Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon : Sword of Destiny (2016, Yuen Woo-ping)
Serving as the long awaited sequel to the Oscar winning film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Sword of Destiny graces the Netflix streaming service after the organization helped fund the cost of placing the film into production. With a new filmmaking team, director and audience demographic – this sequel, although entertaining to watch, carries only a small element of the original films style. With its focus very much on the stylized fight sequences that make the Wuxia sub genre of Martial arts films to be most entertaining, Sword of Destiny struggles to maintain the purpose of holding the historical setting in which its narrative takes place. By shifting this focus ever so slightly, the sequel comes off as a simpler homage to the original instead of a true continuation to the overriding narrative of the cinematic world in which they both inhabit.
After 20 years of solitude, acclaimed swordfighter Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh reprising her role) returns to Peking, where the legendary sword Green Destiny resides. On the way to her destination, the West Lotus clan – under the guidance of feared warlord Hades Dai, attacks her carriage. Defeating many of her attackers with the aid of a masked horseman, Shu Lien manages to reveal one of her assailant’s identities, a young man called Wei Fang. Arriving in Peking, Shu Lien is take to the house of Sir Te, a recently deceased man who before his death was given the fabled sword by the acclaimed warrior Li Mu Bai.
That night Wei Fang breaks into the house with plans to steal the sword, but is stopped by a young female warrior called Snow Vase – who carries her own agenda against Hades Dai. Captured and held within a cage, Wei fFang observes the tutoring of Snow Vase in the arts of Wudang. With knowledge of Hades Dai’s plan to steal the sword, Shu Lien advertises for warrior guards and is rewarded with 5 acclaimed fighters including a person from her past – Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen). Together this group of warriors protects the sword while also holding their own against a warlord and his band of martial artists.
With a different filmmaking crew and a different shoot location, with New Zealand deputizing for the originals choice of China, Sword of Destiny – although entertaining – feels like its own spectacle instead of holding a continuation to the previous film. Not that this is a complete disappointment, but for fans of the original – the different style and flavor of this film does detract upon its sequel status. Effectively conveying a new array of characters, and each one personified perfectly onscreen, the film does hold a nice and engrossing narrative but lacks much of the substance that the first film carried. Altering its blend of real life and fantasy, Sword of Destiny feels very much like the epic quest narrative fiction from which it most definitely takes influence.
Donnie Yen is a worthwhile deputy to Chow Yun-fat but does feel tacked on in places to please the martial art enthusiast that enjoyed the genres action set pieces. With its production tailored for the streaming service instead of cinematic release, the film does come across like a television movie – be it a high quality production that is boosted by Netflix’s desire to create something worthwhile.
Plot – 4
Acting – 4
Direction – 4
Special Effects – 5
Retrospect – 4
Overall – 4.5 out of 5