Jump to content
Iron_Leopard

Is Martial Arts Cinema worse off now or during the late 90s?

Recommended Posts

I think we are worse off now,I’ve just finished watching Jackie Chan Miracles which is a movie I find overly long and boring at times but I still watched it because there’s just nothing around to day that’s of the same quality when it comes to the action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is worse now. Although output was slow it wasn't dead. I can think of Mr. Nice Guy, Black Mask, Mortal Kombat and etc. New talent like Tony Jaa were just beginning their careers (although 99% of his 90's output can only be found on seemingly extinct VCDs). The one real bad thing was that Taiwan was dead by this time. So it wasn't really good but not really bad either.

The bigger thing was if you didn't like what was on the big screen, you could go to your local video rental shop and pick out a classic from the 70's or 80's. Tai Seng and Ocean Shores were still in business. Also local TV stations or public access channels in some areas still aired Kung Fu Theater on the weekends.  I was introduced to Bruce Li as a teen thanks to channel 45. The back catalog was more widely available then.

The 2010's began with Gallants. Indonesia gave us a surprise with The Raid and its sequel and followed it up with Headshot and the Night Comes For Us. South Korea gave us stuff like Blades of Blood, Kundo and most recently The Divine Fury. I think people think it is dead because HK just gave us The Sword Master and countless Ip Man movies while China was mostly forgettable CGI fests. Is this the decade where the rest of the world surpassed HK/China/Taiwan in terms of quality and output?

Access to the classics has gotten a lot worse. You can't just go to a rental store and discover a new movie. Most dvds are oop and listed for some crazy price online. Major streaming sites don't really pay attention to this genre and youtube offers horribly encoded stretched versions of a cut version of a movie. The only TV station that plays them regularly is El Rey.

There is no new talent being developed or that has appeared to to take the spotlight. I guess they could always use CGI for everything and make someone with no martial arts background look good or something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If we take the late 90's as '97 - '99, and now as '17 - '19, then I think there's little doubt that as a fan now is by far the best time to be (or get) into the martial arts genre.  In the late 90's DVD's had still yet to take off, after the 97' HK handover most of our favorite stars headed to Hollywood to star in poor imitations of their HK output, and it was generally a bleak time for the industry.  With hindsight of course, we can say the expression that it's darkest before the dawn is true, since the early 00's were a great time to be a fan.  DVD labels like Hong Kong Legends were cranking out titles at an alarming rate loaded with special features, 2000's 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' got people interested in the genre who previously wouldn't have given it a second look, and of course 2003 gave us 'Ong Bak'.

In terms of releases, now is very much similar to that golden period of DVD's from the early 00's.  We have companies like Arrow, 88 Films, and VCI cranking out amazing Blu-ray releases, often loaded with newly commissioned or never before released special features, and Hong Kong distributors are also firing off Blu-ray's of much loved classics at an alarming rate.  It's a fantastic time to be a fan of physical meda if you enjoy your dose of kung-fu.  To think it was only a few years ago when fans were still lamenting the fact that a Blu-ray of 'Drunken Master 2' seemed a near impossibility, now we can choose from multiple versions of it!

In terms of the movies themselves, I'd still say now is superior to the late 90's.  It's important to keep in mind that now a huge amount of kung-fu movies are being made in China that go directly to streaming, with only a very small (emphasis on 'very') trickle getting distributed in the west with English subtitles ('Unity of Heroes' springs to mind).  With a population of 1.3 billion, the producers don't need to worry about spending their money on securing overseas distribution, because the movies will become profitable based purely on the domestic audience.

But like has been previously mentioned, we no longer need to rely just on Hong Kong for our martial arts fix.  Sticking purely with '17 - '19, we've had movies like 'The Night Comes For Us',  'Accident Man', 'Shadow', 'Furie', 'The Foreigner', 'The Brink', and plenty more that show the genre is in a much better place today than it was in the late 90's.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HK is not even on the map anymore when it comes MA action, at least not if you take Mainland co-production out of the equation... and even then, I still say HK action cinema is as good as dead and buried. No ones fault, just the way it is.

Edited by TibetanWhiteCrane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're talking about Hong Kong, then yes. It dried out in the mid 90s when CGI and wirework took over. But in general, no. There's still quality movies being made. Just not in great numbers or quality.

