Birth of the Dragon: My Review of the Movie

birth_of_the_dragonThe new movie entitled, Birth of the Dragon, released today. I know there has been a bit of controversy between the filmmakers and Linda and Shannon Lee over the portrayal of Bruce. I must admit, I was a bit troubled by the first trailer of the film which seemed to focus on a supporting character, who was caucasian, rather than on Bruce Lee.

But I was still excited because it’s been years since a “Bruce Lee movie” had been made. (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, 1993 – which I really enjoyed).

So, as fan/admirer of Bruce Lee, I decided to go see Birth of the Dragon so I could make up my own mind, rather than merely listening to the critics. Here is the movie’s synopsis:

Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to a legend.

I enjoyed it for what it was – a film INSPIRED BY actual events – (and not a documentary or biopic) and left thinking, “there were many other avenues the filmmakers could have explored, but this is a very SPECIFIC story they are telling.” And this specific story had to do with the portrayal of the evolution of Bruce Lee as a fighter and a man.

AT ITS CORE

For me, at its core, the movie was about the journeys of Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man – both masters in their own right – yet still on a path of discovery. At first they seem adversarial, but eventually (after some Kung-fu drama) they realize their need for each other. Steve McKee – the caucasian character – had his own journey as well, which Bruce and Wong helped him with. In my opinion, he didn’t upstage Bruce or Wong.

MAJOR THEMES

I was surprised to see a host of themes presented in the film. Themes such as: repentance, redemption & atonement, selfishness vs selflessness, the worth of human dignity, the power of friendship & love, the quest to find purpose & meaning, earning respect, the necessity of self discipline, the capacity for a human being to grow in mind/body/spirit, finding mutual respect and civility in a hostile and violent world, the true purpose of martial arts, the inner battle between arrogance and humility, the pressure to succumb to darkness in an effort to survive, and taking responsibility for your actions. (There may be more themes, but I only saw the film once).  And… all of these themes were dispersed in between helpful doses of martial arts spectacle!

FILMMAKING

From a filmmaking standpoint, the film was well shot and edited quite nicely. The characters were believable and the dialogue was well-written (although a bit “tongue and cheek” at places.) The musical score worked well to accentuate the action and bring out nuances in the drama. (Even helped to bring tears to my eyes at one point…) Add sprinkles of comedy to help the film not take itself too serious and you have a great movie.

TWO THUMBS UP

All in all, Birth of the Dragon left the “martial artist in me” satisfied and raised a number of deep questions for the “philosopher/theologian in me” to ponder.  Questions like, “how can our own arrogance lead to our downfall?” (The Bible says, Pride comes before a fall). “How does a person remain humble in the midst of humiliating circumstances?” “How do we neutralize our own internal anger issues so we can be truly free to live life?” “What would I be willing to die for?” “And if I have to fight, how do I offer life to my enemy in the process?”

A COUPLE OF BIBLICAL CORRELATIONS

The film talked about finding balance in one’s soul. In the Bible, the book of James (chapter 4)  shares that a person fights and quarrels  with others because they are at war with themselves. In a sense, that is like our souls being out of balance.

The film also highlights a point which the Bible talks about in Philippians 2:4. A person can’t be so consumed with their own interests that they can’t be open enough to help others.

GO SEE THE MOVIE

If you are a fan of martial arts movies and an admirer of Bruce Lee, then go check out this film. If you take it at face value, I don’t think you will be disappointed. (The movie is PG-13 for martial arts violence and some language.) Then come back and let me know what you think.

Allen Paul Weaver III uses the Bible as a lens to search for truth and insight in real-life situations, books, movies, comics, music and a host of other interests in order to pursue his God-given dreams and help others do the same. 

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