In 2000 the film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ astounded audiences around the world and introduced Martial Arts and director Ang Lee into the world of mainstream cinema. The film gained much favor and earned a nomination at the seventy third Academy Awards for best picture, falling short, but still winning best Foreign Language Film. Now, sixteen years later, Netflix brings the sequel to the United States allowing fans to view the next chapter entitled, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’. Directed by Woo-Ping Yuen the film brings back Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien, and the infamous jade sword known as The Sword of Destiny belonging to her lost love Liu Mui Bai.
In this sequel Yu Shu Lien returns from years of solitude to help protect The Sword of Destiny from the warlord Hades Dai, played by Jason Scott Lee, and his forces who wish to use the sword to conquer the martial world. Joining Lien in her quest to protect the sword is the secretive Silent Wolf, played by Donnie Yen who holds a special connection to Yu Shu Lien. To further aid in the defense of the sword Silent Wolf gathers a unique collection of hired fighters, each with their own distinct personality, Flying Blade, Silver Dart Shi, Turtle Ma, and Thunder Fist. Also mixed in the story are the young innocent and beautiful Snow Vase, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who holds secrets of her own, and Harry Shum Jr playing Wei Fang, who has a mysterious connection to Snow Vase that only she knows.
‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ is chalk full of fight scenes, twists and turns, and random storylines. Shot in the same style of the original, it feels very similar to the original, unfortunately it’s the sequel that was never needed. The main plot itself is rather mediocre and feels thin for a film just over an hour and a half, basically a villain trying to get a powerful sword. Characters are deeply developed and well written, sometimes absurdly connecting one to another. Other character developments, like Yu Shu Lien’s, seem to take away some of the magic of the character from the first film.
While the choreography of fight scenes are still amazing and sometimes breathtaking, they are a lot slower in delivery. Granted unlike most action scenes in films today viewers can actually see what is going on and can see nearly every blow, the artistic delivery takes away from the speed and appearance of power. Many of the build ups for confrontations do their jobs, but often the conclusions feel anticlimactic and rather a let down to martial arts fans. Every actor delivers their action moments decorously, and convinces viewers they truly are masters of their specific fighting styles, which truly makes their performances memorable.
Michelle Yeoh truly becomes Yu Shu Lien, a true fighter with heart and pain who wishes only for peace and contentment. Donnie Yen as Shadow Wolf is commanding and undaunted, as the character should be portrayed. Natasha Liu Bordizzo supplies both the beauty, innocence, and fun to the film, and rises as one of the favorite characters in the film. Jason Scott Lee as the warlord Hades Dai captures being a villain well, unfortunately his performance comes across as over the top, although it may not necessarily be his performance that is the problem.
‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ is a fun film, but does not come close to the magic, the charm, or the heart of the original film. While most of the performances are on point, the story itself leaves fans wanting something more. Sadly ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ not only takes away from the original, it becomes the sequel that wasn’t needed, and perhaps shouldn’t have been made. It’s worth seeing if you are a fan of the original and have been waiting for the sequel, and you simply love martial arts films, for everyone else, pretend only the original exists.