Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny is an example of a movie that will undoubtedly suffer because of its connection to the original. Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a movie that took the world by storm, and with good reason. It helped the style of wuxia break into the Western market and paved the way for other movies in the genre to follow, such as House of Flying Daggers and Hero. It is truly a masterpiece of cinematography and storytelling and it skyrocketed Lee’s career, as well as help bring greater attention to actors Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-fat, and the lovely Zhang Ziyi. A multiple Oscar winner it will forever hold a lasting legacy, and because of this legacy, its sequel will not be able to live up to its predecessor.
So let me put it this way, Sword of Destiny is nowhere near as good as the original but on its own merits it is a good martial arts movie. I am a staunch believer that any movie can be enjoyable so long as the viewer approaches it in a specific way. Watching this movie, I knew it could never be as good as the first one, so I just decided to watch the movie without thinking of the predecessor too much. This was a challenge because of how often plot points, memorable scenes, and characters from the original are brought up. Nevertheless, so long as I ignored these points I found the movie to be enjoyable. Not great, just good.
Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as Yu Shu Lien and she is the only returning character. After having isolated herself for many years Lien is coming back to Beijing to mourn her close friend Sir Te. In the late man’s possession is the Green Destiny, Mu Bai’s sword that Hades Dai—a local warlord of some sorts—is looking to have because a witch told him it would help him rule the martial world.
So standard sword that does awesome things and he who controls it controls the world. There’s also a semi-touching story between the two new characters, Tei-Fang and Snow Vase but let’s just move past all that and get to the fun part: the fighting!
Yuen Woo-Ping returns as the fight director and along with Yeoh he’s pretty much the only other person who worked on the original. This time around he’s also directing. True to form, he produces some great fight scenes. But how could he not, after all he gave us this masterpiece from the first one.
See, even in this review, the original is still unescapable.
There’s also one addition to the cast and he’s money, Donnie Yen—get it, I made a pun on his last name. I love Donnie Yen and he’s pretty much the strongest reason for why I really wanted to watch this movie. For those not in the know, Yen is pretty much the hottest Martial Arts star on the world right now! He has had some Western exposure playing the main bad guy in Shanghai Knights, but his greater work is in movies such as Iron Monkey, Once Upon a Time in China III, and Dragon—which is pretty much A History of Violence set in ancient China. His greatest work, however, comes from the Ip Man franchise where he plays Bruce Lee’s teacher. Single handedly responsible for the revival of the martial art form known as Wing Chun, my first real exposure to him was in SPL. I am about to show you a scene from this movie, so, umm, spoilers I guess. Also, it’s quite violent.
Did you see that! That’s Donnie Yen and Wu Jing, and the whole direction for most of that battle was for them to fight until someone got the first hit. So taking Donnie Yen and putting him in this movie pretty much guaranteed some great fights and he delivers. He plays a character called Silent Wolf, a man who has history with Lien and Mu Bai. His fight with Hades Dai is fun, but his fight against two assailants on a frozen lake is beautiful. He fends off two attackers while skating around and blocking and kicking chunks of ice.
I couldn’t find a clip of that fight, so enjoy another Donnie Yen fight from Flashpoint. Same thing, spoilers and violence, watch at your own risk.
Along with him, there are other fighters. One uses knives, one has iron casts on his arms for punching people, one is drunk all the time, and one girl shoots out darts that she sews into her cape. She was my favorite. The bad guys also have a girl who utterly destroys everyone, her name is Mantis and she’s a force to be reckoned with. Another fun fight, although extremely brief, is Lien versus the witch. It has a standard badass moment where our hero loses her sense of sight and she must rely on her other senses to win the fight.
Formulaic, yes, but the fights are pretty good. They’re also the best things about the movie. In summary, if you go into this move expecting a good sequel to the original, you will be utterly disappointed and, depending on how much you love the original, even mad. But if you go into this movie just to be entertained for a bit, then you will have fun. It’s on Netflix, so grab some popcorn, try your best to forget how good the first one was and how much this one pales in comparison, and watch the punches, kicks, and swords fly.