Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon boosted the popularity of Chinese Wuxian films in western cinema, so it’s only a matter of time before a sequel is released. Unfortunately, The Sword of Destiny is the latest victim of money-grubbing Hollywood studios and worse, becomes a long-gestating sequel that finally gets released only to find out that nobody cares anymore.
The sequel did manage to get 1/4 of the original cast back. Michelle Yeoh agreed to appear in the sequel but Zhang Ziyi refused to get on board unless Ang Lee directs it. She’s joined by IP Man Donnie Yen, Glee Alumni Harry Shum Jr, and newcomer Natasha Liu Bordizzo. The cast was decent enough to pull it off, but they can’t salvage a movie that’s as forgettable as its stereotypical characters.
The Sword of Destiny is a rehash of the original.
Once again, Yu Shu Lien ends up guarding the Green Destiny. She meets three other characters who are one-dimensional variations of the previous main cast – Meng Sizhao replaces Li Mu Bai as the love interest; Snow Vase for Jen Yu as the mysterious shady student with potential; Wei Fang for Lo ‘Dark Cloud’ as the outlaw, and the blind enchantress for Jade Fox as the vengeful woman.
Worse, they’re all thrown in a generic narrative. A Chinese warlord, goaded by an enchantress, wants the Green Destiny for power. It’s up to a band of misfits of a forgotten code and warriors with emotional baggage to stop him.
It didn’t help that the movie doesn’t have the visual poetry of the original. The Sword of Destiny has a simplistic production design and relies on low budget CGI landscapes and effects. The fighting scenes are perfunctory skirmishes. The movie makes the obligatory call back to an iconic fight scene but doesn’t do anything new with it.
In short, The Sword of Destiny has none of what made its predecessor unique and memorable.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a nuanced story with believable characters constrained by tradition, symbolic fighting scenes, gorgeous cinematography, and a haunting score.
The sequel spoke of honor and duty in a B-movie produced by a western studio who knows nothing more than Kung Fu cliches. It used English instead for audiences who don’t like subtitles which resulted in awkward delivery.
Comparing the sequel to the original is unfair because it won’t benefit from the direction of Ang Lee and cinematography of Peter Pau. But people behind the camera didn’t make any effort to go beyond the mediocre. The Sword of Destiny is just a Kung Fu potboiler for western audiences.
There are potential ideas here – people who get owned by their own weapons, obligations, and past; a fight on a frozen lake by two different masters; traditional codes lost to changing times, and a talented enough cast to introduce new characters.
Sadly, The Sword of Destiny is more preoccupied with trying to coast on the appeal of its predecessor rather than make an effort to stand on its own.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Sword of Destiny
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Sword of Destiny has a talented cast stuck in an Americanized knockoff of the original.