Your weekly Netflix Pick is here! Sword of Destiny is the follow up to 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a Taiwanese, Chinese, and American joint venture. The movie combined elements of classic Asian cinema with a Western approach to the story.
Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee) is a powerful warlord. He’s on a path to steal the Green Destiny. The legendary sword is under Yu Shu Lien’s (Michelle Yeoh) protection. The sword is more than a legendary weapon to Yu. It is the last remaining piece of Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat – no reprising his role). Hades and Yu aren’t the only ones with the sword in mind. Warriors from all over close in on the sword with varying intent.
Sword of Destiny didn’t break international standards. It didn’t go on to win four Oscars. Critical acclaim aside, it is a worthy successor to the 2000 original. Destiny is different in tone. It’s a bit lighter. A bit easier on the mysticism. The acting is still top notch but some of the magic moves aside for ‘popcorn’ movie moments.
Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as Yu. The legendary martial artist who was at the helm of the first film. This time around Yeoh is an older woman burdened by a lifetime of duty. Duty that lead to a lifetime of longing and emptiness. Never shirking her responsibility Yu is back to defend the famed Green Destiny. The sword is the last remnant of the love of her life, Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat).
The huge time gap between films isn’t addressed but serves all the new characters. With Yeoh being the only original actor to show up new faces fill the rest of the cast. The new character’s converge on their own journeys of nobility or desire. These warriors know the legends of Li Mu Bai, and the Green Destiny.
The most notable new comer is Donnie Yen. Yen is well known to martial arts fans for his three fantastic Ip-Man films. He’s now well known to the world at large for playing Chirrut. Chirrut was the interesting warrior monk who showed us a new side of The Force in 2016’s Rogue One.
Yen plays Silent Wolf. A man who’s love and respect for Yeoh helps him on his journey back from the brink of death against their common foe. Yen adds a lot of levity to the film with his colorful band of warriors. His other contribution is more important. Yen does almost as much of the heavy lifting as Yeoh does. He inserts his character into an existing narrative without feeling out of place.
The martial arts aren’t in the same style as The Raid or John Wick. They are acrobatic, choreographed, and beautiful. Flight is real in this movie as are moves that display mystical power more than focused muscle control. These elements are somewhat foreign to American audiences but are key parts of Chinese cinema.
Legendary Director Yuen Wo-Ping has made some of the best martial arts movies of all time. He had a hand in making the 2000 original and grabs the reigns for Sword of Destiny. A director less worthy of the project may have made this sequel less of a throwback. A sequel two decades after the fact could have became a way to cash in on a name people remember fondly.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Sword of Destiny isn’t as good as it’s predecessor. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an exciting martial arts movie in its own right. The continuation fits into the lore of the Green Destiny. A martial arts film brought to life with classic and modern elements mixing is a welcome addition to the Netflix library.