Nearly 20 years after the events of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Shu Lien emerges from solitude to once again protect the Green Destiny, the legendary sword of Li Mu Bai.
This review will cover Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, a Netflix original movie and the sequel to the critically acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
I will be honest here. Sword of Destiny will definitely end up on my list of sequels that should have never been made. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy seeing films with a predominantly Asian cast. This doesn’t happen often, so it should be encouraged. However, this movie does nothing but pale in comparison to its predecessor. It would have fared better if given its own story, separate from the Academy Award winning original.
By having the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moniker, audiences get expectations, and these expectations aren’t met. Where the original had substance, Sword of Destiny is more of a spectacle. When Ang Lee directed the original, he was new to fight scenes. Therefore, his fight scenes were sweeping and dramatic, like an elegant dance. This sequel is directed by a seasoned fight choreographer, so it fits the mold of a typical kung fu movie, rather than breaking free from it.
The fight scenes aren’t even that impressive. When Donnie Yen shows up as Silent Wolf, there is a glimmer of hope for the choreography, but that glimmer doesn’t last throughout the entire movie. The fight scenes are infused with attempts at comic relief, and this didn’t sit well with me most of the time. Many of the fight scenes seem uninspired, and could be described as disappointing.
As a story, Sword of Destiny doesn’t really break any new ground from the original. It follows the same path, showing a restrained form of love juxtaposed against a more youthful, unrestrained and angsty love. The rest of the plot, however, is more chaotic, less calculated than its predecessor. There is a wide variety of characters, and their purpose is confusing at best. I would even go as far as to describe them as glorified cannon fodder, an empty shell of a character, placed in the plot predominantly for shock value when killed.
I mentioned earlier that Donnie Yen stars in the movie as Silent Wolf, a mysterious character with ties to the original film. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as Yu Shu Lien. Other important characters include Hades Dai, the antagonist played by Jason Scott Lee, and Wei Fang, a young fighter portrayed by Harry Shum, Jr. Another notable character is the mysterious Snow Vase, played by first time actress Natasha Liu Bordizzo.
My problems weren’t really with any of the performances. There were other factors at play. One of the biggest issues I had was with the writing. Most of the dialogue sounds like a poor attempt at being fortune cookie poetic.
On top of that, I was surprised to see that Sword of Destiny was filmed in English. Don’t be fooled like I originally was based on the language of the first film. When I first started the movie, I made sure it was in Mandarin dialogue with English subtitles because I’m not a huge fan of dubbing. Much to my surprise, this was the dubbed version, so I changed it to English again.
Of course, this creates a bit of a distraction because all of the actors are from a variety of different backgrounds, so there is a mixture of accents. Sword of Destiny consists of a blend of British, American, and Australian accents as well as actors who speak English as a second language. It may take a while to get used to because it’s so interesting for this type of film.
This brings about one of the biggest complaints from audiences about Sword of Destiny; It’s too Westernized. Rather than a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film, it feels more like a Lord of the Rings fantasy film. As I mentioned before, it’s more spectacle than substance, so it bears no resemblance to its predecessor. The scenes in the movie itself don’t even seem to work cohesively with each other.
A lot of Sword of Destiny relies on visual effects and seemingly green screened backgrounds. While this is kind of a negative for the type of film it was trying to exemplify, I actually thought it was one of the aspects that was done the best. I had no complaints about the visual effects in the movie. Overall, it’s fun to watch.
Online reception of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is pretty negative. I can only wonder if reception would have been more positive if it had been a stand alone film, rather than a sequel to such a critically acclaimed film. There isn’t anything too wrong about it other than simply not living up to its predecessor.
At this point, I probably wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re looking for something mindless to spend your time on.