It’s always strange to pick up a strong interest in something you had previously overlooked. I went from watching Jackie Chan DVD’s loaned to me by a friend, to physically buying the DVD’s myself, to creating a website to catalog which Jackie Chan films you’ve seen and all in less than one month, and without even watching that many of his films.
So what happened?
Until a few years ago I couldn’t really stand films at all, some were really good, but I found the prospect of regularly sitting down to watch a film far too time consuming. Not to mention that I had built up quite a negative perception of action from watching a lot of anime. Due to this, I had always dismissed Jackie Chan despite never actually watching his films before, something about the invincible martial arts master in a film of non-stop action just didn’t interest me. To be honest his films just weren’t on my radar.
But they should have been. I’d studied Chinese for over a year, so at the very least, these films should have interested me just from the language learning perspective alone.
So when my friend/boss/co-worker mentioned how he studied Chinese as a module in university due to really liking Chinese martial arts films I was certainly interested. A few weekly 2 hour car trips to work later I was so interested that he leant me 5 DVD’s from his collection. I watched all of these in just a few weeks.
I liked all of the films except for one, but talking about those can wait until another time. What really made the experience great for me was that I only had a limited time to watch the films – I had to return them.
This might sound strange, because that hardly seems relevant to the films quality themselves, and indeed it’s not.
Let me explain. At some point in my life I made the decision that watching all of the bonus material that comes with DVD’s is absolutely worth it. So although I enjoyed the films themselves, seeing how they were made is what made me respect them so much, leading me to watch more and more.
When you watch a film with action as interesting and polished as you would find in Jackie Chan films, it’s easy to overlook as fake and not really see how difficult it is.
The truth is that what these guys do takes such a ridiculously large amount of effort. Long days are spent repeatedly doing the same actions over and over again until they’re just right, injuries happen frequently, and generally these would be incredibly tiring days consisting of hard grueling work.
Health and Safety standards were different back in the past, it was not really a matter of how safe the stunt was to do, but who would do the stunt. If someone didn’t feel safe doing a stunt, they would just find someone else who would agree to do it. Part of the reason why Jackie Chan was looked upon so well was his absolute commitment to do any stunt regardless of the risks. Here is a video of the clock tower jump from Project A. Please forgive it’s bad English dub.
What you saw in that stunt, was all of the safety equipment which was there. It was a real clock tower jump using the sheets you see to cushion the fall. There was only one thing that they did to make it safer.
Because Jackie was too light to actually break through the sheets (he would have bounced off and fell a much further distance, potentially risking death ) they cut strips into the center of the sheets and stitched them back together very lightly so that it would break much easier.
This is of course very dangerous as the cushioning effect is significantly reduced. So although this stunt was changed to make it safer, in reality, it’s still even more dangerous to perform than they make it seem in the film itself.
It’s perfectly fine to not enjoy this kind of film, but you cannot deny the extreme difficulty and risks taken to make films like this. Jackie Chan is one of the highest earning actors of all time, he doesn’t need to make films at all, he doesn’t need to take risks like this, yet he does. Even at the age of 67 you can still read very recent stories about how he nearly died in his new films.
His commitment to do these impressive stunts even at his older age just make a film much better is something to absolutely be commended.
The image of Jackie Chan as a martial arts master who can beat everyone easily is simply wrong. Jackie Chan is not afraid to humiliate himself, and he often is the one who appears the weakest against the enemies in his films. This makes it far more interesting in my opinion.
In ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ he’s the punching bag of his entire martial arts dojo, not allowed to do any martial arts at all, in ‘Project A’ he’s the outcast for trying to fight against a corrupt system and in ‘Little Big Solider’ he’s literally just ‘some guy’ whilst the secondary main character Leeholm Wang is a powerful general in line for the throne.
One of my favourite jokes from his films comes from when Jackie Chan is fighting someone in a cinema, and a girl says “Wow, he’s so handsome”, Jackie’s character then says “Thank you” but the girl simply says “No, him” and points to the cinema screen which shows a close up of Bruce Lee. That’s how seriously Jackie Chan takes himself, and it just works so well.
Few people are lucky enough to star in more than 100 movies, never-mind be the main character in them! Due to the fact that Jackie has so many different films, the options for experimentation are huge. He can, and has, made films about literally everything. It’s so interesting to see all these unique ideas he throws into his films.
So if you had previously overlooked Jackie Chan before, or didn’t want to watch his films, I hope that this has helped you to re-consider. I would say that the best thing to do would be having a look at his film list and choosing one that sounds interesting. If you want recommendations, my favourite so far is ‘Project A’ because of it’s epic story and fight scenes but if you really interested in martial arts specifically I would recommend ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’
I am a very new fan, hoping to share my new interest with people online. If you have any films to recommend or just want to talk about Jackie Chan in general I would find that really interesting! Thank you!