The 36th Chamber of Shaolin review

Fun fact: I didn’t know this movie existed until about five minutes before I watched it. For martial arts movie buffs, that must sound like blasphemy. Based on what I’ve heard, this is supposed to be one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time. This review may not be 100% critically sound, as I am largely unfamiliar with the genre, so things I find to be bad may be just staples of the genre. Whether or genre staples deserve to be criticized will be discussed at a different time. My only real experiences with this genre have been through Ip Man and it’s first sequel, one of which I found to be quite impressive, while the other I found to be quite disappointing. So, let’s get into what I thought about this movie.

To start, this movie is one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time. And it isn’t. It depends on how you look at it. You could look at it from a fun, cheesy type of perspective, where you can look past some of the narrative flaws and only focus on the fights, the weird situations, etc. You could also look at it from a critical standpoint, where the plot issues and weakly done characters put a damper on your experience. For me, I looked at it sort of in the middle.

It’s very hard for me to watch a movie with my brain off. I either have to have a special childhood connection with it (TRON: Legacy,) or I have to find it so utterly fun that I can throw most of the other criticisms away simply because I’m having so much fun (which happens so infrequently I cannot actually think of an example.) This movie has neither advantage, but I’m still able to just sit back and enjoy a good portion of the movie without worrying about the thinking aspect. Why? Good question. Let’s find out why.

On one hand, I didn’t like anything in the first 20 minutes. Almost nothing convinced me to keep watching, the only reason I did was because of a few funny moments, I didn’t care if they were intentional or not. The characters were rather weak, our lead (San-Ta) was especially annoying, there were frequent and distracting zooms, but most unfortunate of all, the fighting wasn’t very well done. I was seriously confused as to why this was considered anywhere close to a good movie, let alone one of the best in the martial arts genre. But, because there was both pizza and good company present, I decided to keep watching. And boy, I’m glad I did.

As it went on, I became accustomed to the zooms. I grew to love how ridiculous the characters and plot were. I found that the training scenes, while rather repetitive (by repetitive I mean almost all of them begin with him failing the test once, then succeeding on his second attempt,) were legitimately entertaining. Yeah, there were some things that didn’t make much sense, like San-Ta recruiting a good number of people to only use them once, but I kind of grew to ignore them. That’s where it became one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time. When it managed to make me forget to analyse, in favor of pure enjoyment and fight choreography that made me and my friends go “OHHHHH!”


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3 Replies to “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin review”

  1. 36th chamber of hell, more like. My cousin and I recreated the challenges in this movie. They’re all pathetically easy. I don’t understand why this Saint Nick character had any problem with them.