Movie Review - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

If you had asked me a few years ago if I thought it possible to be sitting here, writing a review for a sequel to one of my favorite martial arts movies of all time, I'd have said no. I couldn't imagine a world where a second installment of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was possible. Few movies have carried so much magic for me over the years, which made me very nervous about a sequel.

It was only a few days ago that this film appeared on Netflix and in select theaters. I carved out some time from my weekend to give it a go, and I'm glad I did. I will absolutely not spoil the movie in any way, because I hate when others do that. I will, instead, offer my thoughts. I jotted some notes as I watched, mostly in comparing this movie to the original.

If you're expecting the traditional movie review from the typical critic, you won't find that here. I'm a martial artist and a fan of martial arts movies. I won't pretend that I went into this movie with a completely open mind. No, I had expectations. I'm guessing that most everyone reading this has seen the first movie, and will, also, have expectations.

My first reaction was that this movie had far more humor than the first one. I'll chalk that up to the script written by John Fusco. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, which doesn't usually happen in a martial arts film. 

Donnie yen as Meng Sizhao Donnie yen as Meng Sizhao

That same magic displayed in the first movie - the intersection of beautiful choreography with elements of unrealistic fantasy - was still here. While there was seemingly less production value , it didn't detract from the movie. The decision may have been to focus more on a broader cast, and there are certainly more characters in this film. One of the criticisms I've heard of the first is the annoyance with characters flying about. That still happens in this film, though not quite as much.

Donnie Yen fills the male lead role and does so splendidly. His choreography was my favorite in the film and we see why he's being cast anywhere and everywhere these days. If anyone found the subtitles in the original frustrating, have no fear, because this film is voiced in English and does away completely with subtitles. 

michelle yeoh reprises her role as yu shu lien michelle yeoh reprises her role as yu shu lien

Michelle Yeoh is once again fantastic, but we see a bit less action from her. At 53, she's certainly not old, but I wonder if her age played any part in her action scenes. She was certainly my favorite in the original.

Some of the action scenes - let me just say "wow." Bigger, bolder and with much more action. Whereas the majority of the fights in the original were two or maybe three characters, we see quite a few scenes with a dozen or more. Maybe it was simply Donnie Yen's presence, but some of the fight scenes reminded me a bit of the Ip Man films - complex but tight with elements of humor.

The larger cast meant less time with any one character, but we still get enough time to care about them, especially when they die. Yes, people die in this movie. It's a martial arts flick, after all!

Jason scott lee plays new villain hades dai Jason scott lee plays new villain hades dai

The villain is played by a man with a pretty significant film credit - Jason Scott Lee once played Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. He does an excellent job in this film and I found his fight scenes very strong.

All in all, it's a good film and I'm glad I watched it. I don't think it held up to the original, but how often can you catch lightning in a bottle? The original was an amazing film, and I didn't expect it to live up to the original. Now, we're not talking night and day, here. Maybe Night and early dawn. Definitely check it out and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

For the official trailer, you can click here or watch below.


~Jeremy Lesniak