Ip Man: How to Write Superman | Video Essay


If I could make one superhero movie in my
life It’d be IP-Man Followed by Superman Stupid jokes aside What can I say about the Ip Man series? “Wing Chun” “Ip Man” With the fourth film on the horizon It’s high time we pay this series some respect The series has firmly cemented itself as a
Kung Fu classic For its kick-ass, exhilarating Wing Chun action Which ushered in a renaissance of traditional kung fu flicks But everything that can be said about its
action Has been said by other video essays on YouTube All one of them… So for this episode I want to take a different approach I want to talk about the story Throughout the entire Ip Man series The master himself is depicted as this morally incorruptible Wise and nearly invincible character You know, Superman! How do you write an antagonist for a flawless
character? The Ip Man series tackled this question 3
different times With varying degrees of success We’ll see what the series did right and wrong Draw some parallels to Superman’s past works And see what we can learn from it Strap yourself in This is going to be a weird one. Let’s start from the beginning Ip Man is a 2008 martial art film featuring Donnie Yen Loosely based on the life of the titular
real life Wing Chun master In the film, Ip Man started off as a flawless
character Rich, humble, polite, popular, and confident And most importantly, capable Right of the bat, we have a problem In storytelling, the hero usually starts with a flaw “If the world found out what we truly are,
what we possess” “We could lose our way of life” He or she goes through hardships Confront and overcome the flaw “All of you are wrong” “To turn your back on the rest of the world” Emerges victorious at the end, usually But Ip Man, like Superman, starts off flawless How can he comes out the other end as a better man? What can possibly challenge him? The Imperial Japanese Army invaded China Suddenly, the hero who can solve everything by punching Finds himself unable to fight his way through life His family is struggling And his friends are unjustly killed by Japanese
Army officers In rage, Ip Man seeks revenge “I want to fight ten!” By challenging and plow through 10 black belts Only to realize how truly powerless he is
at changing the state of war “I found out how useless I’m, today” “I can’t do anything” The film realizes that, Ip Man may be flawless He is not perfect No one is perfect By giving him a challenge he can’t punch his
way through The film forces Ip Man to self-reflect And find meanings in what he does Why he fights What can he do with his skills This is what I’d like to call
the “Peace on Earth” method of writing Superman In the book “Superman: Peace on Earth” The Man of Tomorrow also deals with a much larger evil force World hunger Superman attempts to end it By sending food to impoverished areas But militarized local government responses
with extreme hostility Their fight causes the food source to be poisoned And Superman realizes that This is a systematic problem he cannot solve alone His mission is not to save people But to inspire others to do good, and change the world And inspiration is exactly what Ip Man does,
too After much contemplation Ip Man decides to use his skill to protect and inspire And when the opportunity arises He challenges a Japanese general to a duel “If you want to see me fight” “I’ll give you a fight!” He wins Inspiring the crowd to take up arms, and overwhelms the Japanese army A man can be all powerful A man can be morally perfect But no man is above learning a new lesson Create an antagonistic force that your hero can’t uses his strength to get through Force him to change and adapt And by the end of the story Ip Man comes out the other side Having a better understanding for the power
of martial art Ip Man was a smashing success So Ip Man 2 was inevitable For the sequel, the filmmaker aims to up the
ante I remember during an interview Producer Raymond Wong says The biggest flaw from the first film is the
lack of challenge in fight scenes All of Ip Man’s fights are very one sided
affair So the suspense is low It’s a sentiment I only half agree But their solution is blunt and simple Bring out Doomsday Ip Man 2 tells the story of Ip Man settling
down for a new life in Hong Kong And starting a Wing Chun school Only to met with hostility from other local grandmasters Fights after fights Ip Man’s moral code gains the grandmaster’s respect Enemies gradually become friends Later, the grandmaster is provoked and insulted
by an absurdly racist boxer “So this is Chinese boxing” “You should stick to dancing” And in their impromptu East vs. West match, the grandmaster is killed Now, Ip Man must challenge the boxer To defend the name of Chinese martial art The Doomsday method is arguable the easiest
way of giving Superman a challenge Just give your invincible hero an equally
invincible opponent And it does work Say what you will about the DCEU The superman fights are visually interesting And are exciting to watch The same can be said for Ip Man 2 There are a lot more moments of active problem solving That makes the audience go “Ooh!” And engage the viewer into the fighting process However, problem arises when it is the only
challenge Ip Man faces Neither the infights nor the racism post a
real challenge to Ip Man on a fundamental level Consequently, he doesn’t go through an arc It’s the same mistake recent Superman films
made The films are too preoccupied with attacking
his physicality And questions his morality But fighting is what Superman is good at And morality is what defines Superman “I’m here to fight for truth and justice,
and the American way” You wouldn’t see Superman emerges the other
side of the story Physically stronger, or morally superior I think this is why, despite fights in Ip
Man 2 are more visually interesting They don’t seem as iconic to me Ip Man may be plowing through 10 black belts
with no suspense in the first film Narratively, that was the moment Ip Man changes He realizes how useless he is He wins the battle but lost the war And it serves as a powerful release of emotion Each fight tests Ip Man’s commitment, his
wisdom, his determination Instead of just a roadblock to get over So, while the Doomsday method may make fight
scenes more interesting It cannot be the only challenge a flawless
hero faces While making your fight scenes suspenseful Don’t forget to make it emotional And finally, we come to Ip Man 3 After the events of the first two films Ip Man is now a full fledge hero Everybody knows him And people either want his help Or want to dethrone him But when Ip Man is too busy fighting for the
people The true antagonist of the film creeps up
on him His wife’s cancer Instead of someone he can fight directly Or indirectly This time, there is no fighting that can help For every fight Ip Man partakes only takes away precious time he could’ve
spend with his wife The fight scenes continues to improve With even better use of the environments And much more suspense and challenge Often, fights aren’t just skirmishes Each fight has a different goal “Three minutes” It’s fun to watch But narratively, these fights aren’t critical to the story The story of Ip Man dealing with his wife’s cancer In other words, the film focuses much more on Ip Man as a character Than Wing Chun as a martial art This is what I’d refer to as the “All-Star”
method In “All-Star Superman”, the Man of Steel himself
is dying “I’m dying” And for his remaining times Superman spends it with Lois While juggling his work on protecting Earth By giving the hero a Kobayashi Maru What a hero CAN do becomes irrelevant He can’t do anything What he CHOOSES to do, in turn Gives great insight into his characters Ip Man chooses to learn his lesson And knows his limit He skipped on a important title defense duel So he can have a dance with his wife Ip Man comes out of this trauma, changed Not necessary objectively superior But gaining a new perspective, nonetheless So that’s three lessons about writing Superman That I’ve learnt from rewatching the series Some may consider Ip Man as nothing more than
popcorn action flicks Which is a totally fair assessment But it doesn’t mean it’s devoid of value Looking deeper, and you can always find something
to learn from While this is a bit of a strange exercise
on the surface It’s likely what the writers had to do to
keep improving each film After all
A man can be morally perfect But no man is above learning a new lesson It’s for this reason I’m very excited for
Ip Man 4 Even if most people think it should’ve ended
long ago But what do you think? Do you like the Ip Man series? If you can write Superman How would you write him? Let’s talk more.

