Movie Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – The Sword of Destiny

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – The Sword of Destiny has a reliable cast that tries to make it work, but they’re stuck in an Americanized B movie knockoff of the original.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny tells an epic story of lost love, young love, a legendary sword and one last opportunity at redemption, set against breathtaking action in an epic martial arts battle between good and evil that will decide the fate of the Martial World. [Netflix]

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon boosted the popularity of Chinese wuxian films in western cinema, so it’s only a matter of time before a sequel is released. Unfortunately The Sword of Destiny is the latest victim of money grubbing Hollywood studios and worse, becomes a long gestating sequel that finally gets released only to find out that nobody cares anymore (see: Zoolander 2).

The sequel did manage to get 1/4 of the original cast back. Michelle Yeoh agreed to appear on the sequel but Zhang Ziyi refused to get on board unless Ang Lee directs it. Instead she’s joined by IP Man Donnie Yen, Glee Alumni Harry Shum Jr, and newcomer Natasha Liu Bordizzo. The cast was decent enough to pull it off, but they can’t salvage a movie that’s as forgettable as its stereotypical cast.

The Sword of Destiny is a rehash of the original. Once again, Yu Shu Lien ends up guarding the Green Destiny. She meets three other characters who are one dimensional variations of the previous main cast – Meng Sizhao replaces Li Mu Bai as the love interest; Snow Vase for Jen Yu as the mysterious shady student with potential; Wei Fang for Lo ‘Dark Cloud’ as the outlaw, and the blind enchantress for Jade Fox as the vengeful woman. Worse, they’re all thrown in a generic narrative. A Chinese warlord wants the sword for power, goaded by an enchantress. It’s up to a band of misfits of a forgotten code and warriors with emotional baggage to stop him and his henchmen.

It didn’t help that the movie doesn’t have the visual poetry of the original. The Sword of Destiny has simplistic production design and relies on low budget CGI landscapes and effects. The fighting scenes are functional with typical skirmishes. The choreography is adequate for distraction and nothing more. The movie makes the obligatory call back to an iconic fight scene, but doesn’t do nothing else with it.

In short, The Sword of Destiny has none of what made its predecessor unique and memorable. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a nuanced story with believable characters constrained by tradition, symbolic fighting scenes, gorgeous cinematography and haunting score. The sequel spoke of honor and duty in a B movie Kung Fu film produced by a western studio who used cliched tricks of its genre, including fighters throwing darts and daggers. It opted to use English instead of Chinese so that audiences who don’t like subtitles don’t get turned off but it resulted to awkward delivery. Comparing the sequel to the original is a tad unfair because it won’t benefit from the direction of Ang Lee and cinematography of Peter Pau, but the driving forces behind the scenes didn’t make any effort to go beyond the mediocre. The Sword of Destiny is just another pot boiler.

There are potential ideas here – people who get owned by their own weapons, obligations and past; a fight on a frozen lake by two different masters; traditional codes lost to changing times, and a talented enough cast to introduce new characters. Sadly, The Sword of Destiny is more preoccupied in trying to coast on the appeal of its predecessor rather than building on these pieces to stand on its own.

My Rating: 2/10

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