Fans of Ang Lee’s 2000 action film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will find his touch missing in the sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny. The sequel’s director Yuen Woo-Ping is known mostly for his extensive career in fight choreography, and it shows, but he’s nowhere near the visual master Lee is.
Plot-wise, Michelle Yeoh returns as the wise but gentle warrior Yu Shu Lien, a woman determined to protect a powerful sword known as Green Destiny from falling into the hands of Hades Dai, a quarrelsome warlord who oversees the West Lotus clan. Lien calls in a ragtag band of mercenaries to aid her quest, but her young female protege and a rogue thief want the sword as well.
The thing is, when the warriors of the original film sailed through the air, they did so in a ballet-like grace that underscored the film’s poetic beauty. The sequel, for all its sunlit shots of palace gardens and foggy mountainsides, has a more brutish approach that delights in the coarseness of battle: It’s cartoonish, the romances are overt and clumsy (compared to the understated glances and unrequited ache of the first film), and where the original focused primarily on four emotionally complex characters, Sword Of Destiny introduces numerous, flat swordsmen — both good and evil — that prove hard to grieve when they start dropping like flies.
That’s not to say that Sword Of Destiny isn’t fun: the battles alone —especially one that happens in the moonlit darkness of an icy lake — are worth the price of admission. Plus, considering that a ho-hum White actor just scored the coveted role of Marvel’s Iron Fist, we’re always happy to see Asian action heroes on the big or little screen. But Sword Of Destiny‘s semi-tragic tale of love and vengeance won’t leave you particularly haunted or heartbroken. This time, the sword’s cut is shallower than before.
RATING: Three out of five broken ming vases.