100 thoughts on “Ip Man: How to Write Superman | Video Essay

  1. Did you know you can submit your own subtitles for all of our videos?

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  2. What a pleasant surprise, to see a video combining two of my favorite things: Martial arts and Superman. ☺️ I love your assessment, and agree!

  3. I liked your video, very creative to associate these different superman stories with the IP man movies.

  4. Three rules for writing Superman well: 1) He cares about everyone. EVERYONE. That includes criminals; that includes Lex Luthor. There is absolutely nobody that he sees no value in. 2) Superman seeks to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. 3) Superman uses his powers creatively. I will note that Zack Snyder didn't get ANY of these right.

  5. At the beginning of IP Man 2008 he was consistently ignoring his wife all the time. <—– Flaw.

  6. I agree with what you said in the video, I didn't know ip man 4 was announced but I'm a big fan and I can't wait

  7. Good video. I agree an all accounts in regards to superman and ip man. I did find that ip man 2 was highly stilted and frankly, ridiculous.

  8. Anyone else notice that Ip Man 2's plot is a carbon copy of Rocky 4? British boxer dood is totally Ivan Drago, and once I saw that the rest of the plot suddenly became eerily similar…

  9. When a man becomes the strongest individual in the world, you give him problems that cannot be solved by one man.

  10. great essay. looking at ip man like a superhero works really well. he's someone to be admired from the start, but the films use situations where he can grow to make him relatable. gives a lot of reverence to a historically significant chinese figure and humanizes him as well.

