Arriving 16 years after the original, Sword of Destiny doesn't live up to it's predecessor as a sequel, but as a film on it's own merits it is decent, entertaining and reminiscent of 90s Kung Fu films.
Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades Dai.
An extremely basic plot, but it works with the style of film. The main point that can't be emphasised enough is, do not go in to this expecting the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Times have changed. The budget is smaller. It has a different director, different producers, different writers and the only returning cast member is Michelle Yeoh. It can't match the original. But it is a fun Wuxia film in it's own right.
Could this be Yen's last Wuxia film?
If you are wanting some great fight scenes, then you will get your Netflix money's worth. That's one of the high praises CTHD2 has, the great Martial Art scenes. Directed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping and starring Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, the fights were always going to be good. But they honestly surpassed expectations. The fights are fast, furious and vicious and all completely varied throughout. There is a fight in a tavern which has great comedy elements. There is a stunning fight on a frozen lake which was innovative. And the last fight with Yen and Jason Scott Lee is extremely well choreographed and very exciting, even if it has a little too much CGI.
Something that Sword of Destiny relies on that the original didn't is CGI. Filmed in New Zealand instead of China, CGI is used to add in backgrounds or buildings or mountains to make the film’s setting look more like China. The majority of these are used tastefully and are actually pretty to look at. However, the CGI added to the fight scenes is when it becomes a little jarring, especially the last fight when it comes across unnecessary but it never ruined the scene or made it unwatchable.
Michelle Yeoh is superb in her role as usual. And Yen always delivers. The rest of the cast all vary from acceptable to good. Jason Scott Lee is a great villain, a little over the top but all in the best way, and he looks like he is having a blast in the role. The rest of the English speaking cast do a fine job in their limited roles, some of the dialogue may sound a little cheesy but acceptable. It is pretty amusing to see a Wuxia film with Asian actors with accents varying from American to Australian to English.
Yeoh playing the teacher to Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) is one of the most interesting dynamics. The 2 characters have great chemistry together and a relationship that should have had more screen time. These scenes were done wonderfully and another great highlight of the film.
For the purists who are going to complain about this film regardless, one of the main issues they have is that it was filmed in English. Well, an interesting option is you can change the audio language to Chinese with English subtitles. After checking this out it does add a bit of authenticity to the film, although there is no real issue with the original English language. But the option is there.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is an interesting experiment. The name has obviously been used for marketing purposes. People who loved the original will watch it out of curiosity and people who already have Netflix will surely watch it just out of interest. I just hope that the film gets great viewing figures because Netflix is the future and I would love to see them fund more Kung Fu films or Asian films in general.