Kung Fu Kingdom were lucky enough to recently see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, the latest instalment in one of the most popular movie franchises of all time. Since the announcement in the summer of 2015 that martial arts superstar Donnie Yen would be featured in the new movie, action fans around the world have waited with baited breath!
Chinese trailer which features more Donnie Yen
A similar situation occurred when it was announced that the Indonesian stars of “The Raid” movies would feature in the previous film release, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“. Sadly, they were woefully underused leaving many martial arts fans feeling disappointed. We are happy to report that is not the case with Donnie Yen’s role in this movie!
Donnie Yen in action in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Donnie stars as Chirrut Imwe, a philosophical warrior and former guardian of the Jedi Temple, who also happens to be blind. He is joined on his adventure by his “Lost Bladesman” co-star Jiang Wen, who plays Baze Malbus, Chirrut’s beefy, fast shooting sidekick.
Without giving too much away, they become involved with a ragtag band of Rebels who are on a mission to steal the plans for the evil Galactic Empire’s new super weapon.
This is easily Donnie’s finest English-language acting performance to date and is among the best of the entire cast. He is touching, humorous and heroic. His weapon of choice is a cudgel which he wields as well as in any of his more conventional martial arts movies. His entrance to the action is appropriately swift and spectacular, featuring many moves that will be familiar to fans of his Hong Kong films. Donnie’s fighting style is well captured on film, with much of it being shot in a wide format, something that is often missing when Asian-style action features in a big-budget Western production.
What is astonishing about Donnie’s action scenes is that he had to perform them virtually blind for real due to the contact lenses he was wearing! Incredibly, this does not inhibit his speed and co-ordination in his battle scenes.
Donnie Yen discusses having to perform blind
With its themes of war and rebellion, Rogue One is possibly the most action-packed movie in the entire series, with the huge added bonus that a star like Donnie Yen can bring to his scenes. Rogue One is a real treat for Star Wars fans, and Donnie Yen’s contribution to proceedings is the cherry on the cake!
Martial arts traditions, philosophies and indeed skills have featured throughout the Star Wars franchise since it began way back in 1977 with “Star Wars: A New Hope”. The original light sabre combat was heavily based on the Japanese art of Kendo and the Jedi training and philosophies touched on themes found in many traditional Asian martial arts.
When the films returned to the big screen as prequels in 1999, creator George Lucas brought in wushu champion Ray Park. The British martial artist possessed the acrobatics and weapon skills to take light sabre combat to a whole new level, setting the tone for the physical combat scenes not only in the subsequent movies, but also the animated television shows and computer games.
The tradition of including exciting martial arts choreography in the Star Wars Universe looks set to continue in the next movie in the franchise, Star Wars: Episode VIII. Star, Daisey Ridley who plays the hero Rey, has been practicing some pretty nifty weapons skills with wushu expert and stunt performer Liang Yang.
If Rogue One is anything to go by, we can’t wait to see how they translate to the big screen when Episode VIII is released in December 2017! (While you’re here feel free to check out some of our previous Star Wars combat-centric articles!)