Well, here we are at last, right in the midst of 2017 which brings with it the anticipation and the hope that big screen action and adventure brings what martial arts lovers are yearning for and can match and YES even surpass what 2016 had to offer! Obviously, it’s never wise to count one’s eggs before they hatch, but we at KFK think the landscape looks quite promising in that regard…
That said, something us lovers of action are certainly accustomed to are the shifting release dates that are subject to alteration, which means that a few entries from last year’s list are actually dropping this year, something not always foreseeable for fans, journalists, studios, or filmmakers. In the interest of not simply rehashing or reordering last year’s countdown, we’ll simply list these 2016 holdovers below with the assurance that our excitement and anticipation for them has not diminished in the least and neither should yours!
John Wick: Chapter Two
Birth of the Dragon
Mortal Kombat X: Generations
Now let our countdown of the Top 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2017 begin! in descending order…
- Kung Fu Yoga
This one has technically already dropped (as has KFK’s interview with Jackie Chan about the film!) but we’d be remiss to leave it out! Jackie’s first trip back to Bollywood after 2005’s “The Myth” also reunites him with his old compatriot, director legend Stanley Tong, whose past collaborations with Jackie include “Police Story 3: Supercop“, “Police Story 4: First Strike” and “Rumble in the Bronx“. As you can surmise from the title, the film brings together the twin disciplines of kung fu and yoga, a pairing ideal for a globe-trotting Jackie Chan adventure!
Mother Russia steps into the superhero craze with “Guardians”, a group of Soviet-era government agents granted abilities ranging from super-speed to transforming into a bear – although their odds in battle would greatly improve if they remembered to recruit The Most Complete Fighter in the World to their ranks, but I digress! It’s certainly a different flavor of cape and tights action than what we’re currently seeing from the Marvel and DC stables, but superheroes have become such a worldwide phenomenon, every culture on Earth is eager to jump right in – India already did with last summer’s “A Flying Jatt”, and from the look of it “Guardians” is aiming for the same brand of wild and crazy all-out superhero amusement!
- The Lego Ninjago Movie
Legomania has never been at such a feverish pitch after 2014’s “The Lego Movie” and the recent spin-off “The LEGO Batman Movie”, so it would seem now’s the perfect time to inject a little Ninjutsu into the mix – it’s certainly worked wonders for blind vigilante lawyers and anthropomorphic turtles! Six Lego teenagers become the protectors of the kingdom of Ninjago against the plot of a power-mad warlord, but fortunately, they have the advantage of studying under the wise Master Wu, voiced by none other than Jackie Chan. Sounds like a whole lot of fun indeed!
- Kickboxer: Retaliation
The original “Kickboxer” franchise kicked the Sloan brothers to the curb in its second chapter, but the franchise’s rebooted continuity will resume the story of everyone’s favorite Nuk Soo Kowin “Kickboxer: Retaliation”. Following last year’s Kickboxer: Vengeance, Alain Moussi returns to the role of Muay Thai warrior Kurt Sloan with original series star Jean-Claude Van Damme also back as his grizzled mentor Durand. Joining them are “Highlander” and “Mortal Kombat” alumnus Christopher Lambert and a who’s who of MMA greats like Wanderlei Silva and Fabricio Werdum and former World Heavyweight Boxing champ Mike Tyson. This time, Kurt is kidnapped and forced into an underground tournament where he must face the massive strongman ‘Mongkut’, played by real-life strongman HafþórJúlíus “Thor” Björnsson – now there’s a guy you certainly don’t want to give any glass gloves to!
- The Foreigner
It should come as no surprise to see Jackie Chan make the list, but a team-up with an ex-007 is long overdue (in this case, the fifth Bond, Mr. Pierce Brosnan) joining forces with Jackie to take down Irish terrorists in London! He’s not the film’s only Bond series alumni either; director Martin Campbell also comes aboard, well known for rebooting Bond not once, but twice, in 1995’s “Goldeneye” and 2006’s “Casino Royale”, and good luck finding a better opening sequence to a 007 escapade than the latter’s unbelievable parkour chase!
