Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades Dai.
Director: Woo-ping Yuen
Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Eugenia Yuan, Harry Shum Jr., Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Woon Young Park, Roger Yuan, Darryl Quon, Chris Pang, Juju Chan
Information Page: https://www.newonnetflix.info/info/80039717
I haven’t seen Ang Lee’s much-heralded modern martial arts classic, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but I thought I’d check out this Netflix Original sequel to see if it stands up to the mighty reputation of its predecessor.
We’re on familiar martial arts territory with regards to the plot. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role from the first film as Yu Shu Lien and she has been trusted with protecting the most powerful sword in the land. When she hears word that the evil Hades Dai is after the sword, she enlists the help of a small band of warriors, led by Donnie Yen’s Silent Wolf, to ensure Dai doesn’t get his hands on the mighty Green Destiny.
While some of the faction and character names do get jumbled up somewhat, as is customary with this kind of fare, “Sword of Destiny” does avoid falling into the overly complex plotting of some overseas odysseys. In the end, the plot simply serves as an excuse to get these fighters to have at each other.
The fight scenes are suitably acrobatic, but they do lack the grace of the best wire fu. The inclusion of bizarre comedic beats into some of the early fight scenes doesn’t help matters. That being said, there are a couple of more memorable showdowns as the film reaches its conclusion.
The film’s vibrant colour palette echoes The Hobbit trilogy in its luscious grasses and grand, CGI-enhanced scenery. So, if you liked the striking visuals of Peter Jackson’s most recent Middle Earth films, you may appreciate the visual artistry on show, but I just found it rather garish. Things get even more displeasing to the eye as we enter the ornate buildings. Yuen Woo-ping’s lighting is hopelessly flat at times, resulting in some really ugly scenes. Add that to his occasionally lapse handle on tone and some poor direction of his actors, and we’re left with some really weak sequences to fill the gaps between the fighting. Even Yeoh and Yen, two otherwise substantial actors, seem stilted and unsure in their roles. Suffice to say, I think Yuen is far more comfortable directing the action scenes than he is the narrative beats.
There are thrills to be had watching a martial arts epic done at this budget level, but even the generic elements don’t manage to compete with the best this genre has to offer. If you like a good wire fu fight scene, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” might be worth sticking out, but I can’t see this doing much for more casual viewers.
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