Big Screen Streaming — Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
-Film Review by Roger Market–
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny arrived on Netflix on February 26 and was simultaneously released in select IMAX theaters for a limited run. While the new film echoes the grand story of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), fans will immediately notice several differences in this sequel. Mainly: Sword of Destiny is in English, and the film is significantly shorter than its predecessor. As such, the production lacks the element of grandeur that defined the original.
The omission of the Mandarin language does change the auditory tone of the series, but Michelle Yeoh’s triumphant return to the role of Yu Shu Lien helps keep the nostalgia on track. Yeoh’s wise, quiet, and calculated portrayal of her character is every bit as nuanced as it was sixteen years ago. Viewers will note with admiration that the actress still performs her own stunts and hints that she will continue this tradition should another sequel go into production.
Director Woo-Ping Yuen further contributes to the authenticity of the film’s combat scenes as well as the overall presentation. Yuen is a legend in the industry. Hallmark films for which he either directed served as stunt coordinator include Kill Bill: Vol 2, Drunken Master, the Once Upon a Time in China series, the Iron Monkey series, the Matrix series, and the original Crouching Tiger film, among many others.
In Sword of Destiny, renowned warrior Yu Shu Lien emerges from retirement to keep the Green Destiny sword out of the hands of warlord Hades Dai. Sword of Destiny brings newcomers to the series in the form of Harry Shum Jr. and Natasha Liu Bordizzo, both likely chosen for their potential to capture Netflix’s youthful audience, especially considering the former actor’s Glee fame. Bordizzo plays a mysterious young woman called Snow, who trains with Shu Lien and helps her in her quest. Donnie Yen also joins the cast as hero Silent Wolf, another of Shu Lien’s allies in the fight against Hades Dai and his henchmen. The stories of these new characters are compelling and are well integrated into the larger framework of the series, following the classic Chinese themes of code, duty, honor, and loyalty.
Despite its brevity and the feeling that it’s just not as “epic” as the original, Sword of Destiny is a worthy contribution to the Crouching Tiger franchise. Moreover, it’s a great example of what’s possible (but also what’s challenging) in this golden age of Hollywood, when revivals and sequels are bigger than ever. For instance, in 2013, Netflix famously revived Arrested Development, a beloved FOX comedy that was canceled, perhaps prematurely, in 2006. More recently, Showtime began production of a new season of CBS’s long-cancelled Twin Peaks, Netflix shot a four-part movie revival of Gilmore Girls, FOX aired a shortened tenth season of The X-files, and Netflix brought Full House back from the dead in the form of a spin-off called—you guessed it—Fuller House. It’s not surprising that reviews have been mixed for all that have aired so far, including Sword of Destiny. The golden age of Hollywood comes with a price, with each new revival serving as a reflection of what can happen when the audience expects too much of a resurrected property. Inevitably, some viewers will be satisfied, while others will feel entitled to more. As one villain says in the Sword of Destiny, “We don’t own the sword. The sword owns us.” Today’s viewers must maintain some perspective. So, by all means, give movies like Sword of Destiny a chance, but don’t expect the world.