The Legend is Born: Ip Man (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 27, 2011 by  

Ip Man vs. ninjas? “The Legend is Born: Ip Man” may not be historically accurate but it does deliver as a popcorn martial arts action film featuring Ip Man when he was much younger.

Images courtesy of © 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Legend is Born: Ip Man


DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (2:35:1), Cantonese DolbyTrue HD 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment


Release Date: December 13, 2011

Directed by Herman Yau

Screenplay by Erica Lee

Produced by Kwok Lam Sin

Executive Producer: Kuo Hsing Li, Kwok Lam Sin

Music by Chung Hung Mak

Cinematography by Kwong-hung Chan


Yu-Hang (Dennis) To as Ip Man

Siu-Wong Fan as Ip Tin Chi

Sammo Hung as Chan Wah-Shun

Huang Yui as Cheung Wing-shing

Rose Chan as Lee Mei-wai

Rose Chan as Li Mei Wai

Ip Chun as Leung Bik

Packed with Kung Fu combat and thick with drama, The Legend is Born follows Ip Man as he grows from a promising young pupil into an unstoppable force. When political corruption threatens his temple, his friends, and his honor, Man single-handedly challenges a swarm of shinobi in an ultimate showdown.

There is no denying that the legend of martial arts teacher Yip Man (also known as the man who taught Wing Chun to Bruce Lee) have been a financial success in Asia.

With the popularity of the first two “Ip Man” films starring Donnie Yen, there have been big questions on how to continue the Ip Man stories, especially with Donnie Yen not wanting to do anymore Ip Man films.  The solution, focus on a prequel while Ip Man was young or focus in the future when he is much older.

And in 2010, Director Herman Yau (“All’s Well Ends Well 2010”, “The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story”) and screenwriter Erica Lee (“King of Comedy”, “Only Fools Fall in Love”) decided to do the former with their film “The Legend is Born: Ip Man”.

While not an officially related to the first two films, Yau did cast Dennis To who looks like a younger Donnie Yen, while also casting Sammo Hung and Fan Siu-wong who both appeared in the previous Donnie Yen “Ip Man” films.  But perhaps the biggest draw was the casting of Ip Chun, the actual son of Ip Man, who plays the role as Leung Bik (the man who would teach Ip Man a new style of Wing Chun).

While the film does take liberties by creating fictional stories around the true story of Ip Man’s actual martial arts training when he was younger, the addition of half-brother and also Japanese antagonists continues the trend of foreign invaders vs. Ip Man.

“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” begins with a young Ip Man and his adoptive brother Tin Chi being brought to the school of Wing Chun (taught by the master Chan Wah-shun) and left their by their father to be trained.

While at their new school, both Ip Man, Ip Tin Chi befriend a young Lee Mei-wai and the three become close friends.  But three years into their training, their master dies and the second student, Ng Chung-sok (played by Yuen Biao) continues his master’s training.

Fastforward years later, as all three are now young adults and are well-trained, while going out with his friends for shopping, a young Ip Man (played by Dennis To) meets a wealth young woman named Cheung Wing-shing (played by Huang Yi).  When a group of men start trouble with a young woman in the marketplace, Wing-shing tries to prevent the men from hitting the young lady and instead, try to hit her.  But before one man can strike her, Ip Man manages to stop his strike and a brawl begins with Ip Man and his friends vs. the other group of fighters.

Ip Man and his friends manage to defeat them but this first meeting between Cheung Wing-Shing and Ip Man was love at first sight.  And as Wing-Shing tries to meet up with Ip Man once again, Mei Wai (played by Rose Chan) is jealous because she likes Ip Man and tends to retrieve the messages that are meant for Ip Man.  Meanwhile, at a distance, Ip Man’s half-brother Tin-chi (played by Fan Siu-wong) watches Mei Wai, as he is in love with her.

But as Ip Man is sent to study at St. Stephen’s college in Hong Kong, Ip Man learns English and during a fight with a British man, he easily defeats him with his martial arts and word spreads around about Ip Man and his fighting skills.

But when Ip Man goes to buy some medicine for the man he hurt, he encounters the elder Leung Bik (played by Ip Chun) who tells him that he is not too impressed by his Wing Chun skills and when the two spar, the elder Leung Bik beats him with ease.  Ip Man learns that Leung Bik is the brother of his master Chan Wah-shun, but because he practiced alternate and improved styles of Wing-chun because it disgraced his family’s line of Wing Chun martial arts, he moved away.

But knowing that learning a new style of Wing Chun goes against his master’s wishes, Ip Man learns from Leung Bik and develops a style which includes fiercer moves and high kicks. And while Ip Man attended college and also learned this new style of Wing Chun, his brother Tin-chi becomes a prominent businessman  under another Wing Chun martial arts association. And secretly collaborating with the Japanese.

