Ip Man – the most historically inaccurate movie ever?

ip man posterI honestly don’t get what the fuss over Ip Man is about, or why it warranted a bunch of knock-off movies and sequels. The martial arts scenes are so-so, the story was generic and boring, and there weren’t any hot girls in metal bikinis in it.

But the biggest problem with Ip Man is that it’s incredibly inaccurate, for a movie that is supposed to be “based on a true story”.

It seems like the only historically correct elements of the film was the fact that there was indeed a guy named Ip Man, and he was a kungfu master that lived during the Japanese occupation of China. That’s the extent of the truth in this movie.

After you get introduced to the guy in the first act of the movie, you get an entire second and third act that are entirely fictitious, where it becomes a generic story about a rich guy who becomes poor, then uses his kung fu for good. It’s like Trading Places meets Rush Hour.

Key facts that the movie got wrong:

  1. Ip Man did not get forced into manual labor by the Japanese.
  2. In fact, I think he was in Hong Kong during the war.
  3. He did NOT fight a Japanese general in some bullshit honor duel.

It’s understandable when filmmakers change a few things here and there in order to make a story more compelling or to get across the theme a bit better. I figured Aaron Sorkin took plenty of liberties when writing The Social Network, but those changes were probably cosmetic and nothing as drastic turning Zuckerberg into a superhero or something.

The guy’s name and style of martial arts are pretty much the only historically accurate facts in the movie

But seriously, why make a movie based on a real person if you’re not even going to remotely try to tell his real story? If you’re going to insist on deviating so far from historical facts, and putting in so much of your own ideas, why don’t you just make up your own story? You can call it “The Chinese Guy who fights a Japanese General and wins”.

That sounds like a fun movie, right? And Uwe Boll can direct it! That guy is willing to mess up any story to turn a quick buck.

Honestly, if you want a good recent kungfu movie, I’d watch either Jet Li’s Fearless or Kungfu Panda 1.

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About Drew

I love videogames, movies, my wife and my dog (in no particular order). View all posts by Drew

24 responses to “Ip Man – the most historically inaccurate movie ever?

  • Alvin

    Dude! Jet Li’s Fearless was a fictional story based on a real-life guy – in fact (and this gets complicated), Jet Li’s character in real-life was the founder of the Jing Wu school who was assassinated (in real life). Bruce Lee than played the fictional disciple of this guy in the movie who went around beating up the Japanese dudes who poisoned his disciple.

    In a nutshell, movie Jet Li plays the movie master of movie Bruce Lee!

    Ip Man was also the (real life) master to Bruce Lee, but how much he directly taught Bruce is debatable, some say that it was mostly Ip Man’s senior disciples who did so (well, nobody knows for sure, since Lee was uber famous and who wouldn’t have wanted to claim to be his instructor…).

    Man was the only man (see what I did there hyuk hyuk) that Lee acknowledged as his sifu though, even though Lee had learned and traded styles from other masters.

    • drewpan

      Fearless might also be a fictional story, but its plot actually had martial arts themes in it. Ip Man’s was a painfully generic plot that was basically an excuse for China to kick Japan’s ass.

      • Alvin

        Fair that. Fearless had a traditional but much better plot. And fairer representation of all races (the Japanese weren’t all complete asses). Ip Man story was really paper-thin.

        I still liked the fight scenes in Ip Man though. The one thing that really really bothered me was how invincible and awesome the dude was. There was no real character arc the way there was with Fearless.

      • drewpan

        Yeah, and I have to say, those rapid mini punches don’t look quite that deadly at all. He does them a lot too… and some of the scenes were a bit too wire-worky for my liking.

        Which isn’t to say that Fearless didn’t have that too, but at least the fight scenes felt different.

      • Alvin

        You know the oddest thing about those flurry mini punches? The other guy just kinda hangs around getting punched, like many many times. You’d think he’d move off after the first couple of punches.

      • drewpan

        Omigod… Ip Man wasn’t just Bruce Lee’s mentor… he mentored the WWE! I guess it would’ve been the WWF back then.

  • AnitaB

    Um guys. It’s pure entertainment with a bit of history. Even some of the most accurate historical films take creative license in telling events from the past. Ip Man was not a documentary. I am studying Wing Chun now. If someone is continously punching me, real hard, and I am in pain. I don’t have time to react or move out of the way! There were alot themes (family, war, love, freedom, nationalism, etc.) in Ip Man that people could relate to that’s why it became popular. But most of all, it gave us a glimpse into the man who influenced the greatest martial artist ever, Bruce Lee. And for me, Donnie looked smooth as hell and sexy excecuting his martial arts moves (lol).

