How Bruce Lee Changed The World Review

At this point, there’s really no debate as to whether or not Bruce Lee was the coolest man to ever pick up a pair of nunchucks, or even punch anyone in the face (which pits him against such legendary face-punchers such as Sean Connery and Harrison Ford); it’s pretty much a given. The man’s accomplishments not only in martial arts, but also in philosophy and cultural advancement (he was just about the first Asian person to portray a leading Asian character in television or film), dwarf those of nearly any living media figure, and have firmly cemented his reputation as one of the leading folk heroes of the Twentieth Century. Given all that, it’s too bad that How Bruce Lee Changed The World doesn’t measure up a little better. With a title as daunting and ambitious as that, you’d think that those involved would be attempting something worthy of a Peabody, but they seem to be settling for spending an hour and a half talking about how cool Bruce Lee was.

For those of you looking for a comprehensive biography of Lee, look elsewhere. Perhaps a third of this documentary is devoted to a chronicling of his journey to America, his success in Hong Kong, and his final triumph with Enter the Dragon, with the rest being fairly candid interviews with people who, for some reason or another, have something that they would like to say about Lee. Some of them are interesting and worthy of consideration (Jackie Chan, one of the people who benefited most from Lee’s popularization of Hong Kong films, makes some solid points), others are kind of odd (Stan Lee is here to talk about how Lee influenced a number of his comic books), while most are just kind of disparate and peripheral. Was it really that important for us to hear how Brett Ratner was affected by seeing Lee’s films, especially when there are so many Hong Kong filmmakers available to speak about the direct hand he had in creating their industry? Do a few video games based directly on Lee really qualify as “influence” on that industry? Where, for that matter, is Chuck Norris, who is seen fighting Lee in a clip from of their early films? Inadvertently, the documentary suggests a number of other documentaries yet-to-be-made about subjects as diverse as the influence of martial arts in Hip-Hop and the creation of the Hong Kong film industry, but never settles on a single subject long enough to provide the insight or narrative that Lee so richly deserves.

Even if How Bruce Lee Changed The World is somewhat lacking as a documentary, it is reflective of the tremendous goodwill that Lee has engendered throughout the world. Even if a number of these interviewees really have no business being here, one never doubts the sincerity of their convictions, or that their interest in Lee is exactly as strong as they say it is. There are a number of good stories and anecdotes in here (probably the most interesting being how a statue of Lee has been erected in Bosnia as a symbol of ethnic unity), and it’s certainly fun to watch people of such widely different backgrounds share such a similar perspective on Lee. But at the same time, it’s hard not to think that something much stronger could have been made here with the material available. Bruce Lee was everything that the commentators here said that he was, so it’s kind of disappointing to see his life and influence distilled into something that feels like it could have been done with any number of figures.

For anyone who sees this and still wants more Lee (as any right-minded person should), there are obviously his feature films, but there’s also Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, a biopic that came out in 1993 with Jason Scott Lee (no relation) and Lauren Holly. It’s as loving and melodramatic as any biopic ever produced, but it also has Bruce Lee shattering ice blocks with his fist. The choice is yours.

DVD Bonus Features

The disc also has a short ""Need To Know"" featurette about Bruce Lee and a selected filmography of his work.

"How Bruce Lee Changed The World" is on sale August 25, 2009 and is rated NR. Documentary. Written and directed by Steve Webb. Starring Brett Ratner, Bruce Lee, Eddie Griffin.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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