In 2000 director Ang Lee brought his martial arts masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to theaters and it shocked the film world garnering numerous awards including 10 Academy Award nominations including best picture and a best director win for Lee. Now they have finally released the much talked about sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny both in theaters and on Netflix with only Michelle Yeoh reprising her role alongside new cast Donnie Yen, Harry Shum Jr., and Jason Scott Lee. Could this offer up more of the same martial arts magic as the original or will it be a destiny that should be ignored?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny follows Yu Shu Lien, still mourning the death of Li Mu Bai who returns to safeguard his sword, the Green Destiny. Hades Dai, an underground warlord, sends his lieutenants to steal the sword, with plans to dominate the martial world. A young mysterious swords-woman and the hero with a past, Silent Wolf , comes to Shu Lien’s aid, together with a disparate band of warriors who still believe in the iron way of honor. This time around legendary martial arts director and choreographer Yuen Woo Ping who was the action choreographer on the original stepped in to direct the film. While there is something here that just doesn’t feel as epic as the original it still delivers a film that feels like it is a part of the same overall story. That being said it is still a beautiful film that offers everything you expect from this genre, but some may be put off due to it being shot completely in English. This might seem like a silly complaint, but it does take you out of the authenticity of it all. Part of what made the original so traditionally epic was reading it as a foreign film. When you hear their dialect you know you are there in that country during this period. Sure that is a minor thing, but for film purists this is something that is important to know going in. Outside of this the film delivers all the action and intrigue you would expect. Yeoh steps back into her role to perfection bringing the passion, emotion and amazing martial arts skill she is known for. To no one’s surprise Yen brings it with a toned down role letting his always awesome martial arts abilities do the speaking for him. Jason Scott Lee felt a bit out of place for a bit, but quickly found his footing making for a great villain type for this film. The real surprise came from Glee star Harry Shum Jr who handled the material really well and brought some great martial arts action to the table setting himself up for a new direction in his career should he decide to go that way.
With a film like this the story is important, but the fans are in it for the action more than anything else and they deliver. When you have this level of talent involved you set the expectation high and overall they knock it out of the park. Sure there are some moments that fell flat and not all the wire work works, but there is way more good than bad. Some of the coolest aspects are the old school styles of bringing different characters with specialties that go along with their names. The big fights towards the end of the film is great fun with so much going on you will likely have to watch it more than once, but the best of the film is one that takes place on a frozen lake that is just awesome. The use of the ice alongside the martial arts is clever and while not the first time this has been done just feels fresh and new.
While the film has some pacing issues make it feel like it drags early on it does manage to bring it all together and end on high note. The story of this sword is one that could easily be continued as it has opened up a legacy for the book series it is based on that will hopefully continue with more epic tales of these characters. You can check out the latest fight for the Green Destiny with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny on Netflix now.