Saturday, March 12, 2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2015) is the purported sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In this Netflix color-by-numbers film, an evil monk is conquering the martial arts world, and now he wants the Green Destiny so seal his control because some random witch told him to.

Rather than feeling like a wuxia film, Sword of Destiny felt like a modern fantasy TV series wallpapered with a wuxia motif. Think "Game of Thrones, now with new Michelle Yeoh action!" The choreography, cuts, pacing, themes, and dialog all felt mismatched to the genre. To compare this film to Crouching Tiger is like comparing Hannah Barbara to Pixar. Yes, they both purport to be the same thing, but no, they obviously are not.

Quite honestly, the script just wasn't there. It was a mess. I often found myself going into a scene questioning whether we even needed the scene at all. That I thought about whether the scene should exist, rather than being engaged in the film, is damning with the faintest praises possible. Even worse, some of these scenes felt like padding. For a 90 min. film to feel padded takes an extraordinary level of mediocre screen writing combined with an utter failure of film editing.

So, I think it best to not review this film as a wuxia film, nor as a sequel. I will simply review it as its own stand-alone pilot episode to some future TV show that won't exist.

It was dull. What can I say? Despite all the characters getting back stories, despite all the setup that happens, despite all the fights, despite everything that they did to ensure that this was a workable show, they gave us a dull film. Even with adding a magic sorceress woman, it felt dull. I don't expect a made-for-TV show to be perfect, but the audience should be left with a better regard for the characters than a ho-hum feeling.

While I can't call the film awful, because I've seen awful films and this didn't reach that level of abysmal (not even close), I certainly can't rate it highly unless you like the "Game of Thrones" feel to the whole shebang. If you really like the modern fantasy TV film, this just might work for you (but probably won't).