Let’s face it Netflix, you’ve been stumbling in your original film department. Admittedly, you do have Beasts of No Nation to be proud of, thanks to the near-universal critical acclaim it garnered. Then again, you also have The Ridiculous Six to be condemned for. Now Netflix, I get it, you’ve become a pretty big deal over the years. You want to put a little more original programming under your belt and bring in even more followers. Many of your original television programs are why people have stayed subscribed to you all these years, especially with the quality control your team puts behind many of them. Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, all fantastic shows that deserve your pride. However, maybe it was that same level of pride that led you into financing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, a film that ends up being just another giant highlight of how desperately your original film department needs to step up.
Sword of Destiny stars Michelle Yeoh, reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien from the original film. Set eighteen years after the events of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lien has chosen to live a life of solitude after losing the man she loved. However, her long break away from combat ends abruptly when she is called back to help protect the sword of her deceased lover, the Green Destiny. Said to be the most lethal weapon in the right hands, an army of rag-tag fighters is assembled to help protect the Green Destiny from falling into the villainous Hades Dai’s (Jason Scott Lee) hands.
Well, we might as well start with the few positives this misguided movie has to offer. For starters, there are few well choreographed action sequences that may please die-hard fighting fans. They’re nothing spectacular or boundary breaking, but some punches do manage to bring a sense of satisfaction. Additionally, there are a few story elements here that have some heart behind it. The backstory that brings two of the film’s fighters, Show Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and Wei-Fang (Harry Shum, Jr.,) together is probably Sword of Destiny‘s biggest highlight.
On the other hand, those few positives are ultimately wasted on the most disjointed, incoherent martial arts movie you could imagine. The characters provided to us in this masterpiece of a dud are given no real definition behind them, and all we’re provided is just a handful of hollow stereotypes to try and root for. Lacking is the original’s zest and soul behind each person battling on screen, real characters that crafted its narrative into a true martial arts showpiece. Don’t worry though, you’ll get not one, but two painfully forced romances, and a lackluster performance from Michelle Yeoh herself, to supposedly fill the need for a real plot. We’re given sound stakes behind the numerous fight scenes, so they just end up coming off as dull padding. These aren’t individuals anyone could be truly invested in, no matter how many terrible jokes they spew, so when the duels start rolling and the bodies of their allies start dropping, you’ll only end up feeling like an indifferent observer. You’re given no real reason to care about who lives and who dies, and that’s exactly what you’re going to remember most.
If that wasn’t enough, what feels like the biggest misfire of all is the movie’s mishandling of its own budget. You know what would have been a lot nicer than a plethora of mediocre fight scenes? How about some decent CGI shots, better color correction or even some more plot development? There’s so much unnecessary sepia and hazing effects thrown into the shots that it comes off as a gigantic distraction adding nothing to the period piece. The occasional CGI effects thrown in belong on an early Playstation 2 title, not a multi-million dollar sequel to one of the most recognized martial arts titles in cinema. There is this one shot where Yu Shu Lien rides her horse into a giant fortified palace within the first few seven minutes of the picture. The quality of the palace’s shot is so laughably bad, it’ll help dampen the blow of seeing the frozen lake clash later on, another terrible use of CGI effects. Not by a lot though, it’s as equally terrible as everything else in this flick.
What happened here Netflix? A sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, so how did you manage to make it the worst idea in the world? By not giving the audience any real reason to be invested in this world, you’ve completely squandered what should have been, at the very least, an interesting follow up. Instead, we get a lame story about a group of people giving their lives to protect a single sword, no stakes behind the frequent fights and a lusterless use of proper effects. The very few positives Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny offers aren’t even remotely enough to warrant a watch, and just wind up proving this dragon lost its fire a long time ago.