Hall of Mirrors

The view when I look left from my writing desk

I saw Skyscraper this past weekend, the latest movie starring Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock). The movie ticked all the right boxes for me–wildly implausible but enjoyable. If there’s one thing I can say about the Rock, he sells the wildly implausible like no one else. He makes a bad movie better, and a good movie great.

Don’t think I’m spoiling anything by talking about the ending scene…it takes place in a hall of mirrors. A super-updated, high-tech hall of mirrors that viewers are introduced to in the first third of the movie. A not-so-subtle telegraphing of “you know the thrilling conclusion is going to take place here.”

Hall-of-mirrors fight scenes are pretty memorable, when done well. Watching Skyscraper’s version, I recalled the most recent one I’ve seen. It was in John Wick: Chapter 2, and it was Ruby Rose stealing the show there.

But given Skyscraper’s Hong Kong setting, and the visual element of the dragon used throughout the movie, I have to think that the mirrors were a nod to the ORIGINAL mirror fight scene in 1973’s Enter the Dragon.

It had been a while since I’d seen this seminal bit of cinema, and it’s been a pleasure watching it again and again on YouTube. If you’ve never seen Bruce Lee in action, don’t wait, and don’t finish reading this post. Skip straight to YouTube and check him out.

If the mirror scene in Enter the Dragon was an homage to some pre-cursor movie, I don’t know it. And given that it was Lee’s final film, it’s okay by me to let the movie claim “we did it first.”  Bruce Lee was another bright star that left too soon.

Personally, I encounter mirrors all the time, but I’ve never had a mirror fight scene. Don’t really want one. I’m not the most coordinated person around, and I don’t think I’d fare well in a fight. But I think there’s a way to take the elements of the scene and apply them to the skill I do possess–writing.

Bruce Lee’s character in Enter the Dragon (the character’s name is also Lee) hears the words of the Shaolin Abbott during the mirror scene:

“The enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy.”

While that quote definitely works for the scene, it’s kind of tough to extrapolate meaning to apply specifically to my writing. But digging a little further, here are Lee’s words that precede that quote:

A good fight should be like a small play, but played seriously. A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself.

Substitute story for fight and opponent, and writer for martial artist and I, and there are some seeds of wisdom I can get behind.

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