When he returns back to Foshan to visit his brother and friends, he shocks them with his new style and eventually teaches them some of what he has learned.  But in doing so, he has angered his master Ng Chung-sok who tells him that his master would not improve learning Wing Chun from his master’s brother (especially because they didn’t get along because of Leung Bik using alternate styles) and its not what they are taught.  As Ng Chung-sok spars with Ip Man in anger, there are times when Ip Man could have beaten him but instead let Ng Chung-sok win.

Meanwhile, back at home, Ip Man and Cheung Wing-shing meet once again and rekindle their love, meanwhile a broken-hearted Mei-Wai knows that Ip Man’s heart is with another woman, so she decides to have a relationship with his half brother Ip Tin-chi and the two end up getting married.

But when Tin-chi receives a wedding gift from the Japanese, the night of his wedding… tragedy hits the family and as for Ip Man, he is accused of murder and imprisoned.

What will happen when Ip Man finds out the truth about who is involved in the tragedy?


“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and the film is intentionally saturated and warm in the beginning but later becomes fully detailed and colors are vibrant.  There is very good clarity and detail on clothing and wooden objects, doors and fences.  You can see the detail on the album that Wing-shing is carrying as each line around the album is visible.  While closeups do not show skin pores or that much detail, primarily detail is scene on clothing and objects.  I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts.  Overall, skintones are natural, black levels are very good and picture quality is great!


“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” is presented in Cantonese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is presented with English subtitles. As all Asian films that I watch, I prefer not to watch the English dub track but for those who prefer it, there is an English dub track included and the fact that FUNimation is well-known for their voice actors that they hire, I would think that fans of these English voice actors should have no problem with them.

I will say that the lossless audio track was not as immersive as I would have liked.  But while there are plenty of action sequences in this film, it’s not like the previous “Ip Man” films which tend to sound more immersive.  The action sequences do sound good and are effective during the action sequences but these moments are not as long as I would have hoped.

But overall, the the lossless audio track features crystal clear dialogue, music and action sequences when it is featured onscreen.


“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” comes with the following special features:

  • Making of – (13:21) Behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:58) The original theatrical trailers for “The Legend is Born: Ip Man”.
“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” comes with a DVD version of the film and slipcover case.

I loved Donnie Yen’s first “Ip Man” film, the second was OK and despite this film not being related to the other two and is more about Ip Man’s earlier life, I would have to say that this film is primarily a popcorn action film.

There are lot of liberties taken with Ip Man’s life and unless you do the research, some people may think he actually had a half-brother and that what they are seeing onscreen is biographical.  But the truth is that there are fictional moments that are presented around Ip Man’s non-fictional life as a young man learning Wing Chun, that I often wonder how he would feel if he was alive today and see how writers really distorted his life for the sake of entertainment.

Granted, the film does feature Ip Man’s son, Ip Chun which was great!  And I can only hope that the estate of Ip Man are getting paid well with all these “Ip Man” related stories and I don’t think that there will be an end to these stories anytime soon.  They make money and people all over the world love the martial arts action that comes along with these films.

But while I did enjoy “The Legend is Born: Ip Man”, as a guy who loves to research the lives of these individuals that these movies are based on.  I now wonder how much of what is featured in this film is actually truth.  We know that Ip Man studied under Chan Wah-shun and when he died, Ng. Chung-sok took over.  It is documented that he studied in Hong Kong and learned alternate forms of Wing Chun from Leung Bik.

But other than that, we know that he had a brother but not this half-brother that was featured in the film.  Was there a real Mei Wai?  Did Ip Man meet his wife at a market?  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what is fiction and what is non-fiction in this film aside from the training from his two masters.

And personally, I just hope there is not a constant number of films that are released and continue to distort the true story of his life.  If anything, I hope that people are smart enough to know that “The Legend is Born: Ip Man” is completely accurate.

Outside of that, I will say that the casting of Dennis To is fantastic.  I know the director has made it clear that this film is not a prequel to the previous two films but I have to admit, Dennis To looks like a younger version of Donnie Yen.  And for anyone watching this film, they will think that this film is an actual prequel to the other two films because of that.  Also, casting Sammo Hung and Fan Siu-wong who starred in the Donnie Yen “Ip Man” films also makes things a bit interesting.

As for the Blu-ray release, you get the making of and trailers.  Picture quality is very good and the lossless soundtrack is also very good but not too immersive.

Overall, “The Legend is Born: Ip Man” is an entertaining popcorn action, martial arts film but it’s also another film that distorts the life of the actual man.  Throwing in a fight against Japanese dressed as ninjas is becoming a bit too farfetched and more Shaw Brothers-like than any other “Ip Man” film before it. But I do understand that as long as these “Ip Man” films continue to be made, it does well in the box office.

“The Legend is Born: Ip Man” continues the action but showcases Ip Man during the time of his earlier teenage years.  If you are looking for a martial arts film to sit back and enjoy without wanting to learn about the actual history of the man who taught Bruce Lee, then definitely give this film a try!

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