San Diego Comic-Con, the Super Bowl for all things fandom-related, took place this past weekend, bringing with it another blast of cosplay, panels, and exclusive new television and movie trailers. And while the cosplay was quite inspired this year, and the panels were full of fascinating and amusing tidbits, it’s the trailers that have really captured our attention from a martial arts perspective.
If the latest glimpses from some of Hollywood’s biggest and buzziest films is any indication, the next couple of years just might be filled with sleek, well choreographed and well executed action sequences and fight scenes at the cinema. To celebrate that, let’s take a closer look at the martial arts components of some of SDCC’s most promising trailers and previews.
While the panel about the slightly naughty bad-guys-doing-good-things movie from the DC Comics empire was mostly about the bizarre method acting stunts that Jared Leto pulled as part of his preparation to play The Joker – and also about his co-star Viola Davis’s bemused reaction to those antics – the SDCC trailer did give us a good glimpse of the sword-wielding skills that newcomer Karen Fukuhara will be displaying as the martial arts expert Katana. We also get a taste of what Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who is no slouch in the combat department herself, can get up to when she’s left alone in an elevator full of goons.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
The trailer for Guy Ritchie’s snappy, intensely physical take on the Arthurian legend didn’t exactly make the biggest splash last weekend, but it still has plenty to pique the curiosity of fight enthusiasts. Arthur might be famous for his sword, but it’s clear that Charlie Hunnam’s version of the character isn’t averse to a little hand-to-hand combat, either. And, given the pedigree of the stars and director of this film, it’s hardly surprising. Ritchie received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie last year, and Hunnam has been boxing for most of his life. The Sons of Anarchy star is also a long term MMA and BJJ fan (he’s been spotted at Metamoris events in the past) and has said that he studied tapes of Conor McGregor’s fights to help him prepare for this role. When asked how he would fare against his inspiration, Hunnam quipped “I don’t think it would go too well for me. Maybe seven and a half seconds before getting knocked out, but it would be a great seven and a half seconds.”
And, speaking of method acting, Hunnam actually offered to fight the other two actors (Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney) that Ritchie was considering for the role. Realizing that the physical size and prowess of Arthur was a major concern for the director, Hunnam said “If you want to do away with all of this auditioning bollocks, I’ll fight those other two dudes. I know who they are. You can bring them both in here. I’ll fight them both. The one who walks out the door gets the job.” As it turns out, being the one who suggested the duel enough to officially secure him the gig.
“I have to swear,” Benedict Cumberbatch warned the Doctor Strange panel audience before talking about the physical demands of playing the Marvel movie’s titular character. “He gets the s*** beat out of him. He gets the s*** beat out of his head, out of his body. I mean he goes very, very, very far down in this story to scrabble back up to become a super hero in the film.”
In a very vague interview last month, actor and martial artist Scott Adkins, whose own role in the film is still a mystery, suggested that the man who played Strange also got thrown around a bit during filming. “He’s not used to the fighting side of things,” he said of Cumberbatch. “It’s kind of new to him. Well, I guess he did some in Star Trek, but it’s my thing. It’s not his thing. I was very happy to give him his… well, he tried his d***endest.”
Perhaps the most intriguing detail to come out of the Doctor Strange push at SDCC, though, was Mads Mikkelsen’s inspiration for his role. The Hannibal star, who plays the villain Kaecilius in the film told Yahoo! that “We have a lot of physicality going on, and it’s martial arts, and one of my biggest heroes of all time is Bruce Lee. Who would have thought at the age of 50 I would get to be a miniature version of him?”
Mikkelsen went on to give himself top grades for his own martial arts work in the film. “I’m really good at it. I’ve been practicing all my life in the sense that I’m an ex-gymnast and I’ve always wanted to do something like that. But it took a Marvel film to do it for me.”
Gal Gadot already had some background in Krav Maga thanks to her service in the Israel Defense Forces, and her background in weapons training has helped to land her a role or two in the past, including her part in the Fast & Furious franchise. But the model-turned-actress significantly increased both the scope and intensity of her martial arts training after landing the highly coveted role of Wonder Woman for this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
In a 2014 appearance on an Israeli talk show, Gadot said that she was starting “a very serious training regimen – Kung Fu, kickboxing, swords, jiujitsu, Brazilian… one thousand and one things.” She also gained almost 20 pounds of muscle for the role.
If the first peeks at her character’s own film, 2017’s Wonder Woman, are any indication, the benefits of that training are continuing to pay off for her in a very impressive way. The girl power-laden, sword-wielding, lasso-looping, butt-kicking trailer took the internet by storm after its ComicCon premiere, and it’s easy to see why.