Dragons of the Orient is less a documentary and more a montage of Kung Fu exhibition films thrown together. In between the Kung Fu clips the narrators of the film, a man claiming to be Jet Li's sparring partner and a woman claiming to be a newspaper reporter lead us on a selective tour of China, comment on the Kung Fu stars we're about to see, and try to outdo each other with their own Kung Fu moves.
The only acting in the film comes from the narrators, and in the dubbed version it comes off contrived, cheesy and overdone. If you've ever watched "The Simpsons", the narrators can be likened to Troy McClure in the documentary films Phil Hartman served as narrator for. They put a lot of ideas out there, and never really tie any of them together; at the end of the film the narrators try to conclude by putting conviction into the tone of their voice, while not really saying anything worthy of wrapping up a film/documentary.
As for the Kung Fu displayed in this movie it's often boring. We're treated to clip upon clip from the 1970s and 1980s of Martial Artists honing their craft solo, with an occasional light sparring with a partner thrown in every now and again. I'm not a fan of solo action as the air you're hitting doesn't hit back; this film had me bored throughout most of it.
There are a few points in this film that make it almost worth watching. If you're a fan of Jet Li you might be interested in watching the stock footage of him as a youngster demonstrating his kung fu skills with his friends and solo. There's some nice on location shots of the Great Wall of China, and a Shaolin temple which might appeal to people interested in Chinese history.
Only 2 scenes of kung fu in this movie entertained me. The first was a man using a "duck style" of Kung Fu. The style is quite whimsical and unorthodox, at times looking more like a dance routine that should be done to "Disco Duck". The second scene that was impressive was Jet Li doing a drunken sword solo routine. I've always been a fan of the drunken style and using a sword makes it all the more impressive. Jet Li pulls off the Drunken style quite well, I am surprised he has used it so sparingly in his Hong Kong released films.
Overall this movie is pretty boring, ocassionally you'll find yourself watching an interesting performer or interesting scenery. Bad narration spliced between old kung fu footage makes for a very poor documentary. 2/9 stars.
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