Last week, Netflix released Sword Of Destiny, a sequel to the Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With Michelle Yeoh returning and Donnie Yen joining the cast, this looked like it had the potential to, at the very least, be entertaining.
Co-produced by Harvey Weinstein, the film has been criticised for being too "Westernized" and seeing as the film's dialogs are spoken in English, cast members Jason Scott Lee, Harry Shum Jr and Natasha Liu Bordizzo are only partly Chinese and the whole thing is packed with CGI, I'd say that was a fair complaint. But the main problem with this sequel is it really bears little to no resemblance to the original both in terms of the story and the overall quality. Sure, there's mention of Chow Yun-Fat's Li Mu Bai (though the actor doesn't even cameo), Yeoh is present and the sword is once again a big deal but it's like Zhang Ziyi's entire character arc never happened, the flying sword fights are extremely toned-down and the film is shot like a B-movie which would probably star Nicolas Cage if it had been fully a Hollywood creation.
Which is not to say there's nothing about Sword Of Destiny that's any good. The ever-reliable Donnie Yen does a decent enough job despite his character not really having any sort of personality, the fight scene which takes place on an icy lake is admittedly cool, the score is pretty and Michelle Yeoh still kicks ass. Unfortunately, the story is not only a complete retread of the original but literally all characterisation or plotting is told through flashbacks making it impossible to give two shits about newcomers Wei-Fang (Shum Jr) and Snow Vase (Liu Bordizzo), not to mention the gang of cartoonish misfits which assist Yen's hero. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a masterpiece: its scale was large but it had heart and we cared about everyone involved, even Ziyi's antihero, so it also worked on a small, personal scale. The fight scenes had a point and were extremely well shot, the ending was genuinely moving plus the score remains one of the best.
Apart from Yeoh, Sword Of Destiny lacks everything that made its predecessor as good as it was. The writing is lazy, the acting is mostly ham-fisted, the action feels slow and parts of it (magic smoke lady) are simply confounding.