Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jet Li's Fearless

Jet Li's Fearless is an excellent martial arts film with enough drama elements to appeal to both sexes. From a geographer's point-of-view it reveals a Chinese perspective on Westernization, honor, and the urban/rural relationship.


The film is loosely based on the life of Chinese martial arts expert Huo Yuanjia. In the initial third of the movie Yuanjia lives the high-life fighting to become the city's champion. He enriches himself, has a family, and spends lavishly on his friends. He is the nineteenth-century's playboy. He fights for the sheer pleasure of it and fails to recognize honor. When a gaffe of a biblical-proportion occurs because of his lack of honor he goes in self-imposed exile.

Redemption is learned in the rural country side. Here is a clean environment where family is valued. Things like rice are valued above riches. In short the country side becomes a healing place and the antithesis of the city.

When Yuanjia returns to the city to right his past it is a very different place. Soldiers from British India, camels, and missionaries are in the streets. Westernization is occurring.

The movie handles this issue patriotically but not xenophobicly. Yuanjia's friend shows how Westernization and capitalism can help China using China's historic fall from empire to Sick Man of Asia. The heads of the foreign powers are shown as shadowy snakes. The Japanese leader comes off the most negative being the brains of the anti-Chinese group.

The way the foreign fighters are depicted is the most interesting part. The American is a huge, war brute with no quick moves but with mighty power. However, after realizing the skills and honor of Yuanjia the American cheers Yuanjia's victory. The European fighters are only shown on screen fighting and have no redeeming qualities. The Japanese fighter completely counters the negativity of his leader. The fighter meets Yuanjia before the fight and realizes he is an honorable worthy of victory.

Fearless is an excellent movie with a great soundtrack. Rent it today!

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