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Movie Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2

Return to the world of unexplained magic in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2. Image used from

Return to the world of unexplained magic in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2. Image used from

For sixteen years Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been considered one of the finest martial arts movies of all time with many still singing of it’s praises to this day. Oddly enough though Netflix chose to craft a sequel for one of it’s first original movies, bringing back star Michelle Yeoh as well as fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping to direct. Will it be as beloved as it’s predecessor or was it a bad move for Netflix?


The story for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 is rather dull with the main story itself feeling stretched out beyond it’s limits. The story follows Yu Shu Lien, who is returning to Beijing for the funeral of a friend. During this time a villain known as Hades Dai is attempting to conquer all of China and seeks the McGuffin from the previous film, also known as The Green Destiny Sword, which lies in Beijing. To protect the sword Lien takes on a student named Snow Vase while hiring a group of warriors all while a mysterious servant of Hades Dai plays a large role in the film’s events. The story focuses primarily on Lien training Snow Vase so she can use the Green Destiny Sword, which eventually bears little to the overall story. This ends up being one of the film’s major downfalls as it’s surprisingly short running time (barely clocking in at ninety minutes without credits) didn’t allow for much else to develop throughout the film and thus I found myself being largely uninterested with what was going on. What makes it all the worse is that during the third act the film shows a few shards of what could have been a potentially good story. Some characters have some truly compelling motivations for what they due, one character wants the Green Destiny Sword because it was used to murder her parents, another despises the heroes and their “Iron Way” because it was their philosophy that led to her brother’s death. These are some great backstories that could have made for some great characters and stories but unfortunately the film chooses not to delve into these motivations and refuses to build upon them. Even Snow Vase and Teifeng (the aforementioned mysterious stranger) have very good backstories but the problem is they aren’t mentioned until the third act. Because of that\ the third act is pretty engaging however the problem is that by this time I was no longer invested in the story. One final problem with the overall story is the film’s language. No I don’t mean swears or vulgarities I refer to the fact that the language used is English. While it will make it easy for me to talk about the acting I still found the actors speaking English to be jarring and out of place. The filmmakers said they wanted the characters to speak English to appeal more to a western audience who otherwise would never watch a wu xia film. That’s fine and all but overall it’s self defeating. If a person isn’t interested in wu xia films then having the characters speak English isn’t going to change their opinions. I for one tend to avoid wu xia films because of the irritating overuse of wires in fight scenes. They chose to appeal to an audience that had no interest in what they were selling when they should have been appealing to the Chinese audience, you know the only folks who would be interested in this film.


The characters for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 are dull


I found myself disliking Yu Shu Lien. I found her to be a very arrogant and self righteous character, nonchalantly looking down on other characters and genuinely being a pain throughout.


Silent Wolf is the second main hero of the film and I just found him to be forgettable. His main characteristic is that he was formerly betrothed to Lien who faked his own death when he learned she loved someone else and didn’t want to get in the way. His return causes conflict with Lien but rather then being engaging and adding to the story it just comes off as unnecessary and drags on far longer then it should.


Hades Dai is a very plain villain. His main goal is to conquer all of China. Congratulations you have the same motives as every other villain in every other film that takes place in ancient China. He had the makings of at east being cruel and intimidating however there’s very little focus on him and thus he gets no real character development.


Snow Vase and Tiefang are actually very likeable characters. For the first two acts there’s nothing really to them but when their interesting back stories are told they quickly develop into engaging characters. They quickly have depth to them and in what few scenes together they have work very well.


Acting for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 is quite good


Michelle Yeoh gives a fine performance as Lien. As always Yeoh is captivating and from her very first line of dialogue managed to grab my attention. She easily conveyed her character’s attributes of authority and calmness and truly gives her all in her role.


Donnie Yen does well as Silent Wolf. Though not as captivating as Yeoh, Yen still manages to do well having some truly memorable moments and working well with Yeoh when their characters do not.


The criminally underrated Jason Scott Lee does very well as Hades Dai. Though not given much to do Lee still manages to have a dominating presence and chews up the scenery wonderfully every single chance he gets.


Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Harry Shum Jr. are both good as Snow Vase and Tiefeng. Bordizzo acts with gusto in her role and during her overly long training her impatience seemed so realistic that I easily found myself sympathizing with her. Shum Jr, who is surprising to see in such a movie but nevertheless exciting, banters for the most part but when he finally becomes of importance he beings to give a fine performance especially when he’s playing off of Bordizzo.


The fight scenes for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 are poorly made


If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: I greatly dislike wire-fu. It is a very archaic technique that should have died out long ago yet still prevails to this day. I hate it because it take me out of the experience of the fight seeing people doing things they should not do, robbing the actors and actresses of their wonderful, natural fighting talents and significantly reducing the impact that a fight should have. What bothers me most is Harry Shum Jr. Like Michelle Yeoh Shum Jr. is not a martial artist but a dance, a great one at that. His style of dance could easily be incorporated into a unique fighting style and I frimly believe he could be great martial arts films but like everyone else the obsessive use of wires completely robs him. Though not as irritating or foolish looking as the original film I still found myself disinterested with the fight scenes and found my mind wandering somewhere else during them. Perhaps instead of trying to pander to a western audience with the characters speaking English perhaps the filmmakers should have made better fight scenes, or at least relied less on wire-fu.


Final Thoughts: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2 could have been a good movie. The actors and actresses do very well all around and here and there we see some great ideas that could have made a great overall story and the third act is pretty good. Unfortunately the film focuses far too heavily on one aspect of it’s story which happens to be it’s weakest aspect, the use of English is pointless pandering, the characters forgettable and the fight scenes poorly made. I think I could only recommend this to those who loved the first movie but only as a way to curiously see what happens next. Other wise this is a film that won’t get people into wu xia films as expected.


Verdict: 2/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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