Still mourning the death of Li Mu Bai, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) returns to safeguard his sword, the Green Legend. Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee), an underground warlord, sends his lieutenants to steal the sword , with plans to dominate the martial world. A young mysterious swords-woman and the hero with a past, Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen), comes to Shu Lien’s aid, together with a disparate band of warriors who still believe in the iron way of honor.
16 years after the Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the long battle to get the sequel made is over and it ended up being made by Netflix. Not just content with Emmys, Netflix had two Oscar nominations this year in documentary categories, and I bet hard cash they have a statue inside three years. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (hereafter for the sake of my carpal tunnels to be CTHD2) is actually the fifth film in a series that completes a story that began in China and ended up grabbing the focus of the world.
CTHD2 isn’t going to be the film that brings Netflix its first Oscar, but it’s still a massive coup for them to produce the sequel. The film retains much of the beauty of what made CTHD such a world-wide hit, but doesn’t have the plot complexity or emotional depth of its predecessor. Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh return in their roles along with a new cast including Jason Scott Lee.
Whereas the first film is crammed with moments that still echo in the mind today (the bamboo fight, Michelle Yeoh vs. Zhang Ziyi, the lake, and just the introduction to Western audiences of the kind of wire work they’d never seen), I’ve largely forgotten most of CTHD2 a day after watching it. That’s not to say there aren’t some great fights, and I take it back, there is one fight on a frozen lake that’s worth watching the film for by itself.
The film’s not bad at all, it’s just very simple. We’re back in the same compound in which the first film took place. The Sword of Destiny is there. Bad guys want the sword. They’re coming to take the sword. They fight over the sword. It’s pretty paint-by-numbers.
Great cinematography, and given that it is directed by legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping, you know there’ll be action to hold your attention, but don’t go into this expecting anything on the level of Ang Lee’s masterpiece.