While introducing you to my Favourite Martial Arts Action Directors from Hong Kong, I felt the story would be somewhat incomplete without a mention of Hong Kong Action Comic Movies. But the fact is they are worth more than a mention so here is the full-fledged article they deserve.
According to Wendy Siuyi Wong, author of ‘Hong Kong Comics’ (2001), Hong Kong comics are primarily influenced by Japanese manga and animation, but have developed their own distinct drawing style, story-telling format and cultural identity. More than 40 locally-produced titles are published on a regular basis and sold to the 6.7 million people of Hong Kong. The main genres are satirical/political, humour, action (kung-fu) or children, with the most popular being the Action Comics.
Interestingly, action comics were modelled after the martial arts movies, especially Bruce Lee ones, that dominated Hong Kong box office in the early 1970s; though the drawing techniques were very much influenced by American action comics and Japanese manga of the 1950s and 1960s. From late 1990s, some most successful comic book titles were in turn adapted into movies with the help of CGI technology.
These are the titles to look out for.
Storm Riders, based on Ma Wing Shing’s Fung Wan comic series, is about a fight for supremacy in the Martial Arts World involving an evil conqueror, two of his lieutenants Wind and Cloud who are prophesised to hold the key to his success and downfall, and a love triangle. While loyal fans found the plot thinner than the original comic series (which would have been impossible to squeeze into a film under 2 hours), the star-studded Storm Riders was the most anticipated movie of that year and boasted the best special effects ever seen in a Hong Kong movie then. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Action Design in the 18th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards. You can buy Storm Riders on Amazon here.
11 long years later, a sequel named Storm Warriors (Fung Wan II) under the direction of the Pang Brothers (Bangkok Dangerous 1999, 2008) will finally be released in Asia in December 2009. Fans of the first movie are eagerly anticipating Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok’s reprisal of the lead roles as Wind and Cloud respectively. (Ekin Cheng was at the height of his popularity when he made the first movie but fell from grace after he was embroiled in a scandal for leaving his long-time girlfriend for a younger actress). I had the privilege of catching a 30-minute mind-blowing preview of the action and special effects combination on offer in Storm Warriors at Cannes in May.
Originally named Little Rascals/Gangsters (Siu Lau Man, 1970) by Wong Yuk-long, this was a comic series about a group of young people living in a Hong Kong public housing project. They were good guys but used violent means to uphold justice against gangsters. Due to an Indecent Publications Law in 1975, Little Rascals was renamed Oriental Heroes (Lung Fu Moon – literally translated as Dragon Tiger Gate) and the characters were transplanted to Japan. The comic series which was created nearly 40 years ago continues to run today.
This movie adaptation is set back in Hong Kong where Dragon Tiger Gate is a martial arts academy and features a plot about long-lost brothers and rivals with triad links. Donnie Yen (Ip Man, 2008) starred as the elder brother, choreographed the action and was co-producer. This was also Yen’s eagerly anticipated work after he wowed audience with his refreshing action style in Kill Zone (Saat Po Long, 2005). He manages to impress once again with plenty of kicks and punches against CGI-enhanced cityscapes, in spite of his occasionally (and unintentionally) comic floppy hair. Though some say the impact is less bone crunching than in Kill zone due to the comparatively higher amount of pretty posing. You can buy the movie on Amazon here.
If you are keen to try one more title, A Man Called Hero is based on a comic series by the same author as Fung Wan, made essentially by the same crew behind Storm Riders and also features an almost identical cast. However, it was generally deemed less successful than Storm Riders. Ekin Cheng stars as a Chinese Hero in early 20th Century. While having to battle Japanese and American oppressors, he faces a life of loneliness being destined to cause harm to the people around him. You can buy the movie here on Amazon.
About the author
Grace Leong was a MA in Cultural and Creative Industries student at King’s College, London and an intern at Raindance. She has experience in Media Relations, events organising and volunteer management. She loves films in all kinds of languages though she can only watch those in English and Chinese (hopefully Japanese someday) without the aid of subtitles. She is also proud to be the first Singaporean to make it to Raindance.