Netflix has offered a wide variety of content to viewers. From political thrillers to lovable sitcoms, we have seen the best and the worst that this popular streaming service can come up with. The most recent of their original endeavors is the long-awaited martial arts epic: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. Although, after a viewing of the film, epic may be a strong word.
It has been 18 years since the death of the great Master Li Mu Bai. His partner, Yu Shu Lien, has turned to a life of solitude after his death. Yu Shu Lien is suddenly pulled back into the fray after a power-hungry warlord sets his eyes on the legendary Green Destiny Sword. Yu Shu Lein teams up with a gang of high flying martial arts warriors to take the greedy warlord down. This world of kicks, jumps, swords and karate chops amounts to rather impressively choreographed fight sequences, but a rather dull story.
The fight scenes in the film are swift and happily kinetic. The flow of spins and kicks creates a tapestry of martial arts wonder. It is a fantastic mix of slow-mo and wire-work that allows the audience to truly explore the skills of these ancient characters. Each choreographed punch seems intentionally placed and wonderfully timed. The actors engage in a dance-like rhythm of weaves, jabs and weapon blocking. While the fighting style is not truly original, it is impressive eye-candy for any lover of martial arts.
Then there is the portion of the film that makes it not as worthy of a kung-fu epic: the story and characters. This movie’s story is about as cookie-cutter as a film-goer could imagine. It is lazily predictable and always feels as if the writers were on auto-pilot. The more the film moves forward, the less reasons the audience is given to care. These characters’ path to victory is one stained with clichés and boring, predictable diversions. The majority of the actors are dedicated and do the best with what they are given. Unfortunately, they are no match for the martial arts skills of lazy sequel writing. The characters quickly become cardboard stereotypes. Some of their introductory dialogue seems promising, but eventually becomes nothing more than boring language used to move the plot forward.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is a relatively sad attempt at a sequel to the critically acclaimed 2001 original. It smooths all of the inventive elements of the first film into sloppy and forgettable clichés. None of the characters are developed to their potential and the story plays out exactly as you would expect. The one redeeming quality is the fast-paced action. One could actually argue that the action is improved from the original. So, if you have a hunger for some mindless yet well-choreographed action beat-downs, then this movie may be for you. For the rest of the major movie audience, if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny appears in your Netflix queue, don’t pull your punches.
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