Some of the greatest films from the martial arts genre inspire one of Moon Knight’s most memorable and visually impressive stories.
Solid action sequences are a large part of what makes comic books so much fun to read. There’s something supremely satisfying in seeing bad guys get the stuffing knocked out of them. Sometimes the action is impossible in nature, such as battles including super-strength, flight, and people surviving buildings falling on them. However, other action sequences are more grounded in nature and display feats involving actual martial arts. 2014’s Moon Knight #5 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire drew heavy inspiration for its action sequences from a variety of Asian martial arts and action cinema.
The premise of the issue is simple. Moon Knight, in the persona of Mr. Knight, pulls up in front of a dilapidated building. He interrogates a nearby thug and confirms that a young girl had been kidnapped and was being held captive on the fifth floor of the building. Unconcerned with mob politics, Moon Knight enters the building with one mission in mind: saving the girl.
Moon Knight begins to battle his way through every floor of the building, enemy after enemy rushing to meet him. Some battles are over before they begin as Moon Knight incapacitates his foes with ease using his crescent darts. Other fights are slugfests, with Moon Knight putting his martial arts skills to good work. The issue ends with Moon Knight finishing off the last thug in the building and saving the young girl. He leaves the last thug with a dire warning for the rest of NYC’s criminal underworld: when they see him coming, they need to run.
The greatest thing about how the action is constructed in the issue lies within the simplicity of its overall narrative progression. The issue is book-ended with dialogue, with the core of the issue relying almost entirely on pure visuals to push the action forward. Save for a few quips or taunts, Moon Knight doesn’t speak throughout most of the issue. This decision allows the issue to focus on the intensity of his battles and how brutal such fights can be. As the old idiom states, actions speak louder than words, and Moon Knight lets his fists do the talking for him.
What’s amazing about the issue is how closely it resembles Asian cinema and incorporates different cinematography techniques to emphasize its action. In filmmaking, there is a technique known as a long take or continuous shot in which the duration of the shot is longer than the regular editing pace of the film. Another technique in filmmaking is known as a sequence shot in which a long take utilizes multiple scenes in its duration. These types of shots, while uncommon and more challenging to shoot than regular shots, are fantastic tools in creating gripping action sequences. 2003’s Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-Wook, features an action sequence in a hallway that lasts for a full three-minute continuous take. 1992’s Hard Boiled, directed by John Woo, also features a two-and-a-half-minute continuous shot involving one of the most frenetic firefights in cinematic history. Moon Knight #5 features Moon Knight fighting his way through a building, floor by floor, staircase by staircase, with no cuts to other characters, locations, or points of view. Every fist thrown, every thug pummeled is one step closer to the climax of the issue with no filler in between.
A very notable source of inspiration for the issue comes from the 2011 film The Raid, directed by Gareth Evans. The Raid tells the story of a squad of policemen fighting their way through a high-rise building, which is precisely what Moon Knight does in the issue. Inspiration for Moon Knight #5 can also be drawn from the 2006 film The City of Violence, directed by Seung-wan Ryu. The City of Violence showcases martial arts battles against a variety of colorful and unique opponents, as can be seen in its gang fight sequence with baseball players, hockey players, breakdancers, and high schoolers. Moon Knight battles standard thugs, heavily armored troopers, a garishly tattooed strong man, and a dual knife-wielding in a vibrant purple suit with a killer mustache.
Rousing action is deceptively difficult to pull off, both in film and comics. Standard punches and kicks can become repetitive, and if there are no stakes involved for the hero, the entire sequence becomes boring. Moon Knight is an ex-Marine and CIA operative turned mercenary turned street-level hero. It’s only fitting that his battles are swift, bloody, and ferocious. The fact that they bear such resemblances to Asian action movies just makes them even sweeter. With Moon Knight debuting on Disney+ later this month, fans will finally be able to see Moon Knight’s hardcore fighting style be given the live-action treatment.
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