Imagine a scenario wherein a benevolent Jet Li would fight a malevolent Jet Li from an alternate reality. Revolution Studios chief Joe Roth liked the idea so much, he ponied up $60 million to make it. So what’s the big deal? We sat down with our martial arts movie experts and critics Kit Bowen and Noah Davis to find out.
Hollywood.com: How does The One hold up against classic martial arts movies?
Kit Bowen: The action was pretty good, with some cool effects, but nothing really distinguished this movie from others in this genre. It takes a lot from the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Timecop, I thought. And I liked Timecop a lot better; it had a cleaner story.
Noah Davis: Kit, you ignorant slut. This was nothing like Timecop. The big difference, of course, is that Jet Li can fight, whereas that sissy Jean-Claude is nothing more than a poser. The effects, which you call “cool,” were more than that, and really set this movie apart. If The One borrowed from another movie, it was The Matrix. The super-slow-mo action techniques were awesome, even though the plot and character development were quite thin. In the pantheon of classic martial arts movies it falls short of Bruce Lee‘s triumphs, but it is closer than anything we’ve seen recently, minus Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Hollywood.com: Have Hollywood’s martial arts films become too dependant on special effects?
Davis: Absolutely. There’s no question that audiences want to see bigger and better stunts, and martial arts filmmakers are giving us what we want. But as a martial arts film fan, all I want to see are great fight sequences showing the raw speed and natural abilities of human wizards, not computer-generated enhancements. That’s why the best sequence of this film is when Jet Li fights himself. Most of the special effects fall by the wayside.
Bowen: I have to agree that Hollywood is very dependent on special effects. We have the technology, so as long as the story is good enough to support it, why not make a movie bigger and better than ever? . But The One fails miserably in that department. Sure, the final climactic scene with Li fighting himself is full of all that “raw ability” (jeez, Noah, you’re such a guy sometimes), but who cares? I didn’t because the story didn’t draw me in enough to care. Sorry, Noah. It was just dumb.
Bowen: I know what dingbat over here will say, but I really enjoy Jackie Chan. He seems to be having more fun than the “serious” Li. However, I think audiences are primed for a new martial arts star since Chan is getting a little long in the tooth and may not want to keep making these films. Li has the youthfulness to carry him forward, but I don’t think he has nearly the personality.
Davis: Dingbat over here agrees that Chan is more fun–right now. We (meaning you, Kit) haven’t given Jet Li enough time or enough starring roles to be fun. But if his role as the baddest guy in L.A. in Lethal Weapon 4 is any indication, he has plenty of personality to go around.
Bowen: OK, I’ll give him that one.
Davis: I can’t even imagine The Rock in a film like this, even if they hyped the sci-fi and downplayed the fighting. Since there’s virtually no dialogue and no character development, the fighting is the central theme of the movie. Not that The Rock is capable of delivering dialogue, but he’s certainly not a fighter like Jet Li, his WWF career notwithstanding.
Bowen: I’m with Noah on this one. The film probably would have been worse if The Rock were in it. At least you know Jet Li can deliver something. I’m not sure why everyone is jumping through hoops for The Rock when he’s really only done one small part. But hey, I’m not a movie exec.