dedicated specifically to martial arts in movies. Though it's one of a favourite topics discussed in another forum. Like most guys, I enjoy a good and exciting action-packed fight scene in a movie...so I think that "River Tam Beats up Everyone" is the best movie never made. However, it isn't as simple as just picking up a camera and let actors bash each other... so I have seen movies with action scenes that just fall flat, and some that really got me excited.
There are a few sub-genres when it comes to martial arts as well, for instance:
- Surreal / balletic / graceful kung fu: Usually fantasy-like movies set in ancient times, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a well known example. Personally I don't really like those..
- "Street Fighting", or more gritty action, with more realism: Early Jackie Chan movies, Donnie Yen. Bourne Ultimatum would probably be a good example from Hollywood...

So what do you like/dislike about fight scenes in various movies? And what's your favourite fight scenes from any movie? What are the technical aspects that make or break the scene? some I enjoyed watching was
(I wonder if those linked videos constitutes as spoiler...they were simply fight scenes occurring near the end of the movie, but hardly had any bearing on the story. So you can still open the spoiler tags to see what I listed without watching the videos so as to avoid spoilers)
Spoiler:
Jackie Chan vs. Benny Urquidez, Summer Glau vs. Everyone (obviously!), and Donnie Yen vs. Colin Chou (excuse the inappropriate music, I couldn't find a better video)

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby BlackSails » Mon Jul 19, 2010 1:51 pm UTC

The bourne movies had some pretty good fight scenes, iirc.

The new series covert affairs has the worst fight choreographer ever.
Spoiler:
At the end of the pilot, Annie fights a russian assassin. Their fight could have been a demonstration on "things you shouldnt do in a fight." I suppose it might make sense from her, as a half trained, brand new spy, but a seasoned russian KGB assassin should be a bit better.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:13 pm UTC

Pretty much anything with shaky cam is ruined for me.
Lately I've been more impressed with grappling exchanges than the highly unrealistic act of actually slugging someone repeatedly.
I saw the Ipman movies and thought it to be the best martial arts I've ever seen.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Mon Jul 19, 2010 3:48 pm UTC

I despise the shaky cam to...whether it's for martial arts, or any other scene (I'm talking to you, Michael Bay). Sometimes a well-choreographed scene is wasted due to shaky-cams. The Bourne fights were all good, but wasted as the camera shakes them off screen, or just simply shaking the audience dizzy...

One other thing I didn't like is excessive editing. For example when they change camera angles every 2 microseconds. It's a sign that the actors aren't skilled or trained in martial arts. So they filmed the bits separately and stitched them together with editing. Movies like those simply doesn't have a good "flow", or that the action seems disconnected and artificial...

Izawwlgood wrote:Lately I've been more impressed with grappling exchanges than the highly unrealistic act of actually slugging someone repeatedly.


Fights with grappling are really fun to watch, but are very rare indeed. The good ones seem to be performed by MMA practitioners, like Donnie Yen I linked above. Oh yea, a recent one is Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby pseudoidiot » Mon Jul 19, 2010 3:57 pm UTC

I enjoyed the fight choreography in The Transporter*. There was just a sense of efficiency of movement in Frank Martin's actions as he fought off bad guys that I found compelling to watch.


*okay, I enjoyed the fight scenes in all three, but otherwise I like to pretend the 2nd and 3rd installments don't exist.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby jaap » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:22 pm UTC

mercuryseven wrote:Fights with grappling are really fun to watch, but are very rare indeed. The good ones seem to be performed by MMA practitioners, like Donnie Yen I linked above. Oh yea, a recent one is Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

The one in Grosse Point Blank (John Cusack vs. Benny Urquidez) was pretty damn solid.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Jesse » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:40 pm UTC

The reason I enjoyed the Bounre fights was the fact that shaky-cam managed to make sense. The fights were confusing and fast and desperate and exactly replicated what fighting feels like to me

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Malice » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:49 pm UTC

I like fights that mean something, and I like fights that are shot with clarity. So one of the best fights ever is the hallway scene from Old Boy.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Dream » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:34 pm UTC

Jesse wrote:The reason I enjoyed the Bounre fights was the fact that shaky-cam managed to make sense. The fights were confusing and fast and desperate and exactly replicated what fighting feels like to me

I agree. And more, it's the things you miss, or in the hands of a very talented director/editor combo, things you think you missed when in fact you saw everything you were supposed to see that really make such a scene work. One of the best aspects of the Bourne scenes was that they slowed down at the end so that the feeling of frantic action and missed moments pays off with a feeling that the fight actually did some damage to all concerned. Some of these aspects are shared with the scenes in The Dark Knight, which I think also has excellent fight scenes, though they're cleaner and more choreographed than those in the Bourne movies.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Nath » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:04 pm UTC

A bit old fashioned, but as a judoka, I can't help but enjoy James Cagney's fight in Blood on the Sun. Many of Kurosawa's fight scenes were pretty good too.

