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Family Movie Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (PG-13)

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MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 100 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This martial arts movie is pretty much non-stop fight sequences and action violence, but there isn’t much gore or blood; lots of hand-to-hand combat and some use of weapons, including swordfights, flying darts, and thrown spears. Various characters die in duels or fight sequences; there is a subplot involving two women, including one concubine, who have children out of wedlock; some sexually themed jokes and implied female nudity (an unfocused shot of a woman getting into a bathtub); adults drinking, sometimes to drunkenness; and some talk of forbidden romance and broken engagements.

The ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ sequel ‘Sword of Destiny’ isn’t as graceful or thoughtful as its beloved predecessor, but its impressive fight sequences will hold your attention. 

By Roxana Hadadi

Sequels very rarely pay off. January’s “Ride Along 2” was boring, February’s “Zoolander 2” was an unequivocal disaster, and now we have the mostly flat “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny.” The fight scenes are solid, but the film fails to live up to its predecessor’s overall grace, beauty, and emotional resonance.

For teenagers into martial arts, “Sword of Destiny” will be a serviceable-but-unremarkable watch. There is some inspired cinematography – like close-up shots of swords slicing through stone, feet pivoting on pebbles, and a duel on the edge of a cliff – but there are also long stretches of dragging dialogue. Some lines are memorable for their campiness (“This house will swim with blood!”) and some for their clichés (“You don’t hold this sword. This sword holds us”), but for the most part, the film plods along with no true surprises.

Set 18 years after 2000’s mega-successful “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Sword of Destiny” explains that the state of the Martial World has changed drastically since the death of famed swordsman Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat), the companion of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh, of “Kung Fu Panda 2”). Consumed by grief over the love they shared but never acted on, Yu Shu Lien has retreated into a life of solitude as various martial arts factions battle for power, with West Lotus, led by heartless warrior Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee, of “Seventh Son”), the most brutal.

But soon, their paths intersect: Hades Dai wants the Green Destiny sword that was the focus of the first film, sending a member of West Lotus, Wei Fang (Harry Shum Jr., of “Moms’ Night Out”), to steal it from its hiding place. Yu Shu Lien has sworn to protect the sword, and she thinks she has an ally in the young Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), but it seems like Snow Vase has her own agenda against Hades Dai and a particular interest in Wei Fang.

How do everyone’s paths intersect? And when someone from Yu Shu Lien’s past appears, fellow warrior Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen), is he there for the Green Destiny or for her?

These relationships are, for the most part, reworked versions of the connections in the original “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and it’s disappointing how the film doesn’t really experiment past familiar romantic connections. There is even a point when two characters repeat some climactic language from the first film here, and it feels more like a falsely nostalgic callback than a legitimately resonant scene.

That’s how a lot of “Sword of Destiny” feels: well-intentioned but unsatisfyingly executed. There are a number of female characters (an evil witch, an impassioned assassin, a defender of the Green Destiny), but they don’t match the depths of Yu Shu Lien. Hades Dai is a big bad guy, but his desire for power isn’t particularly intimidating. “Sword of Destiny” gets by with some stunning imagery, like Hades Dai and Silent Wolf fighting while falling through levels of a pagoda and Snow Vase and Wei Fang waging a silent duel in a home full of antique breakables, but otherwise, this is less a sequel of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” than a bland imitation.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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