Review – The Grandmaster (2013)

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the-grandmaster-5680e9e803bf2Welcome to Ip Man Week: Day 5. It’s the final day for the films covering the life of Ip Man, and we’re really ending with quite a bang, but we’ll get to that in a second. Next week, it’ll be Simulated Reality Week, so movies that take place in a world where people don’t know whats real and what’s not, so that’ll be interesting. The Grandmaster is the only movie about Ip Man that I can think of that’s ultimately a standalone film rather than a series, which isn’t a bad thing, but I am beginning to understand why series are preferred over something like this, being standalone. Either there’s a lot to this man’s life, or movie makers want you to assume as much. Regardless, it’s better to split stories up when you have something like this.

“Ip Man’s peaceful life in Foshan changes after Gong Yutian seeks an heir for his family in Southern China. Ip Man then meets Gong Er who challenges him for the sake of regaining her family’s honor. After the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and struggles to provide for his family. In the mean time, Gong Er chooses the path of vengeance after her father was killed by Ma San.” (IMDb)

Ultimately, while the film is about Ip Man, it’s also about a couple of other folks as well. You have Gong Err, who plays a very important role in Ip Man’s life, and she has her own story of vengeance that the film focuses on. Another character is the Razor. Now, this dude was really cool but ultimately unnecessary. I’m left wondering why he’s really even in there, other than to be, you know, cool. I truly feel as if the focus of the film is a bit all over the place because no one was really sure who to focus on and when. The fights are amazing, the visuals are absolutely stunning, but the story and focus were where the film ultimately held weakness. Because of that, you feel the length of the film, even with all of the fight sequences and stunning visuals.

However, when all is said and done, do the positives outweigh the negatives? Let’s break down The Grandmaster to find out, shall we?

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PEOPLE SCORE – 9/10
Acting – 2|Characters – 2|Casting – 2|Importance – 1|Chemistry – 2

First off, we had a pretty great people score. The acting in this film was spot on most of the time, the characters are memorable again, and even though this was yet another actor in the role of Ip Man, he did a great job in that role, and given the tone of the film, I think he fit it perfectly. Because this was sort of an aimless film, no one really added to the plot, but most of them DID have an important role to play regardless, and everyone worked very well together.

WRITING SCORE – 7/10
Dialogue – 2|Balanced – 0|Story – 1|Originality – 2|Interesting – 2

Next up was the writing score, which like I said, wasn’t exactly perfect, but it did do some good things. This actually had some decent dialogue choices, but as I normally also consider martial arts part of the dialogue, it guaranteed itself full points there. This isn’t a balanced story, though. It’s all over the place, there’s too much focus on too many characters in too many places. As great as it looks, this isn’t very effective storytelling at all. The story wasn’t much of a story, either, but you do want to know what will happen, and you do want to see it for the story, for whatever that’s worth. I know this is the third entity I’ve seen with Ip Man and telling his story, but I consider this highly original. I’ve never seen Ip Man done like this, it’s really interesting and I liked it quite a bit.

BTS SCORE – 10/10
Visuals – 2|Directing – 2|Editing – 2|Advertisement – 2|Music – 2

We have a perfect score with what’s going on behind the scenes, though. The visuals in this movie are insane, and a big part of that has to do with both the director of photography and the director. The director did a wonderful job with camera placement in every shot of this film, even the “unexciting” parts looked fantastic, and the editor definitely played a substantial part piecing everything together as well. I consider this as advertised, and even the music and sound editing was really working for this film. Everything was amazing.

NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 7/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 1|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 1|Falling Action – 1

With biographical films, no matter how true to life they are or not, typically have issues with the narrative arc. The introduction is there, of course, as we all get super familiar with Ip Man once again, as well as all the other main characters. There isn’t any real inciting incident, though. In the beginning, Ip Man climbs his way up to what might be a big battle, but it doesn’t turn out that way, and then it keeps going for 90 more minutes, so I’m not entirely sure what to call that. Obstacles are pretty clear and pretty great. The climax was actually really good, but it had nothing to do with Ip Man, so I feel a bit gipped there. Falling action was okay, but you can’t really get a perfect falling action with a biography.

ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 9/10
Rewatchability – 2|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 2|Impulse/Talk – 1|Sucks Audience In – 2

Next up, how entertaining is it? Pretty darn. Regardless of the fact that it is a biographical film that doesn’t seem to have a clear path of direction, it’s still loaded with a lot of great things. Is it rewatchable? Absolutely. I consider this to be the 2nd best movie featuring the character of Ip Man all around. Is it fun? Heck yes. Not only does it look fantastic, but it is expertly choreographed as well, which definitely helps to pull an audience in. This is also one of the few I’ve watched this week that I wouldn’t mind buying, too. As far as talking about it? I don’t have a strong urge to discuss it with others, but I wouldn’t mind pointing out that it exists to others that might not know about it.

TOTAL SPECIAL – 45/50
Ip Man – 10|Martial Arts – 10|Visuals – 10|Foreign – 5|Halway Decent – 10

Now, I’ll talk about the categories that I wrote before watching the film in anticipation of what it held. First of all, how does this portray the character of Ip Man? In my eyes, perfectly. Ip Man is like this genius in martial arts that just can’t be defeated, and he definitely shines as such here. He’s not as happy-go-lucky as Donnie Yen is in the other series, he’s more serious, and that doesn’t make me feel as if it’s wrong. It makes me feel as if they took it more seriously, so I liked that. How is the martial arts? Expertly crafted and beautifully shot, which brings me to the visuals. This is the second time visuals is showing up in this review because I specifically was expecting it in this film, thanks to the trailers, and I wasn’t disappointed. It brought the visuals tenfold. How was this film as a foreign film? I feel like it was just okay. Because it had narration, I felt like I was reading more than I needed to, but the rest of the movie felt fine in that regards. Finally, was this movie halfway decent? Absolutely, no question about it.

TOTAL – 87/100

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