By Ed Diokno
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny suffers from being compared to the original which won an Academy Award as Best Picture.
Since it was first announced several years ago, it has become one of the most highly anticipated sequels for its legions of fans the world over. Alas, it didn’t reach the high bar set by the first film.
It has all the flash and dash of clashing swords, fantastic jumps and flips that introduced the Hong Kong-style cinematic martial arts to the mainstream audience as the original, but it lacked the depth and presence a Chow Yun Fat and the lyricism and spirituality that director Ang Lee was able to infuse throughout the original.
Oh, the action that took your breath away in the original is still there. Yuen Wo-Ping, who did the action choreography for Ang Lee, is at the director’s helm for this one. His forte is present in all the fight scenes, especially a almost beautiful battle that takes place on a frozen lake as the opponents glide through the fight as if they’re in the ice dance competition in the Olympics.
Michelle Yeoh reprises her character Shu Lien, a panther-like martial artist with deep emotions that struggles to control. While Donnie Yen does well in the action scenes, he doesn’t come close to matching Yeoh’s complexity. Yen makes you appreciate the gravitas and soulfulness Chow Yun Fat brought to his character. When Yeoh and Yen are alone with each other, Yeoh might as well have been conversing with a wall.
Promising newcomer Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Glee’s Harry Shum Jr. brought some cuteness to their budding relationship and both did more than well in their fight scenes. The other characters were just archetypes with no real depth. Jason Scott Lee could not do much with his one-dimensional villain.
In this era of #OscarSoWhite, the talented all-Asian cast could have been the best example to bury any antiquated notion that an American audience always needs a white actor to relate to (ala The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise) for a film to be successful. My fear is that the less-than stellar reviews might reinforce that idea among Hollywood’s studios.
The U.S.-China co-production was released on this side of the Pacific on Netflix and on select IMAX screens simultaneously. However, the movie was released in China a week earlier and is doing well enough financially to perhaps earn another sequel. The trans-Pacific partnership might be a harbinger of a growing trend, but producers and studios shouldn’t sacrifice quality for the sake of profit … uh, wha’? Quality over profit? Am I dreaming?
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)
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