As you will know from my last post, this has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year for me. So it’s with a somewhat heavy heart that I have to report that I really didn’t enjoy it all that much.
One of the concerns I had going into this was that there would be a real feeling of a step down in quality because so few of the original creators were not involved in the project. There’s a palpable sense that you get whilst watching this that time has worked against the film and this appears to have played it’s part on screen.
Michelle Yeoh reprises her role of Lu Shu Yien, the warrior from the Wu Dang. She is a grieving, lonely figure, still adjusting to life alone after the death of her beloved Li Mu Bai. When she travels to Peking upon learning that his legendary sword Green Destiny is located there, she reconnects with the son of Sir Te, who’s family have been guarding the sacred weapon for many years. This time, a renegade martial artist named Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee) is attempting to steal the sword under the behest of a powerful enchantress (Eugenia Yuan). Hades wishes his West Lotus clan to be the most powerful in the land and with Green Destiny in his possession, he can realise his ambitions. When a young thief (Harry Shum Jr.) attempts to steal it, another young warrior named Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) stops him and the story reveals that fate has brought these two together at an opportune time, as secrets of both their pasts are revealed, exposing a unique bond. Meanwhile Shu Yien prepares for Hades Dai inevitable arrival, recruiting a group of warriors including Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen) to help her protect Green Destiny. As further revelations are exposed and long buried emotions resurface, can the group of warriors cast aside their differences to do what is right?
The first thing that strikes you about the movie when watching it is the dialogue. It’s surprisingly exposition heavy and clunky. Curiously, the film is available in a dubbed Chinese audio track, which is a very distracting experiences as it’s clear that most of the actors are speaking English. This is very distracting and only serves to highlight how misplaced some of the words seem to be. The acting is uniformly disappointing, with only star Michelle Yeoh delivering her usual reliable standard of performance. Donnie Yen, who is one of my favourite Martial Arts movie stars, looks uncomfortable throughout the film and Jason Scott Lee is just downright awful as the pantomime villain of the movie. Yuen Woo Ping slips fairly comfortably into the director’s chair, handling most of the fight scenes with his usual panache, but he struggles with capturing the importance of more nuanced character development scenes. The cinematography is fine, although I found the use of VFX for some scenes quite jarring and fairly obvious. Whilst Newton Thomas Siegel is a fine DOP, the choice of locations for this film means we don’t get that same feeling of feudal China as a living breathing place that we experienced in the first movie.
Besides the martial arts scenes and Yeoh’s performance, im struggling to find any other things that I can really recommend about this movie. It’s a misguided, dated attempt at trying to recapture past glory, and as a massive fan of the first one, it pains me to admit that. The best thing I can say is, if you’re at a loose end and need a martial arts movie fix then give it a go,but frankly be honest, Netflix has plenty of better films in the genre available to watch instantly. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is only likely to leave you feeling as deflated as I am.
FINAL SCORE 2 out 5.