Consider the stone dropped in the center of a still pond.
The air gently moves, rustling the leaves of the trees. Golden yellows, ripe greens, fiery red all dance in the breeze.
Ripples race across the smooth surface. The crane looks on.
The crane is staring at you. It’s black eyes fix your own. It is peering into your soul.
The ripples reach the edge of the pond. A snowflake lands on your cheek.
Conversely its sequel…
Consider the stone. Now look at me. Now back to the stone.
Oh, young love. Old love. Big drunken guy in love.
Now back to me. There’s a bald guy.
Foot balancing wushu.
Dead. Undead. Credits.
Such is the unevenness of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in comparison to its sequel Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (CTHD:SD). The first is a contemplative film, shot amongst sweeping vistas, and eye popping wire-fu. The latter is a far more standard affair with a predictable plot and typical archetypes. CTHD:SD attempts at times to mimic the world and atmosphere of the first film, but more often than not comes off as a made for TV movie.
All the actors are fine, Michelle Yeoh can be in everything, but none are required to or give stellar performances. The fact that they all speak English is also disappointing, being the sequel to one of the most successful non-english films in the US.
Ultimately, Ang Lee infused Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with such contemplation and wonder that the sequel seems heavy handed and hollow. Had the first one been a more classic martial arts film the lower budget sequel wouldn’t have been so jarring.
Taken on its own CTHD:SD isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. The fights aren’t super exciting or technical and they also seem to have an urgency to get to the talking parts. Really, if you are craving a good martial arts movie this will do to take the edge off, but it’s not a full meal. If your wanting something that stops to smell the flowers and contemplate leaves falling it doesn’t do that either. However if you want to watch a foreign film without British accents or subtitles… here you go.