Herman Yau takes on the story of Ip Man in this semi-biographical account of the early life of the legendary Wing Chun master. Under the tutelage of three Wing Chun masters (including Leung Bik played by none other than Ip Man‘s real life son Ip Chun) Ip Man resists against invading foreigners and learns a disturbing truth about his adopted brother.
The Legend is Born: Ip Man is by many people regarded as one of the best martial arts films of all time, but has also had its fair share of criticism. Despite making no attempt to hide the fact that it is only a semi-biographical film, people lashed out at the fictitious elements of the story including Ip Man‘s adopted brother sub-plot which did not happen in real life. However, these things aid the narrative and make the film exciting and action-packed giving the film and the characters depth. After never claiming to be wholly biographical in the first place, perhaps the criticisms the film received are somewhat unfair.
Like the first two Ip Man films, directed by Wilson Yip and starring martial arts legend Donnie Yen, The Legend is Born does not particularly follow on from the previous film and instead tells a different story from another section of Ip Man‘s life, in this case exploring his life before becoming a legendary Wing Chun master. Herman Yau and screenwriter Erica Li have brilliant eyes for story telling and bring Ip Man to life once more in a visually stunning, thrilling and at times very moving martial arts drama.
In his first leading role, Yu-Hang To‘s performance is solid and he maintains Ip Man‘s quiet charisma and pensiveness that was carried so well through the first two films by Donnie Yen. The film has everything from stunning visual effects to thrilling action, from tear jerking moments to romance however it feels slightly lacking but quite what it lacks is difficult to determine. Perhaps Donnie Yen was too difficult an act to follow, or maybe Ip Man‘s early life just is not enough of an interesting story, but whatever the reason The Legend is Born doesn’t quite match its predecessors however it is a beautifully shot, well acted film that showcases some great storytelling.