Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Grandmaster

I've seen a few lists floating around the old intranets talking about the top movies available to stream RIGHT NOW! One that hits a few times is The Grandmaster. So after running around this morning taking my mom to the doctor, picking up her prescriptions, prepping some chilli, and various other duties, I sat myself down and flipped Netflix on and stream the Grandmaster.

The movie is about IP Man, the teacher of Bruce Lee. In some ways, I'm kind of surprised that there have been so many movies on IP Man, and so many of them so entertaining. This movie though?


The visuals in terms of the ambiance of the film are powerful. The scenery is its own character in this movie. It has its own style and makes itself felt throughout the entire movie.

Its action packed and yet has moments of reflection and advancement as its not covering one year or two years, rather, its covering a period of time from 1936 to the 50's. An era when China would be at War and not be victorious in those initial battles. An era where the simple life of a Kung Fu Master could be turned upside down.

This doesn't stop the personal moments from being more interesting than the bigger picture though. There's tragedy and potential, but the reality of the situation is what it is and the characters all continue to move through their paces.

It's not a happy movie. It's not a sad movie. It's a movie that in a short time brings a lot of elements of loss and triumpth to the theater and frames it all with kung fu battles that amaze in their performance.

If you have Netflix and were a fan of the old Kung Fu movies, let me know what you think!

In terms of gaming, there's a lot that could easily be lifted from here.

1. Schools: The country is broken up into North and South schools. This gives the people of each school a bit of a built in rivalry. It allows different martial arts to have themes to them while still retaining their own unique abilities.

2. Limited Impact: The greatest fighter of an a city, the greatest fighter of a country, the great kung fu master in the world, and well, when China falls to Japan, what good is it? It doesn't put food on the table. It doesn't stop the invasion. It doesn't stop friends and family from dying of starvation. The bigger picture, the larger scope of horror in an uncaring world, is felt handily against Ip Man who even when he moves to Hong Kong to build a better life, is cut off from his past life. And he's not the only one. In a scenario where the warriors of the party are truly outclassed, either by the scope of the threat or by the amount of threats there are, what is a warrior worth?

3. Limited Resources: When Ip Man moves to Hong Kong and becomes a teacher, he discovers that the competition is fierce. That people will challenge you for status, to save face, to have just one more taste of how things used to be in the old days. This pits him against specialist and grand masters who are, like him, striving to find their new way in this new world. Do all of them take to their new position with the same acceptance? Do some become skilled assassins? Do some become madmen and stalk the streets? Do some seek out challenges to the death in a bid to reclaim that lost glory?

4. Personal Loss: Despite the unimaginable loss of two of his daughters to starvation, and the loss of his wife to the isolation he faces in Hong Kong, Ip Man suffers another loss when one he could've loved loses her own way. It is despite these multiple wounds to his soul, to his very being, that the fact that he continues to teach, to strive forward, to bring his abilities to the common man, that make him such a figure.  In many ways, it reminded me of the 36 Chamber where bringing the skills to the common folk was a turning point. Perhaps all life is a circle?

5. The Ambiance: The movie opens up with Ip Man fighting a group of attackers in slick rain drenched streets in the dark. It's very atmospheric and while the rain doesn't make the sure footed martial artists slip, it does add to the intensity of the fight. In a further fight, two warriors face off against the backdrop of a moving train which acts like a zone of death as the two duel on a platform and the train roars past them, each trying to move the other into the train. Be aware of what the players see. What the players here. What the players feel. Is it raining? Snowing? Is it hot? Do birds take off like in a certain scene in Face Off? Is there a drop of a pin and then action?

The Grandmaster brings a lot of visuals to the screen and a lot of action in the fight scenes that do take place. Capture that energy and bring it to your table.