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Monday, March 21, 2016

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny Movie Review (2016)

Above Photo: (C) 2016 Netflix from official FB page.


Greetings action movie fans, was really on the fence about this film from the Netflix universe. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is the latest offering from action legend Woo-Ping Yuen. I really wanted to fully enjoy the long awaited sequel, but sadly many elements were under utilized and the story was lacking, with the short running time many characters underdeveloped. For the purposes of balance, I will say that the film has some excellent action sequences and a story lacking the depth and breadth of the orginal.

Detailing the story, it boils down to the protection of a sword called The Green Destiny, 'CTHD: Sword of Destiny' pits Hades Dao (Jason Scot Lee) against Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yoeh). Hades Dao wants to get the sword to rule. My main issue is that many additional important characters are introduced including a young warrior Snow Vase () Wei Fang () who are like friends and enemy's combined. and another character set of the furies, a rogue warrior set that includes actress Juju Chan as Silver Dart Shi. none are given the necessary screen time in the 96 minute film to warrant audience engagement. As a viewer, I would deem necessary to a short 2 to 3 minute backstory on each character, this would only add bout 15 or so minutes to the film and allow the audience and insight to the areas they originate from.. Perhaps prior to the scene where they meet in an outside pub, show each character separate, so that when we see them in the pub, They had the potental to become engaging characters. Silver Dart Shi is a great character idea in context (a woman who can hurl darts from her cape, protects her villiage, fights for honor), and she mentions where she is from at the pub, lets see a bit of her village, her life etc.. Sadly we do not. Snow Vase is given time to train with Yu Shu Lien, as in the first Crouching Tiger with Zhang Ziyi, but again there is just not enough meaningful information on her character, especially given she is the lead.

I do not blame the actors, in fact the entire film felt a bit rushed. Some films can work at 90 minutes, however, with historical sweeping action films at least a 2 hour minimum is necessary to properly tell a story, and introduce engaging characters. The story does not have to be linear, just developed. I actually enjoyed the idea of Hades Dai and Blind Enchantress as protagonists. Their dangerous characters were only explored through fighting, just not enough dialogue to flesh them out.
 
My other issue is the quick cuts between fight, i.e. two fights occurring at the same time, and just as I am getting into the fight we are cutting away to someone else fighting. The signature fight on the frozen lake was great, but it was over an hour into the film, and by then the impact was less, because the buildup was limited.

Getting to the positive elements: The scenery and settings used in New Zealand and China are fantastic. There are many bright clear outside locations with lush vegetation. The scenes were technically slick, and when the action was going on, the camera brought the audience into the fighting. There is a bunch of action, and that is where Sword of Destiny" shines. I am hoping and am sure that an eventual DVD release will have more story and an extended cut so will of course add in to the review if necessary.

Donnie Yen is amazing in action. His fight in the outside pub is fast imaginative and tight. The fight sequences he works on and the fight between Michelle Yeoh and Eugenia Yuan, take this film up in intensity and grace. The fact that Yuan was a blind sorcerer character, was cool, and she had  two very angry eyes even if she could not see out of them!

I liked the acting portrayals Michelle Yeoh, was wonderful and her character conveyed emotion and empathy. Juju Chan's wry smile and action prowess and Eugenia Yuan's  menacing looks were good given the limited character development, both also can obviously handle the action. for her first acting gig was pretty good.Everyone in the film could have used a few more moments of dialogue. For more info about actress Juju Chan check out her detailed interview @ http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2014/08/actress-juju-chan-interview-exclusive-c.html
Producer Bey Logan chats about his films and a bit on Sword of Destiny @  http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2015/04/bey-logan-interview-exclusive-c-2015.html

A small soapbox comment about the release; I kind of hoped that Sword Of Destiny would at least see a limited theatrical run in the U.S, not 10 IMAX screens! Perhaps a couple hundred total screens. I am sure in every decent sized city there are enough indie theaters to screen it even if the big theaters are boycotting. It is a fine line building a film for the U.s audience, and releasing it in English language first and not showing in theaters seems a waste, might as well play it for the Chinese audiences, and then do English later, if that is successful Off soapbox.

I watched the film a few times, I kept searching for more, sadly like many of the fury characters, by the end I was in the prone position. If you have Netflix already, of course watch it, but as for a purchase I have to say probably not, unless you are like me and like extra material, or are a fight action fan. I really applaud the Weinstien Company and Neflix for giving the sequel a chance and to give the opportunity for the 71 year old legend Woo Ping an opportunity to direct, however a better script was needed, thus' Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny' rates a 6 out of 10.

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