Sunday, July 17, 2011

Movie Log: Enter the Dragon

I probably haven't seen Enter the Dragon since I was about thirteen, so it was an interesting exercise to watch it the other weekend with my own thirteen-year-old older son -- my wife and Thing 2 were off for a weekend of camping, so it was a full-bore Boys' Day for us. (Starting with some time in the city, to have lunch at Schnippers, pop around for a while, and see the Blue Man Group downtown.)

It's still a good martial arts movie, and Bruce Lee's work is amazing -- his emoting, though, does get to be too much pretty regularly -- but it shows its '70s-ness very deeply now, particularly in the ends of the two sidekicks/sub-heroes. (Even if the main hero is Asian, the black guy is going to come up with the short end of the stick, every time.)

My son was slightly annoyed at how long the movie took to get going, and so was I, actually -- first there's the inevitable Bruce-Lee-gets-a-mission-from-his-sensei scene, and then there are a series of long flashbacks, most of them triggered during the character's various boat rides across Hong Kong harbor. (It's far too parallel, and far too obvious -- Thing 1 and I were making fun of it by the second time, and the third flashback made us laugh out loud.)

The movie picks up once they all get to the island stronghold of the evil mastermind, luckily -- though the promise of an actual martial arts contest, with competitions and advancement and everything, is dashed on the rocks. We do see Lee, the ubiquitous John Saxon, and Jim Kelly fight a number of times, both in the pseudo-competition, and in less-structured moments, which is good -- that's the whole point of the movie. And, of course, Lee's big fight at the end with the Big Bad is good -- another one of those early-'70s fights in mirror rooms (like the similar end of Man With the Golden Gun), because I guess mirrors were in the water at the time -- even if the approaching cavalry keeps the ending from being really dramatic and tense.

I've come to find that I prefer my martial-arts movies to be less realistic than this: I want lots of wire-fu, with ancient old men who have unstoppable karate and lots of whooshing noises as the fighters fly past each other. But Enter the Dragon is one of the great highlights of the other kind of martial-arts movie, and it's always heartbreaking to remember what happened to Lee.

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