To be honest, history did not interest me much during my childhood. I was your standard robotic Asian student memorizing textbooks for grades when it came to history or social studies. Only science and workshop class thrilled me. Many boys like me are like Anakin Skywalker, who loves to fix and make machines, and loves swordplay too. I was quite disappointed that the Mainland China and Hong Kong movie industry did not create any science fiction movies of even half the scale of the Star Wars galaxy. Neither did they make any science fiction video games. To satisfy our minds needs for fantasy, our only choice is the movies and games made in the West, or Japanese games featuring androgynous characters as heroes and protagonists and muscular masculine men as sidekicks and villains.
One improvement in this movie is that they showed the fighting moves more clearly without spamming camera angles. You can at least see 5 or 6 punches or baton strokes before they jump angles. One thing very annoying about Western cinema is they like to emphasize on static muscle appearances more than the flow and essence of movements. When batman throws a punch, 6 cameras goes on a roller coaster ride around him. When wolverine swings and stabs his claws, it looks more like he’s flexing his muscles than efficiently attacking.
Like many of you, I watched the movie because it features Donnie Yen. With racially awkward films like the latest Bruce Lee one with Philip Ng, and the Great Wall, we are highly skeptical about Hollywood movies that have Chinese people in them. Luckily I didn’t waste 12 bucks on this movie, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen had good amount of screen time, engage in a good deal of combat and had many lines. They were both combatants and took down many enemy soldiers, more than the male and female lead characters.
What happens was that this girl (with a sulking face) became an orphan because the empire took her dad to build the death star and killed her mother. She let the rebellion know her identity and they set off to find his father. In their arduous adventure, she became the inspirational speaker who assembled a group of volunteers to obtain the technical data of the Death Star. She seems to have learnt quite a wide range of fighting skills from a decade of imprisonment in a small prison cell.
For this actress (Felicity Jones), her footwork was pretty good; full body shots became possible without relying on camera movements to hide stiff feet. I still find Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers have smoother, more ‘let it go’ actions, but it’s a great improvement already. Actors will still need strong martial arts foundation if they are to deal with enemies who block or dodge quickly. Chinese female actors on the other hand need to develop more explosive strength to look convincing, now that they are faced with the improvement of fight scene standards in Western female actors in the past decade. They cannot rely on the brilliance of choreographers and camera effects to cover up for their physical shortcomings.
I hope with the transfer of talent from Hong Kong to the mainland, China can have more athletic movie actors who work well with the trainers and choreographers. If they want to have a standing chance in the international market, they need the best athletic actors, the most charming faces, ample muscle mass all in one package, coupled with original soundtrack, the best CG effects and camera effects. I want to see it soon, as I personally prefer Chinese medium for both news and entertainment.
Instead of using a lightsaber, he uses a long crudely made walking stick and a wookie bowcaster. The wookie bowcaster is a futuristic crossbow that fires explosive darts in single shot firing rate. It’s quite similar to the ancient Chinese battlefield warrior’s Polearm+Crossbow configuration. This configuration was used to deal with cavalry from the Steppes. Guided by the Force, Chirrut Imwe was quite a marksman in this movie. It’s rare in Star Wars as regular Jedi do not use guns.
Donnie Yen was the fastest hitting Jedi in all the Star Wars movies, slamming his staff on stormtroopers with his Ip Man speed. It’s a pity that he will probably not appear in Star Wars again as his character died in the end. The Jedi and Dark Jedi uses lightsabers that are just the size and weight of a torchlight, imagine how fast Donnie Yen will be if he’s a formal Jedi with a lightsaber. I was quite disappointed that he didn’t use a lightsaber. It’ll be much cooler if we can see a Chinese Jedi next time. I want to see lightsaber versions of our Chinese 18 weapons.
Star Wars Lightsaber fights looks intense because of the lightsaber effect, which they counted on to take attention away from the not-so-great footwork and position changing. The dynamic and explosive footwork and position changing agility in Asian cinema sword fighting scenes has set the benchmark. Veterans like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen and their teams have the solid footwork and familiarity with a broad range of techniques from Kung Fu and other martial arts, as well as weaponry. If you have watched Kung Fu movies before, lightsaber fight scenes will look like ballroom dancing with linear rhythmic steps and light sticks. There is hardly any ‘step left, step right, small step, big step, sudden stop, twisting step, quick rolls and jumps in lightsaber fights. The acrobatic movements also look more like the enemy allows that to happen, rather than a response to the enemy.
Jiang Wen (frequently acts as Chinese Emperors) uses a heavy automatic laser blaster in Rogue One. It’s like the General Purpose Machine Gun we use in modern day, except that he can nail every single shot onto one enemy in one fully automatic spray. Could be skill, could be the weapon’s function. He and Donnie are a team, often providing Donnie with cover fire. He is the stern and down to earth figure compared to the blind and jovial Jedi wannabe. He took out many enemies with his badass weapon and accurate sniping. The duo makes a fine combination of speed and power, long and short range.
For fans of sci-fi technology like me, this episode of Star Wars featured several new weapons and war machines, such as the B-Wing, 4 winged shuttle, the rocket launcher and the ground laser tank. It also showed the power of the Death Star before completion; a blast of its main beam weapon can cause the earth to explode and disintegrate, like the power of several nuclear warheads, able to create a large crater on a planet while not enough to completely vaporize it. It also showed a very sharp contrast between the Empire and the Rebellion, how well equipped the Empire is with neat corridors and rooms in the galactic warships and bases, while the Rebellion bases are decrepit and messy, with no standard uniform and many alien species in their ranks.
Rogue One ended with all the characters in the volunteer force Rogue One sacrificed as the base on the Maldives like planet was destroyed by a blast from the Death Star. The last battlefield in the movie was really taken in Maldives, FYI. This movie was a great step forward in Hollywood’s racial tolerance as its two Chinese characters lasted quite long fighting before they were killed. Even the main characters died in the end, a couple of minutes after Jiang Wen died from the grenade blast. The spirit of the story is that great achievements are possible when brave individuals held onto hope in an environment where everyone thought their goals were impossible. Even if the odds are stacked against us, even if our adversaries had a far headstart ahead of us, establishing an unfair playing field, with hope and fighting spirit we can defeat them.
Article By Leroy Kwok