Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Sword of Destiny

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny is the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the 2000 Oscar-winning and Ang Lee-directed martial arts film. Starring Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was part romance, part revenge story and all martial arts. It was the story of a well-trained thief trying to steal the legendary Green Destiny sword from a sword master who wanted to retire to be with the woman whom he loved. It was a beautiful looking and very good film with spectacular action scenes brought to life with brilliant choreography, including wire-fighting, and an impressive lack of CGI.

Sword Of Destiny takes place twenty years later. With the death of Sir Te, a nobleman from the first film, and with warlords now largely in control of the land, a warlord is entreated by a witch to capture the Green Destiny in order to use it to take control of China. Michelle Yeoh’s Yu Shi-Lien is called out of retirement to defend the sword and is joined by five warriors of the same martial arts order to help her.

On a superficial level it is an enjoyable martial arts film. You are never far from a fight sequence and, though some CGI is used, it is used more for accents rather than for the entirety of scenes, like some modern action films.

On a more substantial level the film has some flaws. The film is less explained and more hurried than its predecessor, and it requires more than a passing familiarity with the first film to truly understand what is going on. I suspect that knowing the source material, the Crane Iron Pentalogy by Wang Du Lu, would help as there is a lot of mythology in the film that I suspect would add more gravity to the plot. This is especially true of the characters as there are nine protagonists this time around. Being familiar with the previous film or with the source material is also completely necessary to understand who the main male protagonist is as Sword Of Destiny does a poor job of linking him to the past. And with the plot starting with the death of someone from the first film, familiarity would be required for any of the plot to stick. As well, the elements of the witch and the supernatural seem superfluous, as all the main characters are already performing superhuman feats.

The film is still well acted and well directed as Yuen Wo-Ping does a very respectable job at the helm. So if you want to see a simple martial arts film then this film is enjoyable to watch. But I watched the first Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as research for this review and I found it to be a far superior film. It has stronger characters and plot. As the original came out sixteen years ago I doubt that you are still familiar with it, so I would recommend the original over the sequel.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny (and its predecessor) are streaming now on Netflix.

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