How Bruce Lee Changed Martial Arts Cinema – Part 2 | Video Essay


Welcome back! Last time, we left off with Fist of Fury In which Bruce Lee revolutionized Hong Kong martial arts cinema Splitting the Kung Fu genre from Wuxia Make sure to check out part one if you haven’t Because in part two Bruce Lee is gonna flex, hard Not only will he be writing, directing and producing a film of his own He’ll set out a trajectory for future Hong
Kong martial arts movies to follow Reaching international stardom in the process Appearing in video games Inspiring the Ninja Turtles Influencing black culture And a lot more Curious yet? Let’s go. After collaborating with director Lo Wei twice Bruce Lee became the biggest star in Hong Kong Naturally, the studio offered him a chance to write, direct and produce his own movie Expressing his vision in its purest form In The Way of the Dragon What we got, surprisingly Is a combination of action and humor Bruce Lee plays an uneducated Kung Fu practitioner Yeah, it’s a weird running gag at this point At a friend’s request He goes to Rome to help protect a Chinese restaurant From being attacked by a local mafia gang Bruce’s ambition is clear from the start Set in Rome With multiple foreign stars Even with some James Bond style action Bruce Lee aims to be international The story, I think, also draws inspiration From Bruce’s personal multi-cultural upbringing With depiction of racism that Bruce Lee may have experienced back in the States Not only from white people But also from his fellow Chinese “All Chinese boxing has is Taichi” “Useless, no?” You can see Bruce plays around with his persona quite a bit Showing his body even more One upping his past characters In a delightful manner But as I said, the most surprising new addition to the genre Is the humor The first 30 minutes of the film contains no action Instead, it opts to entertain you with slapstick and situational comedy The entire opening scene is Bruce Lee in a comedy routine Indicating the intentionality And even when the action kicks into high gear The blood and gore of the past Are replaced with humor And cheeky intercuts with a kitty Believe it or not This is a real game changer Before this film Much of the martial arts genre in Hong Kong is gritty dramas Similar to Kurosawa’s samurai films Additionally, Hong Kong has yet to develop its own brand of humor The Hui Brothers Show began just a few years ago And we are an entire decade away from the golden age of Hong Kong comedy It would seem like Bruce Lee fundamentally understood that Kung Fu films, in some way, are just heightened slapstick Seeing people flying across the room Is funny And you most likely already know the impact From this point on Kung Fu and comedy became inseparable If it’s a Kung Fu film It’s most likely going to be a comedy, too Jackie Chan, Gordon Liu, Sammo Hung and many others Would cultivate the action comedy genre to international fame And it all started, when Bruce decided to tell a joke Not bad, for a directorial debut After The Way of the Dragon Bruce Lee began production on his next film The Game of Death But halfway through filming Bruce Lee finally got his chance to enter true global stardom As he was offered to star in an American film Enter the Dragon With 50 times the budget of The Way of the Dragon Enter the Dragon is undoubtedly the most beautiful Bruce Lee film Cinematography is great And the music is so iconic The theme became THE Bruce Lee music And the fight scenes are just flawless Coming from the American side of cinema Much of the fights are as much about the people as they are about the movement Close ups of people’s faces and reactions give emotions to the fight Sometimes, you don’t need to see the hit to feel it The film even took some cue from the wuxia genre it has left behind Tropes like the woman warrior Makes the genre feel fresh again That’s Lady Whirlwind, Angela Mao No stunt double, this lady can kick Another trope that is from wuxia films is the utilization of terrain Fights are no longer held on flat ground We see people fighting on Rooftops In a treasure room And of course, the iconic mirror room This, too, will go on to inspire other Kung Fu films In the film, Bruce plays a Shaolin martial artist Who goes undercover in a martial arts tournament To gather evidence of the illegal dealings of the tournament host This plot set up is such a brilliant idea It’s copied by, well… Almost every single fighting game at the time Some of which even pitted a Bruce Lee look-alike Against people who can literally throw fireballs A testament to his strength Leaving such a strong impression in people’s mind So many iconic things from this movie that’ll
live on in pop culture There is no way I can talk about all of them So, let’s skip to the most important part: Bruce Lee broke the racial barrier Bruce Lee’s punches and kicks finally hit the heart of audience around the world It made this film an international success An American film featuring a foreign, Asian star? Bruce did the impossible Everywhere you look, you can see influences from this film It further pushes our collective fascination towards Eastern culture Giving us gems like Ninja Turtles And crap like Double Dragon Films like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon became possible It made Hollywood much more willing to cast foreign stars Such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li While not strictly related to Bruce Lee I’d be remiss to not also talk about co-star Jim Kelly Whose terrifically charming performance Made him a big name star He went on to star in many successful blaxploitation films Forever associating Kung Fu with black culture Making movies with African American leads much more widely accepted You see the colorful landscape we have in
Hollywood today? Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu literally shaped history And the power can still be felt to this day Sadly, Enter the Dragon will be Bruce Lee’s final completed film As he died from a cerebral edema Cutting his promising career Tragically short Still Bruce Lee has left us with one final
gift The half finished film Game of Death Over the years There were multiple attempts to finish this film We are going to talk about none of them I just want to show you what Bruce intended to be in the film And through this Show you something you may not have realized In the film, Bruce plays a retired martial arts champion Who is confronted by Korean underworld gangs He’s forced to go up a pagoda To retrieve an unknown valuable item from the top floor At least 39 minutes have been filmed All of which are fight scenes And they are the best of the best Because here, you see one thing you don’t see often You get to see Bruce… having fun “Surprised?” This nunchucks fight begins with a dance off That’s how you know it’s serious business There’s a lot more talking during the fights “Do you speak any English?” And Bruce actively teases his opponent “How do you like that?” great comedic effects “How do you like that?” There are, of course, dramatic moments as well But clearly, Bruce wanted to be lighthearted He wanted to continue what he started in The Way of the Dragon Most of us remembers Bruce as this absolutely confident Immensely wise young man Every word from him Is a word of wisdom But really, I don’t think Bruce wanted that There’s a reason why Bruce kept playing uneducated man in comedic situations Look at his smile Look at him, slightly embarrassed Bruce Lee is a charming, funny man Look at this man’s expression Doesn’t that remind you of someone? I think, Bruce would be very proud So I’m going to end this retrospective With a personal observation I began this retrospective by pointing out that Different people remember Bruce Lee differently That means a lot more than you’d think It’s really because Bruce never has enough time to express himself to us To show us the version of himself he wanted to show us Most of us only remembers his on screen persona Mainly the wiseman badass from Enter the Dragon Confident Arrogant Calm Flawless But if you look at the behind the scene footage from Game of Death You get to see him fail at his iconic nunchucks play A move that he must have practiced thousands of times And he failed multiple times And for a brief moment You get to see him… laugh it off Having fun This is how I’m going to remember him From now on

