Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" is not just about Ip Man, instead it's about a lost kung fu world where martial artists live and endure.
Ip Man, as portrayed by Tony Leung, is the major character as well as the film's voice over narrator. The legendary Ip Man popularized Wing Chun-style boxing in Hong Kong, and his student Bruce Lee popularized kung fu and kung fu films around the world.
"The Grandmaster" opens with a cool fighting scene in the rain, which perhaps draws inspiration from "The Matrix" by Larry and Andy Wachowski. Not surprisingly, the two films share the same martial arts choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping. But "The Grandmaster" has more poetry in motion, not only in its opening scene but throughout the entire movie.
Likewise, "Grandmaster" features more than just well-choreographed action. Wong first came up with the idea for the film back in 1997, registered the initial script in 2001, and started to shoot it in 2009. Through years of hard work, Wong himself collected tons of Kung fu materials and documents, traveled around China and visited hundreds existing Kung Fu masters. He sent his main actors, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen to learn real kung fu for more than 3 years. As a result, Chang even won a national kung fu championship in addition to his acting.
You can say Wong has created a sort of "ode to kung fu" — as the aesthetic, lavish and breathtaking cinematography almost seems like a sensory overload. Wong even borrows a piece of the score from "Once Upon a Time in America," indicating his ambition to create an oriental version of a Kung Fu world which existed before the People's Republic of China was founded.