Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How Bruce Lee changed the world (3½ Stars)

This documentary says nothing new to anyone like myself who is a fan of Bruce Lee, but I nevertheless enjoyed watching it today. It shows how Bruce Lee's career, which was cut short by his untimely death, has had a lasting effect on the film industry and other areas.

The most obvious change brought about by Bruce Lee is to action films. His influence began when he starred as Kato in the Green Hornet television series in 1966. The style of fighting that he used was unknown to American audiences. The first three films he made in 1971 and 1972 went unnoticed until after his death due to their limited release, but his final film, "Enter the Dragon", stunned America in 1973. Chinese martial arts, usually described by the generic term kung fu, gained a foothold in American action films that they have retained ever since. Every action star, whether he has had formal kung fu training or not, hits his opponents in a way similar to Bruce Lee's punches.

Another more important change was the acceptability of Chinese stars in Hollywood. Before Bruce Lee most famous actors were white and a few were black, but there were no big stars of Chinese background. If anyone Chinese appeared in a film he played a minor role, maybe as a cook or a railway worker. It was unthinkable for a Chinese actor to play the main role in a film. Absolutely impossible. Bruce Lee changed that.

He has also had a big impact on sport. The Mixed Martial Arts used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a fighting style that has been adapted from the fighting style that Bruce devised, Jeet Kune Do. It is truly a "mixed" fighting style, because it combines the best elements of Judo, Taekwando, Wing Chun, Karate and western boxing.

Then there are the less obvious influences on other media. The documentary shows his influence on music and comic books in interviews with rappers and the great Stan Lee.

If Bruce Lee had not lived our modern world would be different in so many ways that we can hardly imagine it.

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