Mar 23, 2016

[Movies] Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

And while I loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon when it came out, I was rather restrained in my enthusiasm for the news of a Netflix-backed trailer. I even posted a little rant about a number of strange trailers that had been released last year. Seriously, marrying this beautiful martial arts franchise with conventional music of the much louder variety was such a bad idea.

But along came Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, which was positioned as a sequel to the original movie. And while it still features the amazingly talented and elegant Michelle Yeoh. But rounding out the cast was one Donnie Yen, whom we've seen in many a martial arts movie as well.

So yeah, we had a classic case of a bad trailer for a pretty good movie and not much in-between. But we took a chance on it despite the trailer and obviously we liked it enough to result in the first sentence of this paragraph. I miss movies like this - what was great about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was how it married Western movie sensibilities with the principles of classic Hong Kong theater.

Synopsis: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is an American-Chinese martial arts drama movie directed by Yuen Woo-ping. The screenplay was written by John Fusco based on the novel Iron Knight, Silver Vase by Du Du Wang.

After years of solitude, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) emerges from her seclusion and travels to Peking, where the Green Destiny, the legendary sword of Li Mu Bai (as featured in the first movie) is held. Yu Shu Lien's carriage is attacked by warriors from the West Lotus Clan. Together with the aid of a masked horseman, Yu Shu Lien manages to fight off the attackers and they manage to capture one of them - Wei Fang (Harry Shum, Jr.). Once again we have forces maneuvering to steal the Green Destiny and use it for their own ends. Thus it appears that Yu Shu Lien must once again take action to defend the sword together with other great warriors who heed the call.

First, this movie really reminded me just how much I miss the elegance of well-choreographed Wuxia movies. Seriously, it's like a complicated ballet but with thrown weapons and such. And the fight scenes in this movie are pretty well-done indeed, especially with such a fun assortment of heroic characters with their respective signature weapons and such. There's so much fun to be had in this movie just because of the fights.

The movie has a lot of similar themes as the first movie, which I suppose is inevitable. Thus we have the challenges of being a woman in the society of the time, we have secret martial arts students hiding in plain sight and we the addition of a young warrior who is potentially repentant of his ways. Things of that nature are all part of the time period and setting and they work really well.

They also made sure to give Michelle Yeoh some great moments, whether in terms of tasteful drama or great action. She does seem a bit more graceful in this episode versus the last one, where it was a bit more established the cloud foot technique was not always her greatest strength. But hey, I can forgive that since she's still quite the amazing actress and a skilled martial artist as well.

Bringing in Donnie Yen was obviously a good thing. He's another skills martial artist and actor and he's made his mark on so many different movies. It was amazing to see him together with Michelle Yeoh, plus the fact that their characters had some very interesting romantic tension as well.

The writing for the movie was okay but not amazing and I don't know if that was because of the screenplay or the source material. There was a certain amount of campiness at play, which is expected of older stories of a somewhat simpler nature or maybe some things just don't translate well.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny was a surprisingly good movie because I didn't go for the trailer. It's a solid piece on its own but it's not perfect either. Thus the movie gets 4 moments of martial arts prowess out of a possible 5.


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