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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny chinese movie review
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
2 people found this review helpful
by The Butterfly
Aug 4, 2023
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10.0
This review may contain spoilers

"All this for a sword"

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was epic storytelling and my highest rated wuxia. For this sequel without Ang Lee and being a Netflix release, I lowered my expectations and was not disappointed. Sword of Destiny was smaller in scope and storytelling, but still a fun movie. Yuen Woo Ping shot it like a more traditional wuxia, albeit with a bigger budget. More than that Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen reteamed again (loved them in Wing Chun!), and that was enough to make my martial arts loving heart beat with love.

Yu Shu Lien thought long dead returns to mourn Sir Te and helps his son secure the legendary Green Destiny sword. The evil and ruthless Hades Dai, wants to rule the martial world and is determined to have the Green Destiny for himself. Silent Wolf, whose rumored death was greatly exaggerated puts together a team of five martial artists from the Iron Way to help protect the sword. Thrown into the battle is Snow Vase, a young martial artist who wants the sword to kill Hades Dai and Wei Fang, a young martial artist who works for Hades and has been tasked with stealing the famous sword. They have a connection that will draw them together all under the watchful eye of Shu Lien. While the warriors work together to keep the sword and each other safe, Shu Lien must decide if she can forgive Silent Wolf for his past mistakes.

The movie was only around ninety minutes long and relied heavily on Michelle Yeoh's and Donnie Yen's chemistry. The supporting characters were not given enough time to be fully developed on either the good guys' side or the bad guys', yet they were archetypes from the genre which gave the viewer a shorthand of what to expect from them-the lone warrior, loyal martial artists, a blind witch, ruthless evil fighters, etc. Snow Vase and Wei Fang were the young warriors who had to find their redemption and way along with a little flirting under the guidance of Shu Lien and Silent Wolf.

The fights were all well-choreographed which was to be expected by Yuen Woo Ping. Was there high-flying action? It was a wuxia, so you betcha! Whether it was Michelle fighting an ambush in the forest, Donnie nonchalantly taking out a gang of hotheads at a tavern, or a spectacularly filmed fight on a thawing frozen lake, they were all outstanding thanks to Michelle and Donnie's experience. Michelle still had a quickness and fluidity that made her captivating to watch. Donnie brought a playfulness and solemnity to his fights depending on the opponent. Watching these two veterans fight back-to-back brought me sheer joy. I loved that there was a tower for the final battle. It brought back memories of Cheng Pei Pei (Jade Fox) having to confront the bad guys with their tower in one of her old movies. And the ubiquitous outdoor tavern from many an old kung fu movie was the perfect setting for the audience to meet Silent Wolf and the Iron Way fighters.

Michelle Yeoh has a regal bearing and elegance that cannot be duplicated. Her expressive face and voice pull you into her character. Only she could make a line like "You will not find it there nor take it from here" believable. Much has been made of the movie being filmed in English and later dubbed with Mandarin. Selfishly, I'm happy it was. There was ferocious backlash over Michelle's accented Mandarin in the original. I tried watching the dubbed version of Sword of Destiny but the professional Mandarin voice actress sounded incredibly generic and flat, sapping all the energy and nuance out of Yeoh's performance. I find Michelle's voice acting essential to her performance and was relieved to hear it in the English version. Maybe it was the wig or makeup but Donnie has never looked better or more romantic than in this film. And as you would expect of him, he handled the fight scenes splendidly. Harry Shum gave a complex performance as the young warrior at a crossroads in his life. The weakest performance of the main characters was Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Snow Vase. This appeared to be her first role and it showed. Finally, Jason Scott Lee made for a sinister villain, even if he wasn't given much to do. This was a Chinese and Hollywood/Netflix amalgam, and an international one at that, with actors from Malaysia, Hong Kong, the USA, Australia, China, Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam. How you feel about a multi-national cast in a kung fu staple may affect your viewing pleasure.

For me, I can look at this film as completely separate from the original. It was not a perfect film, but for the genre it was quite good, I've watched my share of terrible ones. It did take some time to alter my perception of it being in English and not Mandarin or Cantonese, which did take away the authentic feel to it. There was a bit of cheese in it, but the original had its share, too, most wuxias do. The cinematography was nice, fights were solid, the scenery was beautiful, the OST felt integral to the story, aside from that ugly green sword-the props, sets and costumes were excellent, and most of the acting was acceptable to exemplary. Most of all it entertained me. I have watched this film numerous times and still enjoy it upon each viewing. I'm able to watch Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen once again fighting side by side which makes this a winner in my book.


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