  11. I am a huge fan of the Ip Man series, and it's not just the choreography of the fight scenes or the impressive camera work. I'm deeply attached to this character due to the challenges he overcomes or comes to terms with. Thank you for making this video.

  12. Ip Man is like the wise father of martial arts. You look up to him and respect him, even if you dont necessarily relate to him as a person.

  13. I will admit that I clicked on this video with the intent of writing an angry rant to defend superman.
    However, the creator of this video spoke of the true battles faced by the characters in such an eloquent and approachable way that I came to understand a viewpoint I would have otherwise never considered.
    The writers of the recent superman movies could learn a lot from Ip Man. Thank you for helping me see that.

  14. Can't take watching anything about IP man anymore since i read his bio. During WW2 his 2 daughters starved to death but he survived. So i assume he chose to feed himself over them and they died. Its possible they all ate very little and he was more fit to survive, but i can't shake the possibility that he chose himself over them.

  15. I love this video, and am grateful for this insight. Thank you for making the effort to make this video, it made my day

  16. Ohhhhhhh man I'm excited for Ip Man 4. Now to your video. A very awesome essay and I enjoy most of your videos, just like I do this one. And Ip Man being one of my favorite series, I thank you for making this video 👍🏻.

  17. “What can possibly challenge him?”

    Me never having seen this before.

    “Yea what can?”

    “The Imperial Japanese Army invades China”

    “Oh yep that’ll do it”

  18. This was a fantastic essay, great comparisons. I only knew the Ip Man films from the fight scenes and general plot summaries, you've opened my eyes to alot.

  19. "No-one can do everything, but everyone can do something."

    This is why one can influence the outcome of something far greater than oneself. Inspire others, and you CAN change parts of the world.

  20. I love IP Man 1, but never saw 2 or 3 because I heard bad reviews. After this video I’m actually really excited to check them out now, so thanks for the in-sight man!

  21. I've never seen an Ip Man movie, but if I had to write a 4th film, I would have it be the end of his life, where he has to confront death. I think that sort of plot could lean really well into legacy, lessons on morals and the indirect effect they have in this sort of butterfly effect way, and learning to value the people in this world who can't be Ip Man. Learning to look at the people around us who may only contribute in ways we never really bother to acknowledge and understanding that while we may be leaving this world, the value those little people add to society is immeasurable.

  22. Damn this is a good video, with an equally good message behind it. Now I want to see these films myself.

  23. The problem with IP man's first film, the lack of a challenge, reminds me of John Wick, where at no point does he face a challenge, especially after achieving his main goal. It's interesting to see how sequels attempt to solve these problems.

  24. Basically a fresh way to present a flat character arc, by giving the arc to the world around him.

    Brilliant.

  25. I hadn't heard of these films. Your explanations are great and have made me want to watch all these! Thanks for the video!

  26. What about the prequel? Young Ip? Or the Final Fight? I know its not Donnie Yen (whom I love) but its worth mentioning

  27. I am developing a comic series I hope to see adapted into a movie. I just want to tell the story, so if it never goes past comics, that is ok too. My goal is to not make any fight outside of the main character’s league, but to add an element of struggle every time. That could come from happenstance, luck, a stronger opponent or anything in between. As the story is told, I want you to relate to her own struggles since she is a teenager on her own. Sure, she is trained, but no one is really prepared for life on their own, especially with no notice. The antagonist isn’t always a person, but also things, the environment, fatigue, the journey itself. I think that is something the Ip Man movies evolved into. A journey where we can connect to not just who he is, but what he represents as well. I just hope that the evolution continues with the next film.

  28. I rather enjoyed the boxing fights in 2 (and 3). It was nice to see respect from the film makers for Western fighting styles for once as they are usually quickly over-powered in martial arts movies after the mandatory "big guy takes two hits unflinchingly" moment. Didn't like the cheating the judges did in 2, but it was pleasant to see the respect for the power and speed of the boxers.

    Didn't care much for MoS's super fights. Kind of boring spectacles in my view.