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Let’s be blunt here – 2015’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” had a henchwoman who flipped around the screen kicking people in the face with carbon fibre legs equipped with protruding blades. THAT’S how you do a popcorn movie! Directed by “X-Men: First Class” auteur Matthew Vaughn and based on the graphic novel by Dave Gibbons and “Kick-Ass” writer Mark Millar, the film was two hours of relentless, ridiculous fun and heaven knows what a panacea for most of life’s woes that can be! No trailer yet, but check out the one for the original film above to see how crazy “The Golden Circle” is likely to get…
Tony Jaa rocked the boat – scratch that, capsized it! – with his 2015 Hong Kong debut “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences“, teaming him with Wu Jing and Max Zhang in a two-on-one finale that left no one not blown away. His sophomore outing in Hong Kong, “Paradox”, teams him with Louis Koo and Wu Yue, under the direction of Wilson Yip, auteur of such modern classics as “SPL“, “Flash Point” and the Ip Man series, along with the legendary Sammo Hung as action director. The trailer should hopefully drop soon, but that’s plenty to keep this a blip on your radar until then!
- Beyond Skyline
After being sadly underutilized in 2015’s otherwise terrific “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian are ready to jump back into the realm of sci-fi with the upcoming “Beyond Skyline”. The sequel to 2010’s “Skyline”, the film is set in the midst of an alien invasion, with tough as nails police detective Mark, played by Frank Grillo, teaming up with the human resistance leader Sua, played by Iko, to repel the invading force and rescue Mark’s abducted son. While Iko and Yayan need no introduction in the martial arts world, Grillo has emerged as a rising action star in his own right in recent years with memorable turns in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Purge films along with the upcoming “Wolf Warrior 2” – to say nothing of the upcoming American remake of “The Raid” he’s currently shepherding. No official trailer yet, but the clip of Iko doing his thing above should suffice for the time being!
- Power Rangers
For as many iterations as Power Rangers has experienced since its inception, no one gets the chills at the sound of the iconic “Mighty Morphin” theme than those of us old enough to have seen the original five suit up. Some might call the upcoming reboot a makeover or a modernization of a long-running kids show that aims to please the original fans and a new generation at once, but there’s more to it than that. Simply put, the Mighty Morphin reboot looks almost identical to what its young audience was interpreting the show as in their own minds – take a trip back to the early 90’s, and any seven-year-old would say as much. All of that’s not even getting into just how many contemporary adults developed their early interest in martial arts from their exposure to Power Rangers, including yours truly – talk about a trip down memory lane!
- Commando 2: The Black Money Trail
Bollywood’s King of Kalari Vidyut Jammwal brings the thunder once again in “Commando 2”, the sequel to his 2013 breakout hit “Commando: A One Man Army“. This time, Captain Karanvir Singh Dogra, our hero from the original film, is pulled into a mission to bust a political prisoner out of captivity in Malaysia, but he soon learns there’s more to his mission than he’s been told. With his combination of cool charisma and consummate mastery of Kalaripayattu, Vidyut carried the first film on his shoulders with impeccable ease, and judging from the trailer, he kicks into overdrive in the sequel. While its predecessor came with the disclaimer of the genuine nature of the film’s impressive stunts, there’s decidedly no need to do the same for round two – although the making-of featurette below certainly does that trick nicely!
And, of course, let’s not forget we’re likely in for a song-and-dance number or two – I mean this is Bollywood, after all!
- Wonder Woman
We’ve seen some truly amazing superheroines such as Black Widow, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, and Katana make their mark at a theater near you, but thus far, they’ve always been part of a team effort. The few times superladies have gone solo – well, let’s just say that “Supergirl”, “Elektra”, and the bottomless pit of agony that is 2004’s “Catwoman” didn’t exactly break down any barriers. So, who better to finally break the curse afflicted upon superheroine’s big screen adventures than the original one? Gal Gadot returns to the role of the Amazonian warrior Princess Diana from last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“, where she stole the show in the battle against the monstrous Doomsday. Few characters in the DC Universe can match Batman’s incredible fighting skills, but Wonder Woman is most certainly one of them, as you’d expect when one is raised in a warrior culture like the Amazons! What’s even better is that this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Diana this year, either – she’ll also be donning her tiara once more in November when the highly anticipated “Justice League” unleashes…
In both cases, we can also safely assume she’ll bring with her not only her amazing fighting abilities and Lasso of Truth, but Hans Zimmer’s excellent Wonder Woman theme which you may also know by its proper title, “The Most Awesome Piece of Music in the Entire Universe!”
