If you have not seen the Ip Man or Rocky movies then be warned, there will be SPOILERS.
While watching Ip Man 2 I had a sudden realization. Ip Man 2 is the Chinese Rocky 4. The Ip Man franchise tells the story of the Wing Chun master Ip Man, who is most famous today for being the man who trained Bruce Lee. The first movie tells of the trials he endured during World War II. He is forced to stop teaching martial arts, but takes part in a tournament hosted by a Japanese martial arts enthusiast. The Japanese general wants Ip Man to train his men, however Ip Man wants revenge for his friend that the general had killed. He challenges the general to a match. He wins, but is shot in the chaos that ensues. His friend smuggles him to safety. The second picks up his story in 1950’s Hong Kong. It shows how he started his Wing Chun school of martial arts. He fights against the corrupt Master Hung. It turns out Hung is just going along in order to make sure the Chinese men who depend on him are able to take care of their families. After their fight, Hung begins to respect Ip Man. He gives him tickets to a Western style boxing match. After the boxing champion, Twister, antagonizes the Chinese, Master Hung fights him. Twister kills Master Hung in the course of their fight. In order to avenge his friend and restore Chinese honor, Ip Man challenges Twister to a match. In the end he wins the day.
Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa, an amateur boxer in Philadelphia. He gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight an exhibition match with the champ, Apollo Creed. He manages to go the distance with Creed, losing a split decision. In the second movie he gets a rematch with Creed, and takes the title. In the third movie Rocky’s trainer dies, and Apollo steps in to help him regain his title from the brutal Clubber Lang. In the fourth movie Apollo fights an exhibition with the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. Drago proceeds to beat Apollo to death. Rocky then challenges Drago. He travels to the Soviet Union where he is able to defeat Drago after the most grueling fight of his career.
Now the two stories are not a point for point match, but here are the similarities that I saw. Both men were down and out when a chance came for them to use their fighting skills to provide for their families. Both have an adversary who becomes a friend and ally after the hero gains their respect by beating them. Both feature a foreign boxer who comes into their country and shows them disrespect. The newfound friend/ally fights this foreigner to defend the honor of their country. The foreign boxer then beats the friend/ally to death. The hero is now compelled to challenge the foreigner in order to avenge his friend and restore honor to his country. The boxer initially seems to have the advantage. Both movies feature flashbacks to previous fights during the climactic fight scene. After being knocked down several times and getting back up, the hero begins to win over even the foreigners foreign compatriots with his tenacity. In the end the hero manages to achieve victory, against the odds. Ip Man 2 even has a song playing over the credits that sounds like it could be the Chinese answer to “The Eye of the Tiger”.
This is probably just the influence of 80’s American action movies on Chinese movies, but I found the similarities to be striking. I do want to make clear that I love both franchises, and suggest both if you haven’t seen them. I probably shouldn’t , but I am also going to point out that Master Hung looks like a Chinese Al Sharpton.
Have you seen these movies? What do you think? Do you see the similarities as well, or am I just imagining things?