‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ greatly differs from original

Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

Over 15 years ago, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” hit theaters and became one of the most acclaimed and known martial arts films to date. Now, on Netflix and IMAX screens, its long awaited sequel has been released in the form of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.”

The movie takes place 16 years after the end of the last movie, and while featuring a new cast of characters, it includes the famed warrior Yu Shu Lien from the first movie, played by Michelle Yeoh. The story features a cruel warlord, Hades Dai, seeking to take over the “martial world,” but cannot due to the fact that there is a sword better than his, the “Green Destiny.”  In his attempts to claim the sword, and thusly rule ultimately, Yu Shu Lien and a new generation of warriors must protect the sword from his hands.

On its surface, “Sword of Destiny” is a martial arts movie with some decent fight scenes, and some interesting characters, however, what is on the surface is not the extent of the depth of the movie.  To compare “Sword of Destiny” to the original is a shame because of how different the two are.

One of the first, and most important, things of note is the fact that director Ang Lee is not the director of this movie. Instead, it is classic martial arts director Yuen Woo-Ping, director of films such as “Drunken Master” and “Iron Monkey,” who takes up the lead. Another difference, though somewhat minor yet impacting, is the fact that “Sword of Destiny” is in English, and not dubbed over English, without context the former all-speaking Chinese cast is now speaking Queen’s English. It is minor, but it seems a lot more targeting of a movie for western audiences than before.

However, “Sword of Destiny” does have its moments. Yeoh’s character, the warrior Yu Shu Lien, is the strongest character in the film. She is a perfect mix of wisdom and intense vitality and strength that the movie needs. It is her role, and the sword, which keep the spirit of the original “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” alive. The sword is the McGuffin for a classic hero’s tale, and those who accumulate around it find themselves tested in their character like in the first film.

What the movie lacks it makes up though, as best it can, in stunning visuals and very well-organized fight scenes. The opening scene, though partially animated, is a stunning visual accompanied by a mournful introduction by Yeoh.  Director Woo-Ping also knows how to combine these two as in the second half of the movie there is a three-way duel on a frozen lake which leaves an air of shock and awe.

But, the movie does not transport you to a different world like the first one did. In the first movie there is a fight scene atop tree-tops that is almost ethereal in its presentation. While it may have the name of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Sword of Destiny” does not live up to its precedent, but is an okay watch for those interested.

Photo Credit: May S. Young


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