More recently, Casino Royale had some good fights.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:02 am UTC

Favorite fight scene ever: Jackie Chan in First Strike

Not for artistry or intensity, but because Jackie Chan in a warehouse full of stuff kicks mofuckin' ass.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby dardarness » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:12 am UTC

For lovers of martial arts/fight scenes, I highly recommend Chocolate. It's a Thai movie reminiscent of Jet Li's (probably coz the protagonist patterned her fighting style with that of Jet Li's). Anyhoo, it was a great film in general.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:49 am UTC

dardarness wrote:For lovers of martial arts/fight scenes, I highly recommend Chocolate. It's a Thai movie reminiscent of Jet Li's (probably coz the protagonist patterned her fighting style with that of Jet Li's). Anyhoo, it was a great film in general.


Did you mean this Chocolate Fighter? The Chocholate you linked was for Chocolat which is the French romance / drama. I only saw the Chocolate Fighter trailer, but it seemed so full of awesomeness I can't wait to see it.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby dardarness » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:57 am UTC

mercuryseven wrote:
dardarness wrote:For lovers of martial arts/fight scenes, I highly recommend Chocolate. It's a Thai movie reminiscent of Jet Li's (probably coz the protagonist patterned her fighting style with that of Jet Li's). Anyhoo, it was a great film in general.


Did you mean this Chocolate Fighter? The Chocholate you linked was for Chocolat which is the French romance / drama. I only saw the Chocolate Fighter trailer, but it seemed so full of awesomeness I can't wait to see it.


Uhm, sorry yeah I meant that Chocolate. Or this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1183252/

Didn't check the actual link. lol

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby tin » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:57 am UTC

Lessee now. That one scene in Oldboy where Dae Su kicks everyone's asses down a long corridor. One shot which tracks his action back and forth. There isn't much finesse in the choreography (he's using a hammer, I recall) but dayum, is it ever nicely shot.

Various scenes from Kung Fu Hustle because that whole film doesn't take itself seriously and has a lot of fun with epic effects. Two scenes come to mind from that film. The first being the scene where the arguing wife and husband duo go against The Beast. The wife uses a huge church bell as a megaphone to amplify her sonic screaming attack which sonically destroys the building around her. Fucking. Awesome. Also, the harpists assassins who use a Guqin to play notes like arrows.

I really enjoyed the zero-gravity hotel fight scenes in Inception too. I'm pretty sure I will nerd out over the fight scenes in Scott Pilgrim Vs World too.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Amarantha » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:09 pm UTC

Yuen Wo Ping ftw.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:33 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:Favorite fight scene ever: Jackie Chan in First Strike

Not for artistry or intensity, but because Jackie Chan in a warehouse full of stuff kicks mofuckin' ass.


Man! Clicking on podbaydoor's links has gotten me trapped surfing Youtube links endlessly - I found Police Story 1's mall scene to be the most memorable. From what I read it was among Jackie's personal favourite too...

I loved Jackie Chan's early (pre-Hollywood) movies, probably because he was younger and did many memorable stunts. My favourite movies were the ones where he also served as the director (Police Story 1,2, Project A, Armour of God). Also those days his movie plots were more intense and serious. And they had really well-defined characters and storylines.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:43 am UTC

I really like Jackie Chan as a performer; I find him to be an incredibly talented martial artist. A handful of films I've seen him in were centered more on his performative nature that having him actually get punched/kicked repeatedly, and frankly, I don't think there's anyone quite as his level.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:53 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I really like Jackie Chan as a performer; I find him to be an incredibly talented martial artist. A handful of films I've seen him in were centered more on his performative nature that having him actually get punched/kicked repeatedly, and frankly, I don't think there's anyone quite as his level.


Indeed...so along with his entire staff stunt team. Perhaps In the early 80s he was one of the "Three Dragons" (with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung) where all three of them were doing their stunts on equal footing. I think nowadays the other two Dragons were now mostly doing behind the scenes work such as directing, etc.

The outtakes always show them getting hurt all the time... ouch... Partly the technical reasons why his Hollywood movies aren't as awesome is due to insurance constraints.

Today, I guess the closest approximation we have now is Tony Jaa...but in my opinion only Jackie Chan can be Jackie Chan...haha

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby el_loco_avs » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:50 pm UTC

mercuryseven wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:I really like Jackie Chan as a performer; I find him to be an incredibly talented martial artist. A handful of films I've seen him in were centered more on his performative nature that having him actually get punched/kicked repeatedly, and frankly, I don't think there's anyone quite as his level.


Indeed...so along with his entire staff stunt team. Perhaps In the early 80s he was one of the "Three Dragons" (with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung) where all three of them were doing their stunts on equal footing. I think nowadays the other two Dragons were now mostly doing behind the scenes work such as directing, etc.

The outtakes always show them getting hurt all the time... ouch... Partly the technical reasons why his Hollywood movies aren't as awesome is due to insurance constraints.

