Sequels tend to be things that the general public have grown wary of, though many have tried to prove the public wrong sequels tend to flop and present lackluster results and broken dreams; worse yet are when they are of classics.
Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has been a classic for many years now. A true martial arts epic that depicts Lee’s tendency to show the internal battle with traditionalism, Crouching Tiger focuses more on the characters’ arcs than of standard battles. The film will be celebrating its 16th year anniversary and presenting a gift that wasn’t honestly needed came the news of a sequel called: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. Despite the name, the similarities apparently end right there. The sequel is directed by Yuen Woo-ping, who is the choreographer that worked on the original movie with Lee, but did not bring the same magic.
The sequel was simultaneously released on Netflix and in select theaters over the weekend, which already sets a new standard. By providing the streaming service site the rights first, Woo-ping subconsciously plays with the theme of breaking tradition. Though the film is steeped in visual plays and sequences, its largest release was on the small screen at home due to its contract with Netflix. This action, though it provides a stable audience base, poses many questions since the film should have a larger cinematic presence than the few IMAX theaters showing it. The reason for so few theater showings of the film is because of the PR battle that ensued when theaters were insulted to be showing a movie the same date as it joined the streaming website. Despite its title, by breaking tradition of standard film releases, many refused to show the movie on the big screen due to Netflix’s involvement. Had there been a clearer consensus on the release of the movie, whether it be an honest cinematic release in theaters first, or a platform friendly Netflix original, the results of the film might have been more positive.
The film was shot in New Zealand with vibrant colors, and sweeping landscapes, but due to its sequel status the movie is being considered a clear flop. Even though the director, Woo-ping, is acclaimed in his own regard, the story of the sequel is being helmed a novice regurgitation of the first movie. The cast is brand new, except for the return of Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien, adding in the likes of actors Donnie Yen as Silent Wolf, Harry Shum Jr. as Wei-Fang, and Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Snow Vase. These actors comprise the main cast and Shum Jr. and Bordizzo take over as the new young rivals who fight over the “Green Destiny” sword, but end up falling in love. With a main team of cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel and screenwriter John Fusco join Woo-ping and bring about dynamic visuals and internal turmoil that are then marred by unnecessary CGI and short character growth. The true success or potential of the film seems to be buried under the prestige of the title, which is affecting the chances of the film staying afloat in the public. Regardless of critics’ reviews, if the predecessor’s title is taking away Sword of Destiny ends up being a good watch for at home viewers to get comfortable and enjoy a martial arts tale of love and self-discipline.