It’s no easy task living up to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As far as Wu Xia movies go, that’s about as good as you get. When I saw that Netflix was creating a sequel I was excited. When I saw the first trailer and the horrible soundtrack that went along with it, I was instantly apprehensive. And finally when I realised the trailer was in English – I curled up in a ball and started crying. Ok I didn’t go that far but I was disappointed to say the least. My confidence was somewhat restored having then seen the Chinese trailer where they were thankfully speaking Chinese, and so having just returned from a night down the coast, I was keen to get home and check it out.
The first thing I did was set the audio to Chinese (Cantonese) and enable English subtitles and ugh, it was immediately apparent this was dubbed. Did I mention how much I detest dubs? It’s funny that while I can speak quite a lot of Mandarin, I am by no means a master, and yet the language and subtitles feel right when they are native – as soon as you throw a dub in the mix, that naturalness goes out the window. And so I kicked it over to English. I thought hell, if the movie is natively in English, I’ll give it a crack. I made it about halfway before I flicked it back to Cantonese.
The thing with English, it’s taking away from the legitimacy of the setting. Did you ever see Memoirs of a Geisha with Zhang Ziyi? Here was a Japanese setting also using English and oddly enough, non-Japanese movies. Fuck me, if you’re going to film a Japanese movie, use fucking Japanese actors at the very least!!!!
The same holds true for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny. We have very capable English speakers but straight away I’m distracted by the various accents on display. The wonderful Michelle Yeoh goes from pure class to appearing like she just stepped out of acting school. Likewise with Donnie Yen who in English sounds stilted and awkward. But most of all – I was cringing at the clearly Australian Asian actors present. I’m the first to admit that I am not fond of the Australian (my own) accent. In movies it sounds horribly familiar to me and instantly out of place. This is only moreso with Asian aussies, who unfortunatley take on our twangs and sound just as bad if not worse! I noticed this in Netflix’s Marco Polo (particularly the Mongol who was clearly kiwi!) – but CTHD2 was rife with it.
Now language issues aside, the movie was not bad. It pales in comparison to the original but it’s like comparing the Force Awakens to the original Star Wars trilogy, you know that already it’s an unfair bargain. So judging it on its own merits, it wasn’t too bad. The plot was a-typical of Wu Xia, concerning vengeance and fulfilling vows in the mythical martial arts world. Fundamentally the story was standard in this regard, but the pacing was a bit off. There were large portions in the middle that moved slowly – scenes that in the original were rich with character interaction in a beautifully Chinese setting, but the same didn’t hold true for the setting. It didn’t feel like we were in the martial arts world but moreso in New Zealand (where it was in fact set) with copious amounts of colour saturation that if anything cheapened the overall look. I also noticed that many of the sets simply lacked in the overall detail – the movie just didn’t have the same level of quality applied as the first movie.
Ok it’s effectively impossible for me to not compare it to the original movie, I admit it! But in saying all of the above I will say that I still did enjoy the movie. Newcomer Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) was no Zhang Ziyi, but I enjoyed her screen presence nonetheless. Michelle Yeoh naturally delivered in every scene she was present, and the addition of Donnie Yen to the cast was a welcome one. The rest of the cast was somewhat forgettable, including the team of Iron Way warriors recruited at the tavern who really were quite forgettable. Likewise the primary villain, Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee) was a bit too bru-ha-ha for my liking and the final cg-heavy battle up the side of a pagoda was really quite lame.
Am I disappointed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny – yes, but it was enjoyable on some levels. I feel the need to go dust off the original and cleanse the palate but alas, work in the morning.