Today, I guess the closest approximation we have now is Tony Jaa...but in my opinion only Jackie Chan can be Jackie Chan...haha



Jackie did some stupidly dangerous things even. Falling from a clock-tower for real with no safety measures? Jeez. iirc he was scared and couldn't let go so he just hung there till he couldn't hold on >_<
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby mercuryseven » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:00 pm UTC

el_loco_avs wrote:Jackie did some stupidly dangerous things even. Falling from a clock-tower for real with no safety measures? Jeez. iirc he was scared and couldn't let go so he just hung there till he couldn't hold on >_<


I think I remember that movie...was it Project A? He did three separate takes on that one - which means he actually dropped down the clock tower three times!

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Various Varieties » Mon Jul 26, 2010 5:56 pm UTC

My personal favourite Jackie Chan fights are the one at the end of Gorgeous (pretty much the only thing that makes that film worth watching) - and also any time he's fighting drunken style (in Drunken Master 1 and 2). The rooftop fight in Who Am I is also great. I suppose all of those are among the more prop-lite fight scenes in Chan's movies.

mercuryseven wrote:I despise the shaky cam to...whether it's for martial arts, or any other scene (I'm talking to you, Michael Bay). Sometimes a well-choreographed scene is wasted due to shaky-cams. The Bourne fights were all good, but wasted as the camera shakes them off screen, or just simply shaking the audience dizzy...

I think that the shaky-cam is appropriate when an action scene is shot largely from an overwhelmed victim's point of view, to help convey how overwhelmed and disorientated they are: in Batman Begins, the scene at the docks where Batman's darting in attacking the goons from all angles was a great example of this. But in general, I do prefer to be able to tell what's going on - which is why I thought that most other action scenes in Nolan's two Batman films (Batman vs Ra's Al Ghul in the train, Batman vs Scarecrow and dogs and fake Batmen) were not effectively-shot at all.

Having said that, I loved the editing and camera style throughout the Bourne movies. Lord FlashheartDream's post above is probably a better analysis of why they work than I could write... though it's interesting that we come to opposite conclusions about the effectiveness of that shooting style in The Dark Knight!

The Matrix still has some of my favourite fight scenes. Excellent Yuen Wo-Ping choreography, and even if the actors weren't pro martial artists, the scenes still manage to strike a balance between being fast enough to be impressive (with few obvious signs of undercranking), yet slow enough to always be able to tell what's going on. The shot compositions and actors' poses during the fights are really bold and memorable (probably a result of comic artist Steve Skroce working on the storyboards), which helps them stand out. Reloaded's fights were pretty good too - OK, the Burly Brawl's special effects overreached in any shots where Neo starts flying into the air with a pole (but only in those shots, IMO), but that and the earlier minor Agents fight scene near the start of the movie were great examples of fight scenes being well-matched to their music.

However, I was terribly disappointed with Neo vs Smith at the end of Revolutions: too stop-start, with both fighters constantly getting knocked down (usually so the Smith could deliver some pseudo-profound philosophical line), so there was little time to get into the lengthy, relatively conservatively-edited, dance-like exchanges of parried punches and kicks that I loved about the fight scenes in the first film. (There's one shot in that Revolutions fight scene which shows Neo and Smith in silhouette against a window - I think it involves a jump over a leg-sweep, in slow-motion - which is great, and the only place in that fight which comes close to the fluidity of the first film's heights. But sadly, the Wachowskis cut away from said shot far too soon, and it's back to the same old stop-start). But then, I suppose other people might prefer a fight like that which emphasises its combatants' earth-shattering powers over stylised balletic choreography...

Nath wrote:More recently, Casino Royale had some good fights.

Good, but From Russia With Love still has one of the greatest movie fights ever.

The one in GoldenEye was in some ways a homage to it - but although a decent fight scene, it was nowhere near as great as that of FRWL.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Nath » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:47 am UTC

Various Varieties wrote:
Nath wrote:More recently, Casino Royale had some good fights.

Good, but From Russia With Love still has one of the greatest movie fights ever.

The one in GoldenEye was in some ways a homage to it - but although a decent fight scene, it was nowhere near as great as that of FRWL.

You know, I've always thought Daniel Craig would have been better cast as that Russian agent than as Bond.

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Red Hal » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:40 am UTC

Arise, thread.

I saw Takashi Miike's remake of 13 Assassins last night. It is not a stretch to say that the last 45 minutes of the entire movie are one huge fight scene, and one of the best I've ever seen. I am not normally a fan of Miike's work, he too often shocks purely for the sake of it, but this? This is brutal, touching, and beautifully choreographed. Did I mention it was 200 against 13?

Edit: **Warning ** There is no way that this film even comes close to passing the Bechdel test (It's set toward the end of the Tokuganawan Shogunate), and if you have any triggers this is going to trip them so be careful taking my recommendation at face value.
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Ryom » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:15 pm UTC

I'm going to second Donnie Yen as Ip Man, great fights. One of the best choreographed movies I've ever seen. They use cuts of slow motion so you can actually SEE what's going on. No shaky cam here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y04SKwZNjME <---- Two different styles at play

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Cb2d0ZUVs <---- 10 vs 1

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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:18 pm UTC

This is one of my favourite fight scenes
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Re: Movie martial arts/fight scenes

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:54 pm UTC

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:This is one of my favourite fight scenes

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