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Fight scenes have drastically evolved over the decades. They’ve grown from corny cliches to highly skilled and technical pieces of art.
Back when martial arts were becoming popular on the big and small screen, only a small percentage of actors and stunt coordinators knew the technicalities of what goes into a fight scene.
Notable action icons such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan (my personal favorite), Michael Jai White (Who I’ve met), and Daniel Wu have set the tone for fight scenes. For example, Bruce Lee introduced mixed martial arts blended with a philosophy to the world. They were astonished. His hit movie Enter The Dragon is a great example of both.
Bruce Lee’s Contribution to Fight Styles
There are various proofs of the great work by Bruce Lee that explain the influence martial arts has on Film/TV and real life.
Not just only on the big screen. But on the small screen as well. Shows such as Kung Fu (1972), Renegade (1992), Walker Texas Ranger (1993), Martial Law (1998), and (my personal favorite) Into The Badlands (2015) have a huge martial arts influence. Even though the show Kung Fu is more Kung Fu style based and Renegade and Walker Texas Ranger have more of a karate influence, Into the Badlands has a mixture of fighting styles.
The show is influenced by Bruce Lee. Stunt Coordinators play a big part in fight scenes too. Back in the day, there were a limited amount of stunt coordinators—even those who didn’t really know or practice any type of fighting style. Now there are a variety of Stunt Coordinators that do.
Today’s Fighting Styles and Scenes
Each one has their own way style and ideology about the fight itself. Today’s fight choreographers are more exposed to a mixture of fighting styles than those back in the day. Now in today’s film and TV shows, there is a variety of fighting styles.
There is a big difference between an actor who practices a fighting style and ones that don’t. The one that does have cleaner techniques and trains year-round; is very evident. Don’t get me wrong; there are great and talented actors and actresses who don’t practice any fighting style but can still pull it off. The list of notable talent includes Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Scarlett Joe Johansson, and Tom Cruise.
Even though Matt Damon does not practice any type of fighting style, he performs like he’s done it his whole life; Jason Bourne is a phenomenal film series. I hope there’s more or at least another TV show.
Like Sun Tzu said in his book The Art of War, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy. These actors do a fantastic job of “becoming” their character. It’s mainly about getting into the mind of that character. It’s similar to the fusion technique in Dragon Ball Z.
The Glorious Women Fight Scenes
Women have also been dominating the action scene, which is really cool. Their fight scenes are pretty intense, even more so the guys at times. The Kung Fu reboot and other shows on The CW have some serious female action.
One of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history is the one where we see the “All-Women Squad In Avengers: Endgame.” The women gather together to fight Thanos and beautifully partake in one of the biggest fight scenes from Marvel.
Now, let’s go back a little further and recall Mulan. Who doesn’t remember the legendary Hua Mulan, a Chinese female warrior who has the hearts of many. She’s known for her bravery during a war.
Our next choice is DC’s Gotham queen, Harley Quinn, who is nothing short of crazy and wild when it comes to tricks. Of course, she’s a villain, but that’s what lands her on this list. While it seems like she only babbles on, don’t be fooled because she can still beat someone to a pulp, and we’ve seen that in the Elevator Fight Scene.
Last but not least, DC’s famous Wonder Woman first made her debut in 1941, and we’ve seen her evolve into a magnificent warrior. She has many iconic fight scenes, and the one that comes to mind is when she rescues Superman and Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,
Special Effects for Fight Scenes
Video games and cartoons, in my opinion, have always had more skilled fight scenes. For example, the Batman Arkham video game series has the most amazing fight scenes that any Batman fan can ask for. We think it’s better than the movies. Other games such as Metal Gear Solid, UFC, Spider-man, and other action-oriented games have been awesome. Even though it’s a video game, some of those moves are real.
Speaking of reality, some of these moves can be used in real life. It all depends on how you use it. Even though Batman is a fictional character, his primary style (ninjutsu) is real. He’s another great example of an on-screen mixed martial arts character, and so are his sidekicks.
Special effects also play a role in how fight scenes are done. Depending on the director, some like to use green screens and special effects to spice things up. Some, such as Christopher Nolan, like to use reality; in the Dark Knight Rises, it was all real.
In Batman Vs. Superman, it was green screen and special effects; however, the fight scenes in BvS were excellent though. The audience can tell the difference between reality and special effects because sometimes it’s too obvious.
Like I stated earlier, fight scenes have evolved into a more technical piece of art. A piece of advice that some action actors and choreographers would give to future action actors and stunt performers is to have “tempo.” Once the scene is put together, the audience will see that tempo. An actor’s performance is their testimony.
Fight scenes are not easy to put together; they take time, energy, patience, and training. Timing and reactions are everything. If the strikes and reactions are done too soon or too late, it will throw everything off. That’s where the patience comes in. Stunt Coordinator Arnold Chon advises to “start slow” when rehearsing a fight. Even in the editing room, editing a fight scene takes tedious work. One wrong move and the whole equation is wrong, one wrong move, and you get beat down, one mistake and the editing won’t be flawless. It all blends together.
That’s what’s cool about having mixed fighting styles on screen. It all blends together because, during a fight scene, blending is everything. It makes the scene a lot smoother. The audience likes that, especially in superhero movies where all the fancy fights are cool. But, it also depends on the character, the storyline; every fight scene does not have to or need to be fancy.
Overall, some fight scenes make the movie. And some don’t. When it comes down to it, it all depends on the storyline.