Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny movie full length review - A worthy sequel that may surprise even the worst of critics, the true meaning of "Wu Xia" exemplified
I caught the movie in Hong Kong on 21st of February, the 96 minutes version dubbed in Cantonese. Truth to be told, my expectations were very low, because the original was just a classic.
The first bad trailer with weird auto-tuned music and English dialogue did not help. But the results surprised me. If you have the chance, watch it in English! =)
Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company finally got the rights to CTHD, and proceeded to work on a script based on Wang Du Lu's 5th book of the series. Iron Knight, Silver Vase, which are actually the names of 2 of the main characters in the movie (just like Crouching "Tiger" and Hidden "Dragon" 2000 the title itself).
The director here is Yuen Woo Ping, best known for his choreography work in Ip Man 3, Matrix and of course the first CTHD. He is also a good director on his own, with critical successful films such as Wing Chun and Iron Monkey. According to interviews, Ang Lee did not want to come back for the sequel because he never does a "repeat" work, but he met up with Yuen Woo Ping and gave him his blessings because he knew that if there was anyone who could helm the sequel, it would be the person he worked the closest with in the first movie, Yuen Woo Ping himself.
The story in this movie is more simple and straightforward (sometimes predictable), and perhaps not as good as the first movie hence this is where a point is deducted.
However cinematography and costume wise, it is on par, if not better than the original. Landscapes of New Zealand and China, and the beauty of nature are better capture than the original, and the elaborated costumes are noteworthy.
Action wise, it is a huge step up, perhaps because of the casting of Martial Arts Kingpin Donnie Yen himself, who has a strong martial arts background compared to Chow Yun Fatt who needed plenty of stunt doubles and still did not look fluid in his sword-wield or movements(it was reported that Jet Li rejected the first film hence it went to Fatt). The action sequences makes it a combination of not just a Wu-Xia film but a Kung Fu film because there is now less "flying-around" or wire-work but more realistic martial arts display by Donnie Yen. Donnie Yen's performance and presence in the film is spectacular, and it makes people want to see more of him after his appearance.
Michelle Yeoh remained in character and is impressive in both the acting and the action department, huge thumbs up for her but unfortunately her performance seems to be slightly overshadowed (surprisingly) by new-comer Natasha Liu Bordizzo who plays Snow Vase.
Harry Shum Junior actually looks good in this movie in fight scenes due to his tremendous Dance Background and pedigree.
As for the English Language spoken on the Netflix version(not here in Hong Kong), I think it is a good move because The Weinstein Company and Netflix they want to show the movie to the whole world, hoping to reach audiences who will never ever watch a swordsmen or Wu Xia movie in their lives. There are many people in the world who will never watch a movie because they hate reading subtitles.
And also because people in China hated the first movie and it flopped and one of the reason is because of Chow Yun Fatt's Cantonese accent and Michelle Yeoh had Malaysian accent in their mandarin dialogue, so please try and understand instead of claiming it should be in Mandarin, the original got mocked because of the bad mandarin accents.
Overall a very enjoyable movie, which really needs heart to appreciate, it may be slow at times but it truly allows audiences to be observant and to look at the minor details in such a major motion picture.
It would be even better if one already read the original book by Wang Du Lu or the new novel by Justin Hill, as it covers more motivations and intentions clearly.
Therefore, do not just view this as a sequel to one of the most successful Wu-Xia films ever made, appreciate this movie and take it as a film of its own, and you will enjoy it thoroughly.