Kung fu has a lengthy history in cinema, wavering between an obscure, cult fan base to mainstream recognition and back again. To this day, people of all ages are familiar with the legendary works of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, but for the most part it takes something truly special for English-speaking audiences to hit the theatres en masse for a fill of martial arts.
Probably the last time popular memory can track back to a period where kung fu hysteria had taken hold was back in 2000, when Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hit the scene. Up until that point, Lee had been known primarily as an arthouse director, whose films – though critically acclaimed – weren’t exactly mainstream blockbusters. Crouching Tiger thrust him into the limelight, giving English-speaking audiences their first in-depth look at warriors battling one another mid-air, in a technique now commonly known as wire fu. It was a critical and commercial success for Lee, ruling the box-office and bringing in four Oscars.
Fast-forward sixteen years and a sequel is now getting set to arrive. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny has officially revealed its first trailer as well as a new poster.
The film will be released simultaneously on Netflix and in IMAX theatres in the US, with general theatrical distribution also taking place in China. This time around though, neither Ang Lee nor Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon screenwriter Hui-Ling Wang will have anything to do with the project. Instead, the sequel is directed by Woo-Ping Yuen – known for a lengthy list of martial arts projects, including his stunt coordination on both Kill Bill films. At present, not a lot is known about the plot; only that it involves a band of warriors who must fight to protect a 400-year old sword.
The trailer offers no shortage of kung fu masters gliding through the air and waging war, so those who haven’t tired of wire fu stunts should be overjoyed at what’s in store for them. For anyone else who’s hoping for a return to the keen balance of action and drama that the original film possessed, it’s hard to be filled with confidence. Ang Lee brought just the right sensibilities to the table with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and without that, what we’re left with looks a lot like another just another martial arts film. Woo-Ping Yuen is highly experienced in the martial arts genre, so the film is in good hands, but even with this and the mass distribution of Netflix, whether this sequel can follow its predecessor and bring in audiences who aren’t die-hard martial arts fans is a big question indeed.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny premieres February 16th, 2016 on Netflix and in select IMAX theatres.