If this is the yardstick that we are to measure Netflix original films against, it’s safe to say cinemas don’t have a lot to worry about. With a plethora of issues ranging from poor production to a fairly limp story, Sword of Destiny is easily one of the most disappointing sequels since Speed 2: Cruise control.
Following the events of the first film, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) is forced to protect the legendary sword, Green Destiny, from the powerful clan leader Hades Dai. With a group of warriors by her side, heroes come together to defend the ancient weapon from falling into the wrong hands.
Nearly 16 years ago, Ang Lee created one of the most awe-inspiring films to hit Hollywood. Incredible performances, real locations and stunning cinematography helped create an authentic masterpiece that not only told a beautiful story but captured some of the most intelligent film making of its time.
Unfortunately, Sword of Destiny is an awkward, poorly produced sequel that frustrates more than it excites. Over-relying on CGI, director Woo-Ping Yuen misses out on the majesty of the first simply by creating a universe with poor effects and unconvincing set designs. This plastic feel is apparent from the offset, making the production feel like an expensive B-movie rather than an exciting blockbuster sequel. As each scene becomes more reliant on crappy visuals, any thread of character kept alive from the first film is slowly cut out until all that’s left is the butchered carcass of the once beloved narrative.
Although there are a horrendous amount of issues with production, the bearable screenplay just about manages to keep it afloat. With some elements following along the same lines as the original, the simple character interaction doesn’t require a lot of back story thus allowing us to focus on the present rather than piecing together a convoluted back story.
Oddly though, one thing that does stand out a little too frequently is the use of comedy. Their laughable attempt at creating a gang of superheroes only further feels out of place when paired with the occasional moments of slaptick. Thankfully though, the sheer amount of other issues are more than enough to ignore these out-of-place attempts at humour.
Thankfully though, the saving grace to what could have been a truly terrible film is the return of Michelle Yeoh. Stepping back into familiar shoes, the ever charismatic actress gives easily the best performance whether she’s interacting with the rest of the cast or wielding a sod off blade. Aside from Yeoh however, the cast is fairly forgettable with no one managing to break rank. Considering the experience of lead male Donnie Yen, this is more surprising than anything else.
Overall, The Sword of Destiny feels more like a low budget Avengers film rather than a suitable successor to its Award winning predecessor. Using the original story to springboard into the sequel feels like a slap in the face with poor production values easily being one of the more destructive elements of the picture. With a script leaving little to be desired, the silver lining is without a doubt the return of Michelle Yeoh. Given the current battle between streaming and cinema, this is definitely a win for the theaters! 2 out of 5 stars.