“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a film that can exist only by itself. The artistry and love that director Ang Lee put into the most successful foreign language film of all time cannot be matched nor surpassed.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” has nothing to do with the original film. The only parallels between the two films are both have a mostly Asian cast and the characters are all fighting one another with swords.
The film is about a master of the sword named Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), who travels to Peking, China, because it is necessary for the story. The sword of destiny in question once belonged to her lover, Li Mu Bai. So important is the sword that many try to steal it.
This weak storyline could be forgiven if the film was well crafted and handled with respect for the martial arts genre. Mercy would be given to the filmmakers if the performances were multi-dimensional. Unfortunately “Sword of Destiny” has no interest in mercy or forgiveness, and because of this lack of interest, it will receive neither.
But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is what it is trying to achieve but does not: diversity.
Diversity in film is an issue that must be addressed in the 21st century. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 58 percent of California residents identify as being non-white. The largest “minority” demographics are Latinos and Asian-Americans.
Hollywood has had great bouts of progress to become more inclusive. Modern films represent American culture and the changing racial makeup. Yet the Asian-American community, according to Hollywood, consists of two kinds of people: the closed-off, ultra-geek and the fresh-off-the-boat immigrant.
There is also a third category that is just as damaging, though not as mean. That category is that of the exotic warrior.
“Sword of Destiny” populates the screen with exotic warriors who fight over nothing but sword. It is their only drive. They’re barely even human. This is dangerous because it reinforces another stereotype.
“Sword of Destiny” may not be as offensive or outright racist as “No Escape,” but the lack of insight is equal.
If this is supposed to be the film that 2016 chooses to represent Asian-Americans, then it should be viewed as an insult that is ludicrous, sour and toxic.
“Sword of Destiny” is currently streaming on Netflix.