Here’s to also hoping the choice of musical illumination found in the “Justice League” trailer booms in as well!
- Savage Dog
In 1959, one man is on a mission of survival in the harsh jungles of Indochina, and he’ll have to fight his way past a literal army in the upcoming “Savage Dog”. Ensembles are the best and “Savage Dog” brings the thunder by rounding up Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Cung Le, and rising star Juju Chan, under the direction of stunt veteran Jesse V. Johnson. Obviously, just the promise of Scott and Marko meeting once more after 2010’s “Undisputed III: Redemption” would be good enough on its own, but with as much high-calibre talent doing what they do best as “Savage Dog” brings together, it’d be borderline insulting to them to go in with any consternation at all, this one is surely going to crush it!
- Into the Badlands: Season Two
AMC’s six-episode first season of the post-apocalyptic action drama “Into the Badlands” brought old school, Hong Kong-style martial arts back to the small screen in a way that Western audiences hadn’t seen since Sammo Hung’s “Martial Law”. For the ten-episode second season, they’re pulling out all the stops once again, as you can see from the trailer. Daniel Wu returns to the role of the series’ anti-hero Sunny, once the most feared “Clipper” in the badlands, (you can certainly see what that is in his character teaser) now held against his will in the work camp of another ruthless “Barron”, and on a patch of vengeance against the vicious Widow (whose own combat bonafides are impossible to deny in her teaser). Watch any episode of the show at random and you can see how much dedication the creators have put into it, not to mention how much they’ve done their homework. Season one ended on a cliffhanger with clear callbacks to “The Five Deadly Venoms”, and the 1:00 minute mark of the trailer suggests they’ve laid some “Drive” Easter Eggs in season two. Comedian Nick Frost comes aboard the series to add plenty of belly laughs, and MMA-legend Cung Le will also return from the excellent final fight in season one’s cliffhanger ending – a welcome return indeed, on that we can surely all agree!
- Accident Man
Don’t be fooled by his code name and comic book origins, Mike Fallon is no superhero, but one of the world’s deadliest assassins who specializes in making his hits look like mishaps with no foul play. Like “Savage Dog”, it’s a who’s who of action movie royalty, including Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Ray Park, Amy Johnston, and Tim Man, also acting as fight choreographer and stunt vet Jesse V. Johnson directing. It’s the same story as “Savage Dog” – with such a motley crew as that, they’d have to try really hard to screw this up! No trailer yet, but you can see Scott talk about the film’s origins as a passion project of his at last year’s premiere of “Doctor Strange”!
…and last but most certainly not least in at #1 is…
- Iron Fist!
Marvel Comics’ chi-powered kung fu extraordinaire Danny Rand finally makes the leap to live-action in the highly anticipated Netflix series “Iron Fist”. After years as a monk in the mystical city of K’unLun, billionaire martial artist Danny Rand defeats the dragon Shou Lao The Undying and emerges with the coveted power of the Iron Fist, enabling him to focus his chi into his fist to make it as strong as iron.
That the show’s debut on Netflix on March 17th coincides beautifully with the March 19th release of “Into the Badlands” can only mean martial arts fans will be some seriously happy campers that weekend! Like “Wonder Woman”, Danny’s grand debut is actually delivering fans two for the price of one, given that we’ll also see him this summer united with his fellow Marvel heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage for the “Avengers”-style mini-series “The Defenders” (the trailer’s soundtrack would also seemingly indicate sharing much in common with “Wonder Woman’s”). “Daredevil” set the bar incredibly high for martial arts action in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in both its first and second seasons, so between that and Danny’s years of rigorous training in K’unLun, it’s a safe bet that his mastery of the Iron Fist will leave many jaws floored when the series lands on Netflix on March 17th. Then again, the 2:05 mark in the trailer most certainly already has!
So there we have it folks, the Top 15 Most Anticipated Martial Arts Movies of 2017 (along with the equally anticipated holdovers from 2016)! You most assuredly won’t want to miss a single entry on the countdown, so watch out for every last one of them and stay tuned for KFK’s coverage of each one as they explode onto a screen near you!