100 thoughts on “How Bruce Lee Changed Martial Arts Cinema – Part 2 | Video Essay

  1. So one thing I didn't bring up was the recent controversy in regards to his depiction in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Reasons being I haven't watch the film, and I don't think I will watch it any time soon.
    I mean, If all of Bruce's friends and families reacted so negatively to his depiction… Yes, I'll trust them over Tarantino.

  2. So why a family member was embarrassed and ashamed about the foolishness of him portrayed in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood? What is your take on that?

  3. Really great video. Heartwarming even. You should definitely try to get his family to see this? If you ever do a video on Brandon Lee I'll definitely watch.

  4. Very nice video! Most creation of comic book heroes were influenced by Bruce as well. How do you feel that in 2019, Hollywood has fully embraced Asian martial arts but not Asian actors? In the 80-90’s there were Asian martial art stars. Then eventually a white actor would be the star while an Asian actor would be a sidekick. Then eventually a white actor with an Asian master. Now it seems you can’t find an Asian actor in martial arts films. Bruce Lee fought to be able to teach the west. But a small part of me understands why some Asians didn’t want to. Just something I’ve been thinking about as I got older. Once again, nice job!

  5. Thumbs for anyone who's inspired to learn many different martial arts (MMA) after watching Burce Lee's movies or just traditional martial artist. I have been learning boxing, muay thai, tae kwon do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I'm planning to learn more Martial Arts for my own self development and self defense all thanks to father of MMA BL miss you so much master of Jeet Kune Do!

