Matthew J.R. Kohler
The beginning to a fight can be the most challenging to make, just like the beginning of a movie. The challenge for most is who should start the fight. That might sound crazy, but it is important. If someone has more at stake than the other, then they should be the starter. The beginning is my favorite part of a fight. The reason being that I love the buildup and the tension but I also enjoy how it’s all going to start.
Many fight scenes simply start with none of what I just mentioned. In The Protector, both the main character and the bodybuilder just kind of charge at one another; nothing to grasp there. Even though a lot of the fights in the movie are exciting, there was no payoff at the end. Not only did you not know Tony Jaa’s character, but also the filmmakers didn’t even try to make you want the fight, they just gave it to you. When a director just hands over a fight, you know they didn’t give it their all.
Empire Strikes Back is a great example of a film that makes you want the climactic fight to happen. Created with the style of Kurosawa, Lucas and his team created the stall, or slow walk for the duel. The story of the fight is that Luke confronts Vader in order to save the ones he cares about. Through the fight scene, though, the characters have to explain this.
The entire movie is built around facing your fears by confronting the dark side. Luke Skywalker, sworn to walk the path of peace (Jedi), believes he is not afraid of the threat that is Darth Vader. When the two finally collide, Luke Skywalker is the one who starts the battle. This is significant for one reason: never do Jedi start a conflict. Later in the battle, Luke shows once again that he is not ready. Not only does he start to fear Vader, but also he simply cannot overcome him. Also, in the middle of the fight, Luke begins to realize what he is becoming. For two movies, Luke was slowly turning to the dark side with displays of recklessness (as shown in A New Hope, and pointed out by Yoda earlier in Empire), selfishness (facing Vader alone), and fear (of Vader). What happens internally with Luke adds a new layer to this unforgettable fight scene, and makes “I am your father” a truly potent climax.
Fight scene openings are hard to accomplish. If the audience doesn’t feel the excitement at the opening, then the fight scene is doomed to mediocrity (or worse). Check out below for fight scenes with the best openings. Enjoy!