Rise of the Legend is a Chinese Kung Fu Film, directed by a young, rising Hong Kong director Roy Chow Hin Yeung and starring Taiwanese young actor, Eddie Peng. Chinese movie is new to my blog, this is actually the first time I’ve decided to talk about it in here. Honestly, I’ve stopped following Chinese films since years ago because of their rather dull story design. Films produced in Hong Kong, particularly, were once very popular among the Chinese society especially for their gangster films and also, the Kung fu movies. Unfortunately, film makers in Hong Kong haven’t succeeded in getting out of their comfort zone to fulfill the growing appetite of the film market since 90s. Outdistanced by the Hollywood, Hong Kong film industry struggles to compete in the major genres and most of their films ended up average or bad. A few examples include the rather awkward vampire movie made in year 2004 – “Twins Effect” ; a mediocre story about a mighty police officer from the future – “Future X-cop”, 2010; and also a recent sci-fi movie which actually looks more like a cult film – “The Midnight After” , 2014.
Rise of the Legend talks about a story of a historically renowned Chinese martial art master – Huang Feihong. If you used to pay attention to Chinese movies from the 90s, you would definitely know this person. Huang’s story has been made into movies for more than a hundred times in the past. He was a respected Kung Fu master, a kind-hearted doctor, a strict yet caring teacher, and a charming hero. Not gonna lie, he was my idol as a child. I remember watching Jet Li fighting off bad guys with just his umbrella on the TV, and knowing that this guy once existed has made the experience more surreal than ever.
The new Huang FeiHong movie excites me but I think it did not surpass the previous versions. Call it nostalgia or whatever, the new story did not engage me as much as the previous films did. I think It’s mostly because that the new film has chosen to talk about a story of the much younger Huang FeiHong, when he hasn’t really developed into a character who I am more familiar with yet. The film has also introduced a lot of new characters to the story (in fact, almost everyone other than Huang is new), so it felt more like an entirely new story. This is an understandable decision though, given that Huang’s story has literally been told for too many times, so I respect that. The new and young Huang FeiHong is more naive, reckless and playful. Played by Eddie Peng, Huang Feihong has turned into a more rebellious character.
The movie started with scenes of Huang killing enemies in cold blood. He cut stomachs open with knife, his fists full of blood and his eyes filled with rage and anger. “Who is this?” is the only question I had while seeing the scenes. I searched Huang’s history up after I finished the movie to find out whether the story is true, and it isn’t. None of the gangster groups and villains mentioned in the film are true. And this got me wondered, why tell such a different story?
If the story creators were only intended to tell an exciting story about how a young Chinese hero took down a malicious gangster group, they don’t necessarily need the name of Huang Feihong. When they do that, they’ll have to bind the story to the character traits. Choosing to tell the story of the young Huang could serve two possible purposes: to develop a new character based on the name of a famous hero just for the sake of his fame, ignoring all his previous characteristics; or to truly explore the development of Huang, considering the social situation then, and the misfortunes he had to go through. Judging from how the story connects Huang’s rebellious act in the beginning to the prestige of a respectful, ethical master in the end, I prefer to believe the preceding motive. The film does offer great visuals to enjoy, albeit its lack of work in character building. The level of details surprised me considerably and the fighting scenes are indeed quite pleasant to watch. It’s like a marathon of art seeing all the slow motion scenes connecting to one another. The actors were charming, but the acting wasn’t remarkable. Let’s say, I get the story, but I don’t feel the story.
Whether it’s the love quadrilateral or the precious friendship between the characters, the film just didn’t take me to the intended emotional stage. At some points I even felt that some shots were too long and they became awkward. It’s quite difficult to give this movie a fair rate because I’ve expected too much from it. Let’s just put it this way: as a Huang Feihong’s film, it will only pass as a 3/5; but to judge it as a new, independent Kung Fu movie, I’ll rate it 4/5.