Edited by DiP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's worse off now imo. The best time to me was the 2000s when Celestial was releasing all the Shaws remastered and I had gotten access to the internet with my first PC and discovered sites like HK Flix and CDWOW, rarekungfumovies and flashlegsrare. Discovering all these movies I never had access to buy before or even knew about. Also had the financial means to do so then, which isn't the case now. Also first finding forums like this to discuss these films with fellow fans. It was an exciting and extraordinary time, but here's hoping that the best is yet to come! Maybe it will be like that again in the coming future and for now just content with watching the incredible past collection I've amassed. You gotta stay positive and have something to look forward to. 🙂

Edited by CT KID

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

It not all bad, we films coming out in HD on hpyscial/digitalformats and companies reaching out to fans for help and advice. The genre hasnt died off completely and there's a lot of very talented people making film's right now. They might not be your kind of films, ut it shows there still a deman there. I'd be far more worried concerned if nothing new was being made. Even if Hong Kong cinema was still producing high quality films. It just wouldnt be quite the same as getting into the genre for the first time. When DVD and the Internet was first taking off. When there were a whole heap of titles we just didnt hadn't had access to. The older you get, the harder it becomes to be impressed or hyped up for a release too.

 

 

On 11/3/2019 at 5:20 AM, One Armed Boxer said:

In terms of the movies themselves, I'd still say now is superior to the late 90's.  It's important to keep in mind that now a huge amount of kung-fu movies are being made in China that go directly to streaming, with only a very small (emphasis on 'very') trickle getting distributed in the west with English subtitles ('Unity of Heroes' springs to mind).  With a population of 1.3 billion, the producers don't need to worry about spending their money on securing overseas distribution, because the movies will become profitable based purely on the domestic audience.

But like has been previously mentioned, we no longer need to rely just on Hong Kong for our martial arts fix.  Sticking purely with '17 - '19, we've had movies like 'The Night Comes For Us',  'Accident Man', 'Shadow', 'Furie', 'The Foreigner', 'The Brink', and plenty more that show the genre is in a much better place today than it was in the late 90's.   

 

While the DTV genre might be struggling due to piracy issues etc. There's actually more better produced DTV productions now then there was in the late 90's. Some of which you listed in your post. When it had really sluped after the peak years of video rental in the late 80's.early 90's.

I would have thought streaming sites in the West, would be picking up these cheapy Chinese movies for their services. In their eagerness to get customers to use their service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think now is a great time to be a collector. Granted, the genre itself, in terms of film making, may have seen better days but I get a pang of childlike excitement whenever I hear about an old school movie getting a brand new Blu Ray release. 88 Films, Eureka!, the latest release of The Leg Fighters. These types of things make me very optimistic towards a resurgence for collectors. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, DragonClaws said:

 

It not all bad, we films coming out in HD on hpyscial/digitalformats and companies reaching out to fans for help and advice. The genre hasnt died off completely and there's a lot of very talented people making film's right now. They might not be your kind of films, ut it shows there still a deman there. I'd be far more worried concerned if nothing new was being made. Even if Hong Kong cinema was still producing high quality films. It just wouldnt be quite the same as getting into the genre for the first time. When DVD and the Internet was first taking off. When there were a whole heap of titles we just didnt hadn't had access to. The older you get, the harder it becomes to be impressed or hyped up for a release too.

 

 

 

While the DTV genre might be struggling due to piracy issues etc. There's actually more better produced DTV productions now then there was in the late 90's. Some of which you listed in your post. When it had really sluped after the peak years of video rental in the late 80's.early 90's.

I would have thought streaming sites in the West, would be picking up these cheapy Chinese movies for their services. In their eagerness to get customers to use their service.

Very true DC,  when you get older and have seen so much you do become more jaded and harder to impress. I just haven't been buying  movies for the past few years so haven't seen alot of new movies. I did get YouTube Premium added to my phone back when Cobra Kai premiered and really enjoyed it and season 2, then they made it free! Looking forward to season 3 next spring. I can find alot of films on YouTube as well it just sucks having to watch on a small phone screen. But it's better than not having it so shouldn't complain. Alot of the DVD-r copies  I got in trades a decade ago won't play now though, either on my all region player or my small portable one. It will say unknown disc and not play. Some that won't play on one player will play on the other though. It's a role of the dice lol.

Edited by CT KID

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Drunken Monk said:

I think now is a great time to be a collector. Granted, the genre itself, in terms of film making, may have seen better days but I get a pang of childlike excitement whenever I hear about an old school movie getting a brand new Blu Ray release. 88 Films, Eureka!, the latest release of The Leg Fighters. These types of things make me very optimistic towards a resurgence for collectors. 

I totally understand, I would be getting all these improved blu rays and customs too if I could like you guys, I'm way behind the times because I've never owned a blu ray player, gonna have to break down and buy one in the near future and see what I've been missing. If anyone ever does a custom of Rarescope's Showdown at the Cotton Mill with subtitles you can actually read I'm gonna be the first to buy though!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's worse, and there's a lot of reasons why. One is the PRC's nationalism makes most of the stuff hard to take, add the CGI to it and it can get really excruciating. What made these films popular (compared to say, Samurai films) is that these guys and gals were the underdogs, taking it to the man. Now films are full of revisionist history as if the 100 years of shame never happened and all the "heroes" are elites. At the same time, stuff like this is happening. A LOT.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×