    • drewpan

      Hi! Don’t get me wrong, cos I like a historically inaccurate movie as much as the next guy, but there’s such a huge difference between Ip Man and Inglorious Basterds. I found Ip Man to be a really boring movie, made more boring by the fact that it’s just so drastically different from what his life was really like.

      That, and well, it’s apparently quite debatable as to how much influence Ip Man really had over Bruce Lee.

      I like Donnie Yen a lot, to be honest. His scenes in Blade 2 and Hero are just awesome! I just think he can do so much better than this movie, that sells itself as an authentic retelling of Chinese history.

  • Edd

    Tell me something.. Are you Japanese

  • AnitaM

    The Ip Man series became popular because 1) It introduced Donnie Yen to a broader audience and he proved that he demanded just as much respect as a martial artist/action director like Sammo Hung, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. 2) We had not seen a martial artist like Donnie Yen in a long time. He brought a renewed interest in martial arts; 3) Donnie was believable. He was perfectly cast for the role of Ip Man. He actually was asked to play Ip Man several years prior, but the project was put on hold;

    4) We had not seen a good movie focusing on anything about or related to Bruce Lee in a loooong time. So fans definitely were excited about the story behind the man that helped make Bruce Lee great! For the record, Ip Man and his assistant both trained Bruce; 5) Spinoffs is the highest form of flattery as they say in the business. The Ip Man storyline was a guaranteed success as a movie and for the actor who played the role. So with Donnie popularizing the Ip Man/Bruce Lee connection, others wanted to ride on the success of his movies. It’s the same with the reality shows. You have a hit reality show that is about a music competition, what do you get? The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, India’s Got Talent, and so on.

  • JP

    You people are idiots.

    • AnitaM

      Whoo! Why are we idiots? Just because our taste in film differs from yours? Just because a piece of creative work touched us in some way? What is idiotic about that? You don’t have a more intelligent opinion or viewpoint to contribute than that comment? Smh

  • Cali Fornia

    LOL those rapid mini punches aren’t deadly?? lol let me hit u with those like 20times in the face let’s see what will happen..

    • AnitaM

      I actually watched a demonstration of Wing Chun and the rapid punches you are mocking, aint no joke! Executed properly, there is power behind those punches. And with the rapid punches, you don’t need to hit someone 20 times to hurt them. I can show you if you want me, too. And I guarantee, I know exactly what will happen to you.

      • Drew

        Is the rapid punch thing a signature move? If not, then I’m not sure why they used it. It’s not very “cinematic”, if you understand what I mean.

      • AnitaM

        Yes, It is a signature move. And punching someone rapidly and not giving them a moment to retaliate is cinematic. It is no different than a boxer hitting his opponent in a combination of punches that gets a crowd on it’s feet.

      • Drew

        True that, but boxers in movies tend to do more wind-ups. In animation-speak, it’s the anticipation pose, which gives the actual strike a greater sense of power. Another display of power is the reaction, something that WWE fighters are really good at faking.

        Anyway, you can compare it to Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch. That looked powerful because the recipient flew backwards into a chair. Ip Man’s opponents generally just stand there and spontaneously foam from their mouths. That’s my gripe with it.

      • AnitaM

        Funny, I was thinking about the same Bruce Lee reference. So imagine, Bruce doing that rapidly, now that would be cool! The rapid punch has the same cinematic quality simply because audiences have never seen an action move like that before! His opponents are not just standing there..they can’t move because the rapid punches are hitting them in certain pressure points that is freaking painful and paralyzes them! They find it hard to react!

  • mario

    dude the movie was awesome. If you want us to merit your opinion than mine matters as well and more than yours. you found it boring many found it entertaining and many now have an interest in Chinese martial arts. Movie gives pride to the Chinese as a chinese man stop knocking it have some pride. yes it wasnt accurate but you make it sound as if you are fighting for an accurate ipman movie when you re knocking all of it. its clear you shouldnt be reviewing movies.

  • Rett

    How can you call this film “historically inaccurate” when the author admits to not knowing the history of portions of the film?

    “In fact, I think he was in Hong Kong during the war.’

    Ip man was a respected police officer during the occupation… in fact (in fact refers to something being factual rather than “i think”) the onscreen depiction of the disassembling of the police officers weapon was a true account except Ip man was the police officer and the one wielding the gun was a bandit.

  • AC

    Although I’m not claiming that this film is accurate. Could you please reference the source that supports your claim that it is nearly completely inaccurate?

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