By Dave B.
The sequel to the epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), Sword of Destiny (Netflix) sees Michelle Yeoh reprise her role as master swordswoman Yu Shu-Lien. She’s returned from 18 years of isolation to once again protect the unbeatable Green Destiny sword. Old wounds are reopened when a figure from her past, presumed dead, returns with a band of misfits bound by the code of the Iron Way to help her defeat a warlord who will stop at nothing to possess the sword and rule the martial world.
So…Sword of Destiny has a couple bright spots. It’s action sequences no longer feel as revolutionary as they did in the original film, and they aren’t choreographed as well, but as the film progresses, there are a couple of fights that are certainly memorable. In particular, in the second half of the film, there is a fight on an inexplicably frozen lake that fairly successfully emulates some of the beauty and grandeur of Crouching Tiger’s battles. Interestingly, Sword of Destiny is filmed in English. I neither approve nor disapprove of that decision, but it definitely took a few minutes for it not to feel very odd hearing Hong Kong English instead of Mandarin.
Unfortunately, those are the only aspects of the film worth remarking on. Sword of Destiny is so far inferior to Crouching Tiger, that it’s impossible to reach any conclusion other than that it used a famous name in its title as a cynical money grab. Yeoh and Donnie Yen do their best to make their characters compelling, but Sword of Destiny eschews character development and there’s only so much that even the best actors can do trying to portray two-dimensional personalities. That’s a shame, because most of the secondary characters could have been interesting if audiences were given some more information about them. Instead, they serve as placeholders and cannon fodder, unable to shine through the murkiness of such a mediocre script.
Even more frustratingly, most of the action sequences (outside of the one that I mentioned above and one other) aren’t very good. Twenty years ago, they would have been amazing, but now they feel worn and outdated. And most egregiously, Sword of Destiny lacks ALL of the narrative and directorial beauty that Crouching Tiger possessed. It has no philosophical depth, so all of its flaws are plain to see and there’s no compelling emotional connection to any person or idea in the film, which could serve to hide some of its flaws.
In short, Sword of Destiny isn’t very good and it makes no effort to be campy fun. It finds itself in a middle ground between welcome nostalgia for its predecessor and unrelenting mediocrity. Even with the worst movies, I rarely wish that I had never seen them, but that’s my feeling after watching this one. It ruins the fond memories that I had of Crouching Tiger and that makes me sad. I certainly don’t recommend Sword of Destiny and I hope that you take my advice not to watch it.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.