Bruce Lee’s martial arts teacher was a man known as Ip Man. One of the latest movies to tell Ip Man’s story is “Grandmaster,” a Chinese film that is visually stunning but deadly dull as a movie. Here are some of its faults and how you can avoid these same problems.
First, people love movies because they provide an emotional roller coaster. Even though we’re sitting on our butts, we get to feel the emotional thrill of fighting against uncaring humans in “Avatar” or trying to survive in “The Hunger Games.” Stories need to immerse us into the emotion by showing us a sympathetic hero who’s struggling to obtain a goal.
“Grandmaster” is more like a documentary than a movie. It tells Ip Man’s life with text on the screen, but doesn’t let us really get to know Ip Man as a sympathetic hero. That’s because we don’t see any of the following:
- How Ip Man is living in a dead end life.
- How Ip Man is unfairly a victim.
- What Ip Man wants to achieve.
When we don’t know what the hero wants or where he’s heading, you just get an endless series of visually stunning scenes that lead nowhere.
Since we don’t know what goal the hero wants, “Grandmaster” drags as we see endless scenes that seem to have no connection with each other. There’s a brief scene of another martial artist known as Razor who uses a razor as a weapon. Yet there’s no reason for him to show up or influence the story in any way. He just pops up and is gone.
Even worse, one of the main villains is another martial artist who gets defeated in the end by a secondary character, not the hero. The hero strives to do nothing and has no clear goal in mind, and watching another character take out the villain seems anti-climactic when the hero never has a climactic showdown of his own at the end.
Think of old Western movies where the hero has to face down the villain one on one in the end. That’s the moment every story should lead up to when the hero has to face down the villain and either win or die. “Grandmaster” has none of these elements, which makes it a deadly dull movie.
Sometimes by watching good movies, you can be inspired but also intimidated. Then you watch a bad movie and get inspired by saying to yourself, “I can do better than that.” And I bet you can if you just take the time to start writing.