Sixteen years ago the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was released and it became a worldwide phenomenon. The movie, directed by Ang Lee, became one of the highest grossing foreign language films ever made. It received the Oscar for best foreign language movie, and if there had been any justice in the world, it should have won the Oscar for best picture as well. Alas, that was not to be, but nevertheless the incredible fantasy martial arts epic earned it’s place in movie history. To my big surprise and delight this year a sequel has been produced and made by Netflix. When the first trailer arrived for it my delight turned into horror though. The actors all of a sudden spoke English and this pretty much detracted from the mystique of the original movie. More on that later though, let’s first find out what the story of this sequel is about.
It has been eighteen years since the swordswoman Shu Lien had last been seen. She has lived pretty much in solitude after the death of her beloved Li Mu Bai. The land has changed a lot since then, and a ruthless warlord under the name of Hades Dai, rules with an iron fist,and wants to bring his new order of martial arts to the lands. To do so, he needs the Sword of Destiny, which is now located in Peking, after the death of Li Mu Bai. Shu Lien understandably wants to keep the sword safe, and comes out of seclusion in order to travel to Peking. There she is joined by a group of men and women, who are also trying to protect the Sword. One of the men is someone she knows very well….As the battle for the Sword begins, so too begins the battle for Shu Lien’s soul.
What can I say about this sequel. Perhaps it is best to start with the things that this movie does do well: the Martial Arts sequences. There are some seriously impressive fight scenes, that almost any lover of Martial Arts films will enjoy. Michelle Yeoh, who returns to reprise her role from the first movie, is still a striking and beautiful woman. One would almost forget that she is now 54, which ofcourse is by no means old, but for all the fight sequences she is performing it is even more impressive. A great addition to the cast is one of my favorite Martial Arts stars Donnie Yen, who we will soon get to see in the new Star Wars movie. His moves are absolutely amazing, most notably in a scene on a frozen lake.
Unfortunately the rest of the movie falls short. The English dialogue is at times really horrid, and I truly wonder who made the decision to this. Why make a sequel to a foreign language movie, and have your entire almost all Chinese cast speak English ? I could overlook this though, were it not for the fact that the story also is a true letdown. Where the original had a touching and heartbreaking story, this film feels hollow. What remains is a shallow movie, with some spectacular fight sequences, but that ultimately pales next to the original movie. This is a real shame, as they really had a chance, especially with this cast, to turn it into something so much better.
I give Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:Sword of Destiny a 5 out of 10 score.