I don’t normally think about a movie’s sound design, but I think about it a lot when I go to Kung Fu theater at the Hollywood. A large part of this is the influence of the Wu Tang Clan, specifically Rza’s production on Protect Ya Neck, because for a long time my experience with these sorts of 70’s kung fu films was exclusively auditory.
A bigger part of it, however, is that the sound design is more important in a kung fu film like this than it is in many other types of movies because if each weapon has it’s own sound (as they generally do) then that means you’re going to have to edit the audio so that every thrust, parry, block and hit in a five or ten minute fight scene that might have anywhere between 2 and 50 people in it has to be correctly synced to the visuals and that the overlapping mix isn’t muddy or chaotic. Sometimes the way the sound of the fight weaves in and out is as impressive to me as the fight itself.
Other times, however, the audio can totally ruin the experience. All the villains in this movie used tridents as their weapon, and the trident always made this high pitched metallic noise that was grating. At the final showdown there was so much shrill whistling going on that I was grinding my teeth. That probably would have been a minor complaint if I had liked the rest of the movie more, but the plot was pretty unengaging and the fight scenes weren’t bad but they also weren’t particularly memorable, so having the movie end on such a headache producing mess tipped the whole thing from underwhelming to actively annoying.
Winner: The Cat