This is what the “Star Wars” prequels should have been. An amazing young warrior torn by lust for power by an evil master, and honor and duty by a noble master, both of whom are fighting for the young soul’s innocence. If only, folks, if only. In the end though, Director Ang Lee’s masterpiece made me wish Director George Lucas would have just paid attention and taken some notes! That said, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is beautiful, it’s wonderfully acted, and yes, it’s a masterpiece. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a beautifully layered and complex storyline with numerous sub-plots, all of which never go unresolved and under explored.
Characters have their own demons and torrid pasts and they are forced to interrupt it with the ensuing plot of this new mercenary that dashes all hopes of warrior Li-Mu-Bai earning peace after a life of bloodshed, and unfulfilled happiness. Like the Man with No Name, Li-Mu-Bai a man that’s seen it all, murdered many, and hopes that the relinquishing of his sword “the Green Destiny” will allow him to seek peace of mind. But all is destroyed once the sword’s taint requires he step back into battle and hopefully save a young soul that may end up down the wrong path. Director Lee intends his opus as a vivid fantasy that toggles between action and romance and a beat is never missed. “Crouching Tiger” brings with it a fantastic and interesting balance of story and mythology painting a slew of immense characters at the center of this journey.
The most compelling story involves Li-Mu-Bai’s mission to discover the masked burglar that continues to storm the gates of his royal palace and evade the guards. All the while he’s yet to face the fact that he’s desperately in love with his cohort friend Yu Shu Lien, who he vowed to protect after his best friend died. Meanwhile, there are also a father and daughter team seeking to defeat the vicious warrior the Jade Fox, who most definitely has a hand in the mystery warrior’s consistent burglaries and raids on the castle. Once Li observes the fighting style of the intruder, he discovers that the individual has great potential to ward off their evil deeds in favor of a better life.
The dynamic between Bai and his young female protege Jen Yu is fantastic, particularly since he has her pegged upon coming across her for the first time. He’s intrigued by her skill and guts, and yet knows she has a lot to learn as a warrior. The best sequences involve the pair, as Bai antagonizes Jen Yu to the point of anger inducing sloppiness in the midst of battle. He’s anxious to teach her the ways of the noble warrior. But not if the Jade Fox has anything to do about it. Pei-Pei Cheng is fantastic as the villain Jade Fox, who has a long history with many of the heroes in the epic romance and even in her old age is still a force to be reckoned with. She’s the sinister being seeking to make Jen Yu her apprentice and rule the land, but Jen Yu has other plans.
Filled with stunning cinematography, every single scene is like a work of art, and Director Ang Lee orchestrates some of the best sword fights ever depicted on film, with the Green Destiny becoming a character onto itself. From the battle in the dojo, to the fight along the forest, Peter Pau’s choreography is flawless. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” meanders on occasion, sure, but that’s no real caveat. Every story from Jen Yu’s struggle with her love for a bandit, down to the unrequited passion between Li-Mu-Bai and Yu Shu is wonderful and complimented by many of the best Asian actors in the world whom ever lived. Including Chow Yun Fat who is absolutely mesmerizing, as well as Michelle Yeoh who is a stand out. You’ll hear a lot of positive praise for this film, and I’m glad to join the ranks of fans who continue to be breath taken with this incredible epic.