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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:
Sword of Destiny

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Michelle Yeoh returns in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.

  Chinese: 臥虎藏龍:青冥寶劍
Year: 2016  
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Producer: David Thwaites, Harvey Weinstein
Writer: John Fusco, Wang Dulu (original novel)
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping

Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Harry Shum Jr., Jason Scott Lee, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Shuya Chang, Veronica Ngo, Eugenia Yuan Lai-Kei, Juju Chan, Chris Pang, Darryl Quon, Roger Yuan, Park Woon-Young, Gary Young

The Skinny: Super-delayed sequel that doesn't live up to its Oscar-winning predecessor. Otherwise Sword of Destiny is a passable and generic martial arts movie experience that entertains, if expectations are dialed down. Waaaaaay down.
by Kozo:

Michelle Yeoh's iconic martial arts heroine Yu Shu-Lien returns in the not-direct-to-video-but-it-might-as-well-be Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. For various reasons (some plot-related), Ang Lee, Chow Yun-Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen and Cheng Pei-Pei did not make the trip. This 16-years-later sequel to the Oscar-winning wuxia won't live up to the "Oscar-winning" descriptor, but it does have the wuxia thing down that is, it features characters who fight while rambling on about honor and occasionally jumping really high in the air. Sweet! While not in the same league as the celebrated original, Sword of Destiny delivers as a generic martial arts movie that should satisfy fans who were mainly charmed by the first film's finely-choreographed action sequences. Those who hold Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in high regard for its strong characters and drama, and enjoyed how those things worked together to enhance a standard wuxia story, may find the rewards less substantial.

Sword of Destiny picks up 18 years after the death of Li Mu-Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), with Yu Shu-Lien returning to the House of Te to mourn the departed Master Te (played by the late Lung Sihung in the original Crouching Tiger). However, Shu-Lien is attacked by assassins from West Lotus, a dastardly martial arts bunch out to capture the legendary Green Destiny sword and generally act evil. West Lotus is led by villain Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee), whose imposing heft and sinister countenance trump the need for actual character development. Once upon a time, Hades Dai duelled and presumably killed Shu-Lien's past love Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen). Not a shocker but Silent Wolf is still alive. When Shu-Lien calls upon righteous martial arts heroes, dubbed those who follow "The Iron Way", to protect the Green Destiny, Silent Wolf assembles a rag-tag band of fighters to aid her.

Also figuring in is the mysterious Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who's present to mourn Master Te but may share a connection with Wei-Fang (Harry Shum, Jr.), a West Lotus assassin who attempts to steal the Green Destiny. The two suss each other out via supposedly-interested gazes and generic interplay that serves as a stand-in for the first film's Zhang Ziyi-Chang Chen romance. Meanwhile, Shu-Lien's hidden past with Silver Wolf is explained and it's as routine as you'd expect. The crisscrossing personal histories of all these characters are explained in great detail thanks to the script's insane amount of exposition, which doesn't exactly hew to director Yuen Woo-Ping's strengths. Yuen is naturally an ace at action but his playful sense of humor rarely surfaces here. Overall, Yuen is probably not the right guy for the elegant martial arts epic that Sword of Destiny sometimes tries to be.

Sword of Destiny essentially reverses the structure of the first Crouching Tiger. The original film possessed action sequences that acted as catharsis for its characters' bridled emotions and simmering conflicts. Meanwhile, Sword of Destiny features routine plotting and droning exposition dumps that are doled out like medicine between fight scenes. The script speaks reverently about "code" and "honor", as well as the power of the Green Destiny, but these ideas come off like rote wisdom that you might find inside a fortune cookie. The action is spot-on despite possessing little emotional weight. There's plenty of wirework, which may be a detriment to some, but the varied use of weapons helps to compensate. There's even some humor injected into the earlier fight sequences, which adds some personality to a film that's sorely lacking it. Production values don't help much; the film's inconsistent cinematography, and unremarkable sets and costuming occasionally resemble those from a cable TV genre show.

The acting is OK to passable, with many of the actors possibly getting off easy due to the Cantonese dubbing. Sword of Destiny played in Hong Kong in a Cantonese-dubbed version, which likely offers a different experience than the shot-in-English version screened in the West. Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen get points for their presence but aren't asked to do much besides act aloof or wise. The younger players get more emotionally-charged situations. Unfortunately, neither Harry Shum Jr. nor Natasha Liu Bordizzo do much to impress, though there are striking supporting turns from Veronica Ngo and Eugenia Yuan as West Lotus members. All told, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny qualifies as a passable, inoffensive and throwaway martial arts movie experience. If that's what you expect from a film with the words Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in its title, then you may claim Sword of Destiny as yours. Those who differ can watch that Ang Lee movie again. (Kozo, 8/2016)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co. Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS ES
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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