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Monday, 29 February 2016

Wuxia On Netflix: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Sword Of Destiny (2016)


So far The Year Of The Monkey has been a feast for Sinophiles such as myself, with the BBC's China Season (from its three-day coverage of the New Year celebrations in China to Michael Wood's fantastic six-part The Story Of China) and the Discovery Channel's David Baddiel On The Silk Road, but the crowning glory has to be Netflix's Sword Of Destiny, sequel to 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Set many years after the original, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) comes out of secluded retirement when she learns that megalomaniac warlord Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee) has discovered the location of the legendary Green Destiny Sword.

Yu takes on a student, the beautiful Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who is somehow connected with the young thief Tiefang (Glee's Harry Shum Jr.) sent to steal the magical sword for Hades Dai.

She then recruits five warriors - including her long-lost, presumed-dead, love Meng Sizhao aka Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen) to protect the sword and, eventually, take the fight to Hades Dai.

The plot of Sword Of Destiny is deceptively straight-forward, interwoven with the intricate connectivity of the characters' backgrounds and destinies.

Directed by martial arts guru Woo-Ping Yuen, the wire-work, stunts, and fight scenes are magnificent, often containing both grace and brutality, and it is all set against the splendid backdrop of the Chinese landscape which lends a heightened reality to the epic scope of the story.

Thematically and storywise, Sword Of Destiny ticks a lot of familiar boxes from the classics - such as The Seven Samurai - to the contemporary - such as The Force Awakens - but with a unique wuxia flavour.

The original film really brought the beauty of Chinese martial arts movies to the Western mainstream. Sword Of Destiny is a worthy successor that maintains the lineage Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon established and was then picked up by films like Hero, House Of Flying Daggers, The Banquet, Curse Of The Golden Flower etc.

While I was happy to see that Sword Of Destiny was available on Netflix with both English and Chinese dialogue, I'll confess that despite being a bit of a snob about these things I actually opted to watch the English language version. I couldn't face the prospect of reading subtitles with my tired eyes while also trying to take in the high-flying action.

Maybe, the next time I watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny it'll be in its proper tongue.

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