Although Wuxia novels have their own taste of pleasant, watching Wuxia movie and novel adaptations have a separate taste and enjoyment. The earliest wuxia films date back to the 1920s. But actual blast of Wuxia Film begun in 60s, gained momentum in 70s, and slowly flashing in middle of 80s, with fighting movie boom term.
During this 20 years period, historical stories or stories written by the contemporary authors were used for the Wuxia films. Particularly, Shaw bothers film production company became one power in a short term in this branch, and they left huge amount of spectacle classic movies to world cinema heritage. Especially, such directors like Lo Wei, Chor Yuen and Chang Cheh added a lot of major and classic wuxia movies in this period. Also, many actors and actresses became celebrity and count as symbol face for this genre, such as; aggressive Wang Yu, Cool Yueh Hua, cute but hardy Cheng Pei Pei, young and smart Derek Yee, charismatic David Chiang, and majestic Ti Lung …. etc…
* an example of fight scene from old-school Wuxia film
In the early days of this 20-year period, wires and camera tricks was used as special effects for fighting scenes of these films. But, especially after from the 70s, usage of special effects were abandoned or decreased, and actors, who’re really talented in martial arts, were used in these movies. For example, the actors, almost all the actors and actresses in that period were seriously trained in martial arts (such as, Bruce Lee, Ti Lung, Jakie Chan, … etc), or for some of them, because they were already well trained in other sports branch, they could easily perform these pure fight scenes, (such as, swimmer Wang Yu, or ballerina dancer Cheng Pei Pei, … etc). Fights (and rest of other choreography) were taken by the camera as pure as possible, and they used special effect only in a certain scenes for attaching a few pleasantness, such as jump from ground to roof, or reverse, walking on water, or some supernatural powers. This no (or less) special effect age may be also called Old-school martial art age cinema.
* an example of fight scene from modern Wuxia film
After this martial arts films boom was over, Wuxia cinema style was changed with developing cinema tecnology. Plenty of (sometimes in a highly exaggerated) special effects, camera tricks and also supernatural abilities had been used in screen, especially after the 90’s. Now, a few exceptions (such as Jet Lee, and Donnie Yen), many actors in these films don’t have to seriously be trained well in martial arts or have sportive background. By learning a few aesthetic movement, stance, and usage of stuntmen, anybody can be showed as if kung fu master and martial artist. But some fan of this genre want to see real martial artist, and real fights. These changing in the Wuxia (or any fighthing/action films) cinema tease many Wuxia and Old-school Kung Fu Movie fans, and cause re-popularize retro old-school kung fu genre. But for another community that can not be underestimated, cinema is already taken as an art of illusion, and so audiance can still enjoy stories and ambience of these wuxia films, without overstated these “faults (!)”.
In summary, modern or old-school, the main thing that create attractiveness in Wuxia style are story contents, codes, costumes, settings and themes of the genre. And as long as this ambience remains, regardless of the other details, Wuxia Genre never lose its worth and popularity. ^_^