IP Man: The Complete Collection comprises all four films by director Wilson Yip about legendary IP Man in 4K Ultra HD and 1080p Blu-ray. The original proved popular enough following its 2008 debut that three subsequent films were eventually released over the next decade. Together they are now available in a lavishly package that will undoubtedly please Donnie Chen and IP Man franchise fans alike.
Well Go USA has housed IP Man: The Complete Collection in a thick and sturdy black outer case with a gold embossed title treatment on the front. It’s the type of case befitting a legendary film series, which IP Man has quickly become.
Inside the book-like case are four separate jewel cases, one for each film, with each including a 4K UHD disc and a Blu-ray Disc. The Blu-rays are the same as the previously released versions, including all the legacy bonus features.
Next to the disc cases is a folded up double-sided poster with artwork representing IP Man and Ip Man 4: The Finale. Oddly the second and third films aren’t included. There is also a small booklet with a variety of essays and imagery from each of the films. Together these could be considered the new bonus features as there are none commissioned on any of the discs.
Those only familiar with the original IP Man film by name and most recognizable film in the series might wonder, who is this IP Man character? It turns out he’s not a character at all. These films are a biographical story based on IP Man, or Yip Man; a Wing Chun Chinese martial arts Grandmaster and genius of Wushu schooling who would become Bruce Lee’s master, among other prominent martial artists.
Bruce Lee shows up in IP Man 3 and IP Man 4: The Finale portrayed by Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan. Despite the global star power of Lee’s name, the driving force behind each of these films remains IP Man and the impact he had on those around him. Ultimately this series helped Yen become more visible in the United States, and most likely helped him secure the role of Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Each of the IP Man films are presented chronologically across the Grandmaster’s life. What they don’t do is provide a fully accurate historical lesson based on the real IP Man’s history. Instead, the films loosely follow historical events in what you might imagine would be IP Man retelling his stories for future generations. Some facts are omitted, others altered. The gist is there and it works, especially in the first two films.
The original IP Man film fires on all cylinders with as much dramatic impact as punches thrown. The stellar fight choreography you’d expect wows often, but the occupation of China by Japanese troops, and how IP Man defiantly opposes it, helps flesh out his personal story and define what IP Man stands for.
IP Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster fast-forwards to the late 1940’s and moves to Hong Kong. At this time the British have gained control of the region and IP Man once again finds himself butting up against invading outsiders. This similarity to the Japanese occupation feels like a rehash of the first film, only with slightly improved fights that are equally very enjoyable. Nothing comes easy in life and once again IP Man’s journey through this difficult time with his family proves it.
By IP Man 3 the tone and focus began to shift away from reality just a bit. This is highlighted by the introduction of none other than Mike Tyson as a greedy real estate developer operating during the last 1950’s who gets what he wants through force. The rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor. Enter IP Man, a savior for the “have nots” who won’t take any bull from a greedy developer and his thugs.
You put Tyson and his small army against Donnie Yen and cinematic magic happens. While a step backward in terms of story structure from the previous two films, there’s more than ample entertainment value strewn among the variety of expertly choreographed fights.
And then there’s IP Man 4: The Finale which takes the most creative liberty of them all. It’s a retrospective outing as IP Man nears the end of his life and begins to grapple with the legacy he’ll leave behind. It’s also a clash of American and Chinese cultures as Bruce Lee’s martial arts demonstrations spread the art form throughout America in 1964 San Francisco. There’s a strong undercurrent of racism prevalent throughout that replaces the class warfare commentary from the previous film.
A finale wouldn’t be a finale without a final fight, and this film packs a great one as Yen faces off against Scott Adkins as the Big Bad. Even so, the fight scenes in IP Man 3 were a bit more enjoyable than this final outing.
If viewing the IP Man films in order in terms of storytelling is like riding the escalator down then experiencing the new 4K presentations is taking the escalator right back up.
The original IP Man is naturally the oldest, but it also employs some sort of weird filter that results in a soft image and obtrusive film grain that looks unnatural. This has been prevalent on all the previous home video releases and yet again blemishes the 4K format.
On the bright side, the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR helps pump up the colors and push the blacks closer toward that inkiness we love. Detail is clearly more apparent when the camera gets up close and personal with the characters. It’s an improvement, but still could have been better.
As you move through the next three films that ugly filter on IP Man is thankfully nowhere to be seen. Instead you get a far clearer picture, even more image refinement from the Dolby Vision HDR, and more natural film grain that doesn’t interfere with the image behind it.
Dolby Vision HDR is the big winner in these up-sampled transfers. All of the improvements on IP Man in terms of colors, white and black ranges, and depth are more pronounced on the latter three films. I’ll stop short of calling these definitive transfers without a fresh 4K scan on the original two movies shot on film, but they are definitely the reigning presentation and supplant the Blu-ray transfers in every way.
On the audio front, each of the four IP Man films has been given a Dolby Atmos audio track with English subtitles. You may have already gotten a taste of what to expect on the recent IP Man 4: The Finale 4K and Blu-ray release as the same track here is available there.
IP Man and IP Man 2 are noticeable upgrades over their previous 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio releases. They’re more expansive when the action opens up in larger areas, taking advantage of the height channels in ways DTS-HD could not.
IP Man 3 employed a DTS:X mix on Blu-ray so theoretically — as I never witnessed the DTS:X mix personally — there’s likely not much of an upgrade moving to Dolby Atmos. The important thing is the Dolby Atmos track keeps pace with the expansive soundstage and LFE of the other films so there’s a nice aural consistency prevalent when watching the entire collection.
And what a binge watch it is. The entire life of a Grandmaster — Bruce Lee’s Grandmaster — spread across a four-film saga. IP Man: The Complete Collection is essential viewing for not only martial arts fans, but fans of movies in general. It’s an incredibly well-made saga despite some tonal shifts veering more toward fictional entertainment as it moves along.
Set aside and retire your old Blu-rays and make the IP Man: The Complete Collection 4K upgrade with confidence, or dive in blind for the first time. There’s no going wrong taking a trip through the life, experiences, and many fights of IP Man on any format, but especially in 4K.
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