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The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

The Student News Site of Christopher Newport University

The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

The Martial Arts movie: Ripe for a comeback

“Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “Cobra Kai” and more are bringing the genre back to our screens
Man performing martial arts moves, photo from Unsplash

Martial arts and cinema have a close relationship. The genre of the martial arts film can be traced back to the late 1920s, making it one of the oldest genres in cinema history. The martial arts movie, specifically kung fu films, hit an all time high in the 1970s with the help of the films of Bruce Lee and Gordon Li, as well as the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studio. While it did eventually peter out, the films left a remarkable impact on the film industry and the genre is ripe for a comeback. 


In a way, the comeback has already started with martial arts films like Kung Fu Panda and Ip Man being major successes, as well as films like Everything Everywhere All At Once, John Wick, and Shang Chi incorporating martial arts in such a big way. Movies have begun incorporating mixed martial arts, like Warrior, the upcoming Amazon Prime film Road House, Netflix’s hit Cobra Kai. Clearly, martial arts never really left the minds of the audience, so it’s prime time to make martial arts projects big again. 


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The idea that movie genres “die” simply due to a petering out of popularity is a common thought, but it’s honestly arbitrary. Musicals, slasher films and westerns all hit their peaks years ago but they still manage to become box office hits. Look at how well Mean Girls the Musical is doing in theaters now and how well Scream 6 and Django Unchained did commercially and critically before. 


The filmgoer audience loves variety but filmmakers need to understand how to get there. There’s plenty of experienced martial arts stars, like Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Jean Claude Van Damme and Michael Jai White, making moves in the genre still. I’m sure there’s a crop of young stars as well. Maybe young stars like Uli Latukefu,Xolo Maridueña, Jessica Henwick, or Andrew Koji, who have experience in martial arts related projects, already have what it takes to be the next martial arts movie star. 


There’s also so much untapped potential with storytelling and martial arts itself. There’s kung fu and karate movies but there’s never been a major hapkido film, or a project with judo as the central style. There’s so many ways to tell a good martial arts story that hasn’t been made yet since the golden era. 


Martial arts movies are great so I’m hoping a comeback is inevitable. If you’re looking for good martial arts films try great movies from the genre’s rich history like Bloodsport, Enter the Dragon, The Five Deadly Venoms, Black Samurai, Drunken Master, Shaolin and Wu Tang, and Man With The Iron Fists just to name a few.

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  • J

    Jesus AldapeFeb 28, 2024 at 8:21 am

    Yes indeed martial arts movies should come back!
    Hollywood is probably stupid because there’s a huge amount of fans of that genra. Also, what about westerns??? As if there weren’t enough cowboys and cowgirls that would love to see Yellowstoneish movies on the big screen. Open you eyes Hollywood!!!!