  6. Why did we have to lose lots of legends so fast, so young 🙁

    I wonder what's going to happen if Bruce Lee is still alive until today
    He's probably disappointed how Hollywood and Hongkong Cinema turn out to be today

  7. I did not realize Bruce had such a comedic side. Totally forgot that Way of the Dragon was so funny. And the Jackie Chan/Bruce Lee connection. I love it! Jackie mirrors Bruce in a way. Like Jackie has said something along the lines of: "Jackie is good. You can also be good. Lots of takes." Same with Bruce and the nunchucks.

  8. Just an amazing part 2, as I said in my comments of the part 1 of this amazing look at Brice Lee and all he did for cinema and to advance the focus of not just Kung Fu films, but Asian male's in cinema (read western). This was a very good, in depth, intelligent breakdown and make me happy I subbed months ago. I know in speaking with the few Asian friends wife and I met along the way there really is cinema before Bruce and cinema AFTER Bruce. It saddens me we never got to see him in his prime as we should of gotten 30 or 40 more films and so so so much more from his brilliant mind and good soul, sadly we must just appreciate all we got from him and in time his son, and thru his friends and family and his own martial art his brilliance lives on. However for us he will always be someone we respect as much if not more for all he did to combat racism and ignorance even more then the baddest man alive he was when he lived….

  9. I recently watched "Enter The Dragon" (for the 50th time), and I realized how very similar it is to the first Rush Hour film (an all-time favorite of mine) in terms of feel and style.

    Knowing the fact that Rush Hour was heavily inspired by the iconic 1973 Bruce Lee film made my viewing experience for both films that much better than it did before.

  10. I hope you one day do a vid on how Jackie Chan helped save Hong Kong cinema from Bruceploitation, I think think Lee would've been proud of him for that.

  11. The thing that I find myself wondering about the most, is the potential of Bruce Lee behind the camera. Obviously his on-screen is amazing but what if he had lived another 30-40 years?
    Way of the dragon had a budget of 130k. Enter the dragon had a budget of 850.000. Speed had a budget of 30 million, Die hard had a budget of 28 million. The matrix had 68 million dollars. Terminator 2 was one of the first movies to break 100 million.

    Can you imagine what Bruce could have made with another 30 years of experience and a 30 million dollar budget?

    I can't.
    And I would've loved to see it.

  12. No one perfect and everyone have is bad moments too that we need lerning from that but keep going and try to be you, the best of you that you can get, everyone and is progress off course depending is time training….

  13. I know your channel is focused on cinema, but Bruce's influence also reached people in other areas of entertainment. Namely, video games. Would be great if you could do a video on that, Street Fighter, Tekken, etc.

  14. I dont remember who said it, but on of the dvd's of a bruce lees movies they had some extras, and someone summed up what bruce lee brought to the game. She said it was sex appeal. I'd say thats accurate. Asians werent really known for having a ripped physiques and american swagger. As strange as it is to say as a straight male, i'd say that sums it up perfectly Bruce lee brought sex appeal to the asian lead. Thats his largest contribution to pop culture.

  15. i like how u said holly wood is diverse and showed star wars clip… it is NOT diverse.. asian male lead is very rare in hollywood again

  16. Well done, sometimes people forget how good of an actor Bruce Lee was it is so sad he and Brandon Lee had so much potential and such short lives.

  17. wow that is some new insight! I never knew of Bruce Lee's comedic aspects, I always figured Jackie Chan was the first to introduce comedy into martial arts.

  18. I watched Quentin Tarantino's – once upon a time in Hollywood, a few days back and was extremely taken aback by this arrogant and uncouth portrayal of Bruce Lee. It was a nightmare to sit through that scene, noticing other people giggling and laughing. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this very educative and informative video essay on BRUCE LEE. I would definitely share this essay among all my aquintances. I hope this would make people understand that selling a movie on the cost of ridiculing someone, whose contribution to cinema is unparalleled, is not at all acceptable.

  19. Bruce Lee was murdered. He was the best of the best. I always watch reruns of Bruce Lee. Enter the dragon was Bruce Lee's real voice an is best 🎥 movie. RIP buddy !!!!!
    Joe Misciagna

  20. Gone in the peak of his prime. He will always be remembered and will always be a legend. There are only 2 people that I want to be like, and that's Michael Jordan and Bruce Lee.

