Given the huge success of “Ip Man” I knew sequels and spin offs would be inevitable. I just didn’t think so soon. Sammo Hung is back yet again but instead of Donnie Yen, we have Dennis To playing the part of Ip Man. Wing Chun master Chan Wah-sun is asked by the owner of his school’s premises to take on his two young sons, Ip Man and Ip Tien-chi, as pupils. When Chan dies the following year, his old friend Ng Chun-sui takes over as head of the school.
Meanwhile, in Foshan, Lee is courted by Ip Tien-chi, who has opened a Jing Wu martial arts school. Meanwhile, tensions between Chinese and Japanese are rising in the city as the latter, led by shady businessman Kitano, throw their weight around. Soon after Ip Man returns in 1919, these tensions boil over. The whole plot of the movie might be cheesy to some while the fight scenes are entertaining. Although the idea of an Ip Man film without the inimitable Donnie Yen may be cause for concern, let me rest assure your worries that the lead actor is the youngest ever martial arts champion from Hong Kong. It is a best Wing Chun martial arts movie prequel of Ip Man’s life. Don’t miss it and watch this movie if you still want to watch more about Ip Man and Wing Chun martial arts. Although Sammo Hung doesn’t appear for long, his presence brings a great vibe to the film.
The Legend Is Born: Ip Man has the social manners of a ’60s/’70s Hong Kong martial arts movie, although at times, when the Wing Chun disciples are sparring with each other, it tends to look more like a slapping contest. There are no real standout performances in the film. That’s not to say this film in necessarily inferior to Ip Man 1 & 2, just different. It is definitely worthy to be on your shelf next to these films. Those who want a bit more backstory on the infamous figure will find plenty of that in this film as well. The meeting with Master Ip Chun is also a good two-in-one story line where not only does Ip Man get to learn a different version of Wing Chun, but also learns more about family history and moral character. Despite looking almost completely fictional, Yau’s movie offers much more entertainment than its run-of-the-mill storyline would suggest.
The Legend Is Born: Ip Man is a multidimensional film dealing with Ip Man’s personal life as much with his martial arts skills. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve dished out a lot of praise for this film but it isn’t perfect. The movie starts off with quite a promising storyline, but loses direction and goes downhill. Although Dennis To may bear similar physical resemblance to Donnie Yen, he fails to exude Donnie’s admirable prowess and charisma especially during action scenes. The fight choreography is less detailed than Donnie Yen’s action sequences, but that is to be expected, at least from my perspective. All in all, it doesn’t exude the same emotional intensity, but makes up for it in its variety of fights showcasing the lesser seen Wing Chun moves. Also, this won’t be the last adaption of this franchise, as Ip Man fans are no doubt eagerly awaiting Wong Kar-wai’s version scheduled for release in December 2010.