  29. God, Ip Man. For me, no other martial arts movie comes anywhere close to how much I love this film and its' sequel. Fuck it, i'm going to watch it again now. I've lost count how many times it's been. 😀

  30. Man of Steel superman is still one of my favorite superman. He serves more of an inspiration to me than any other superman movie. It was about superman finding himself and choosing to come out or not. As an immigrant in America, it was something that really touched me because superman isn't just born with the American dream. He had to find his identity and chooses whether to use his native identity or not and at the end, he chose to be both.

  31. Could you do an in depth analysis on why a large majority of chinese serialize tv shows tend to gravitate towards the chinese dynasty periods? Ive noticed that it either tries to tell stories about love triangles, or political drama's set in time periods like during the 3 kingdoms period.

  32. Since characters like Ip Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, and other perfect characters are defined by the ideals they represent, it should be no surprise that they are the archetypal avatars of an idea. Ideas can’t be killed and indeed only grow stronger with time as their fundamental thesis is strengthened through the metaphorical battles they engage throughout the ages. The ‘Superman’ character may fight an old or new enemy, but said enemy must always represent the antithesis or the corrupted/distorted values of themselves; in essence, the Superman character is in eternal combat with his estranged shadow. The saying “the most effective lies are always told with grains of truth” is what represents the Superman character’s eternal struggle, as they defeat corruption and redeem the truth that the villain stole and corrupted.

    Entropy, cultural metamorphosis or the chaos of a forgetful populace will always be the most perfect enemy of Superman-like characters because sometimes we manifest the estranged shadow of the hero. By our disbelief or forgetfulness we distance ourselves and oppose ourselves with the fundamental thesis that the Superman character stands for. By watching them, an incorruptible force, contend with the changing world that we inhabit we are able to glimpse the forgotten wisdom and versatility ages long gone. I think that these characters can be incredibly interesting and can prove themselves true like an axiom simply because we choose to reject, demean or oppose them; in the end, the hero doesn’t win because they defeat a villain but because by defeating the villain we can see who they are and respect them anew. It’s easy to see heroes such as these as boring or old or irrelevant to our own lives, just as we can cruelly view real life people from a bygone era by sending them away and isolating them from the outside world, but it’s important to recognize that we came from them and to respect that, because one day the problems they faced will become ours again and we will have to rely on their wisdom and strength to overcome them; that is why it’s interesting that these characters seem invincible or immortal: we can destroy their body, which is their vehicle for influencing the world around them, but just when the world almost forgets them they are reborn and revivified to fight the threat that creeps back from the recesses of time. You can’t kill an idea. It’s very reminiscent of Hegelian Dialectics and Georg Hegel’s own view on history.

  33. Great video! I always thought fights were the highlight (which they were), but lining the trilogy together gave a new meaning altogether!

    You should also talk about "Our Times (我的少女时代)" (my older aisters watched it multiple times, and was said to be a call-back to 90s Hong Kong era film). That said, do "What happened to the Golden Age of Hong Kong's cinematography"!

  34. Superman: a more realistic/human story would center around Superman sharing Krypton's technology w/ humans, but like Prometheus Fire, it leads to chaos and destruction since humans are not ready for such. Superman goes into isolation due to despair w/ Lois and breeds a new race of meta humans, all the while, earth goes thru a natural cycle of war/order, leading to a future seen in Batman Beyond.

  35. Honestly, I as a martial artist get inspired from IP man movies. There is moral and philosophy in IP man movies, something I really appreciate.

  36. Ip Man 4 will be a story about Ip Man realizes he isn't inevitable to time. He is passing down his legacy and thus make him the legend.

  37. Interesting analysis, I'd definitely agree that it's interesting to have a character up against things he can't necessarily beat and show how he reacts to that kind of a problem by trying to inspire others. Also I didn't realize there was a third Ip man, I'll have to watch that sometime.

  38. My mom can't stand fantasy or scifi in any medium, but she loves historical fiction, so the Ip Man series is one of the few I could convince my whole family to watch together. No matter how fanciful the fights got, she stayed invested in Ip Man specifically because she loved how caring and dignified he remained in the face of all obstacles– your point about how that characterization never falters, but must still respond and expand in the face of challenges is exactly it! Great overview of different approaches to Superman, too, just an excellent multi-media video essay all around.

  39. Have you watched Warriors Two (1978) or Prodigal Son (1981). Both are far superior to IP Man, let's not forget these are supposed to be films at the end of the day. A pure instructional video wouldn't be that interesting for the average viewer.

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