  21. THANK YOU, PART ONE WAS INCREDIBLE, PART 2 WAS EVEN BETTER. I WAS 8YRS OLD WHEN BRUCE DIED I REMEMBER FEELING A SENSE OF LOSS. THIS VIDEO BROUGHT OUT SO MUCH EMOTION, STILL AS POWERFUL AS EVER. THANK YOU!!

  22. He was the director producer and writer also of the movie after he died Raymond Chow and the Warner Bros had already a signed paperwork from mis Linda Caldwell Lee that indicates that if anything should happen to master Bruce Lee they could do the production.. unbelievable

  23. Never i've thought i'll seen Bruce Lee as the way you showed him. As a guy having fun and doing the things that he loved until the very end.
    And is something that's true for geniuses, most of us belive they are those single-minded individuals that take their thing really serious and they don't care for nothing else. But i think that what we miss, is when they stick true to the things they do great. They loved it, and feel complete joy while doing it.
    I saw my brother editing and there are few moments that i seen him as happy as when he saw the final product of his work. And that's something we shall all learn

  24. This is proof he completed Enter the Dragon before he started Game of Death..Many said that he stop filming Game of Death to work on Enter the Dragon which i never believed.

  25. Great and,should i say, " emotional content "' .Lee would of definitely be proud with Donnie Yen,too.Cheers and Respect for the hard work you put in those essays.

  26. That was beautifully done. I literally am starting to cry as I write this. Thank you for such a nuanced, human perspective you brought to this video. I think you’ve done as good a job of capturing what Bruce meant to all of us, and who he was as a person, as good as any big budget doc I’ve seen on him. If not better. Well done.

  27. This is an excellent tribute to the greatest martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee!!! Giving him much deserved credit that is definitely due to him!!! Thank you for posting!!

  28. Another poignant video. Congratulation because I believe You have become a storyteller a.k.a. a filmmaker. I really hope we get to meet in person one day.

  29. What you forget to mention is that it was Bruce Lee and Raymond Chows own company Concord that made Way of the Dragon . Forgive me I forget the full name of the company .

  30. Good observation on the humor; that’s one of the things friends and family talk about a lot: what a jokester and prankster Bruce was. And, yes, Way of the Dragon was the first real kung fu comedy, and I think he would've explored and established that genre before Jackie. Heck, they probably would've teamed up with Sammo—what a trio THAT woulda been! Basically, it gets down to how multi-faceted the man was as a person and filmmaker. Way with its focus on laughs and slapstick was totally made for Chinese audiences; Bruce, to my knowledge, never intended to release it in the States, saying it wouldn't do as well here, which was the case. Enter the Dragon with its James Bond influence and slickness—and showed Lee’s “cool” side with the funky dashiki and fly-looking 3-piece suit he wore—was very much an Americanized production he predicted would be a big hit here but not as much in Asia, which again was dead-on. Finally, it's sad that while he opened the door for a collaborative or merged East/West film industry, no one managed to keep it open beyond occasional projects like, as you pointed out, the Rush Hour movies—which, let's be honest, were used as an opportunity for a non-stop barrage of cringey-ass, 3rd grade-level Chinaman jokes directed at the legendary Jackie Chan, and now continues with Tarantino's jackass Bruceploitation parody of a man who broke ground and tried to END Asian stereotypes, not BECOME one. Sigh… 
         Anyway, mahalo for the videos, my friend. It is much appreciated.

  31. Very very well done….I remember it like it was yesterday….I was looking through the newspaper and I saw Bruce's photo and the news about his death…I cried like a baby… I'm starting to tear up now…He was truly a trailblazer !!

  32. FF= It’s Not Just Video Games and Movies that had Bruce Lee like Characters, it’s Anime Too Most Notable being Rock Lee in the Naruto Franchise

  33. Im a loss for words.. Ive seen many many videos, on him all his movies.. And yet.. you come and bring a fresh take to the Man that is Bruce Lee.😎👍
    True to the title of this 2 part video, you delivered bro.

  34. Yes! I've always seen him as a comedic light individual. And even personal stories say that he was such a prankster. Glad to see I'm not the only one who sees this. Thanks again!

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