I will take on the critiques made about Ip Man 4 in this review. I think the reviewer missed the point of the film.
The reviewer complains that the movie is Chinese nationalistic propaganda. One irritating feature of this review is it discusses other movies in the series. This weakens its arguments about Ip Man 4. The reviewer summarizes the movie in two sentences, writing that “[Ip Man]…claims a victory for the Chinese martial art Wing Chun.” That line in particular makes me doubt the reviewer even saw the movie. I don’t see how he could claim victory for wing chun when he never utters the words “wing chun” in it. The viewer would have to remember that is the style of martial arts Ip Man practices from the other movies in the series.
Interestingly, although the reviewer points out that several of the Chinese characters demonstrate bigoted behavior, the reviewer is only willing to go so far as to call one of them “conservative.” Can’t Chinese people be racist too? Next, the reviewer bemoans that the “presentation of [racial tensions]…is included to advance the storyline and set up emotional investment for the fight scenes.” This is how stories are told and given meaning. They may as well have said the movie uses actors and cameras.
The reviewer claims that “The film seems to imply that the way to combat racism is through violence.” The reviewer doesn’t support this argument with facts about the movie and instead just moves on. A more accurate analysis of the film’s theme about violence is that “the righteous avoid it, but defend themselves and their people when others attack them.” This is what Ip Man demonstrates. Through the whole series, Ip Man almost never challenges another to, or starts, a fight. The reviewer incorrectly claims that karate is an antagonist in the movie–this doesn’t really make sense. How can a style of martial arts be an antagonist? It’s not a sentient entity, but merely a philosophy of hand-to-hand combat.
The reviewer says that the pitting of Japanese karate against Chinese kung fu in which kung fu wins is “a show of reverse bigotry.” I don’t believe there is such a thing as “reverse bigotry,” and the reviewer doesn’t aid his readers in understanding what this concept is or how it applies here. The reviewer continues by again complaining that the movie slurs non-Chinese and “manipulates nationalistic feelings.” I will admit that there is only one, of the many, White characters in Ip Man 4 that is presented as a regular, non-racist person–Yonah’s cheerleading coach. This is somewhat problematic. It would take more force out of the “it’s nationalistic” argument if there were more non-racist White characters. However there is another benevolent non-Chinese (Western) character, Bruce Lee’s African American student, Billy.
What the reviewer does next is particularly strange: questions the legitimacy of kung fu as a form of hand-to-hand combat. This has no place in a movie review and seems to be outside of the reviewer’s scope of knowledge to boot. The reviewer does praise kung fu as culturally important and healthy, so it isn’t a complete hit-job.
The reviewer concludes by wondering if the movie and its protagonist are as guilty of racism and chauvinism as the villains. I don’t see this at all. Ip Man clearly has pride in his country and people, but never to the point of acting superior to anyone else. He is modest and never proclaims that China is any better than America or Chinese are any better than Americans. To say that the character is racist or chauvinistic is simply inaccurate.
The movie has much more nuance and heart than the reviewer leads the reader to believe. The Marine Corp element of the story doesn’t even begin until halfway through the runtime. The movie is interested in what it means to be a good father and how to respond to systemic discrimination. It stands alone and can be watched without seeing the rest of the series. If you like kung fu movies or inspirational dramas, I recommend you watch it. The Ip Man films are currently on Netflix.