Now, so many martial arts and kung fu movies are produced that people tend to take them for granted. But, over the course of history, these films have changed, adding elements and spreading all over the world. Despite recent innovations, though, people love the action and fighting styles that these films showcase. This is the aspect that never seems to go out of style.
One of the earliest martial arts and kung fu movies was the Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery, a silent film. This 27-hour-long saga was inspired by a serial that appeared in a newspaper. A series of motion pictures was released. In spite of its length, it was popular in its day.
A typical aspect of these motion pictures is the filming of highly choreographed, large group fights. These scenes require many cameras and trained martial artists in order to look realistic and exciting. Increasingly, computerized special effects are able to fill in the scene so not so many actual people have to be on the set.
In the 1970s, films of this genre really came to the forefront, in part because of the career of Bruce Lee. He developed his own fighting style and applied that dynamic style to the silver screen. He worked in Hong Kong, where many actors working under him would get their initial inspiration. But it wasn’t long before the films gained traction in other parts of the world.
The popularity of Lee’s films extended to North America and Europe. Sometimes, performers from other countries would appear in important scenes, thereby making a name for themselves. This created another tier of famous actors and prompted more people to train in the martial arts.
Names like Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme came to prominence during this time. They used their skills to put on a show in Hollywood films that reached massive audiences. This breathed new life into the genre and gave it a different flavor. Hollywood used some of the typical elements of the genre and mixed them with new plots in a variety of locations.
Now, the East is seeing its own renaissance in terms of these films. Of course, Jackie Chan can draw millions to his movies, whether they are made in Hollywood, Hong Kong or elsewhere. Some very successful films have come out of mainland China in recent years as well. Thailand has also had a few successful productions. Tony Jaa is the country’s most well-known actor, and many people think he will continue to make exciting movies with broad appeal.
The general public goes through phases when it comes to martial arts and kung fu movies. At times, these films are hot and people don’t seem to be able to get enough of them. Then, for a decade or so, things cool down and people slightly lose interest in general. But, through all of these ups and downs, these films continue to be made and the fascination never truly dies. It just simmers until someone new finds creative ways to refashion it for a new generation.
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