Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – Sword of Destiny (movie review with spoilers)

To set expectations I should let you know that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was the movie that re-introduced me to the martial arts genre after a decade plus of absence and showed me what could be done with that genre with today’s technology. More importantly it showed definitively that a modern epic with detailed storytelling could fit quite comfortably inside a gloriously over-realized martial arts eyefeast.

What I’m saying is Netflix had it’s work cut out for it with making a sequel, at least as far as how I would appreciate it. How did they do? Well, let me tell ya.

The Good:

  • Breathtaking scenery all over the place. Gorgeous sets. Excellent costuming. Perfect make-up.
  • Technical production and editing is superb. I didn’t notice any glaring continuity errors, even in the fast-cut fight sequences.
  • The frozen lake battle was incredible.
  • The CGI effects (with one notable exception) are very well done and generally unobtrusive.
  • Michelle Yeoh speaking Mandarin. Unf.
The Bad:
  • It was a mashup of the original movie plot plus the oft imitated Seven Samurai. This made many things very predictable, right down to who dies and when.
  • With the exception of Turtle Ma and Flying Blade the secondary heroes were flat and lifeless.
  • Only 1 extended uncut fight scene. Everything else was the super-fast cuts of individual moves spliced together that is ubiquitous in modern martial arts movies.
  • They made Donnie Yen look so much like Lou Diamond Phillips it was distracting.
  • Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen do not have chemistry, especially when compared to the almost palpable bond Yeoh had with Chow Yun Fat in CTHD. The love story here is flat and lifeless.
  • Tremendous narrative failure in the epilogue. Letting Snow Vase live scrapped the little emotional investment the movie generated.
The Ugly:
  • Retcon Jen Yu’s sacrifice from the conclusion of CTHD? Bastards, you are on my list!
  • Major CGI fail on the climactic final tower roof battle between Silent Wolf and Hades Dai. It was bad enough to break immersion and spoil the epic final battle.
  • If this was stand-alone it would have been a fairly solid modern martial arts movie. That’s really what it appears to be – a treatment of Seven Samurai with enough elements of CTHD necessary to make it work in that story-line.
  • It is a technical success but is hampered by a predictable story and undeveloped heroes. It lacks the epic gravitas that made its progenitor an instant classic and as a successor to CTHD it falls as flat as its secondary characters.
  • Worth a watch it for itself but not as a successor to CTHD.