Among action flicks the world over Kung Fu movies are a popular and unique genre with a worldwide fan base. These films originated in China, where it’s also known as wushu, and as such reflect elements of the country’s fascinating history and culture. Below are a few interesting observations concerning this genre since it’s origins.
In 1928 Chinese film makers released the very first wushu flick. Taking 27 hours to watch from start to finish, it still clocks in as the longest feature film ever, and was shown in serial format originally. But it was in the 1970’s that Hong Kong martial arts cinema started finding its way to the broader Western world.
Originally, this style of filming was based on a storytelling tradition full of mysticism that was combined with sword fighting. Over time the stories became more ordinary and fighting scenes featured hand-to-hand combat. The heroes in the films were mostly ordinary folk committed to siding with the poor against ruthless rulers and landlords.
Most such flicks today feature real martial arts film stars. This helps to explain part of its popularity as fans adore watching favorite actors and actresses delivering devastating punches and kicks to the bad guys. In order to satisfy the evolving needs of movie goers, the films have adapted to showcase spellbinding gymnastic-style tumbles against harsh, modern urban, gang-infested backgrounds. Stunts have become increasingly daring, and the incorporation of comic elements have helped to cement its status firmly as a huge favorite among fans.
It didn’t take Western film makers long to realize the potential of these movies and it’s appeal to foreign audiences. Especially when gorgeous Asian female actresses with serious martial arts skills began playing leading roles it propelled the genre to new levels of popularity. Many Hollywood movie stars became involved and even influenced lots of young cinema goers to take up training in the martial arts.
A peculiar aspect of the genre’s action scenes are the large numbers of people involved in many fighting situations. It therefore helps that the actors are all highly skilled and accomplished martial artists. Although stunts and action sequences are choreographed and practiced many times over before the actual shooting starts, it’s nevertheless awesome to witness the level of skill involved in the onscreen action.
Early forms of the genre paid little attention to conventional elements of mainstream storytelling like narrative devices. What mattered most was the display of combat moves and skills. Similarly, character conflict and development were of little consequence. But such days are a thing of the past as modern flicks contain complex characters, carefully elaborated plots, and explore thought-provoking themes.
Modern technology has helped to elevate the status of kung fu movies to new heights of film making. Though some fans may find the use of computer generated special effects distracting to the authenticity of older flicks, it still fascinates the fans to no end. Hopefully these bits of information help to clarify why these films continue to be global hits today.
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