Plot: What’s it about?
The great warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) has lived a life of adventure, one that has made him well known and respected in his homeland. But now he has decided to turn over his legendary Green Destiny sword to a dear friend of his, as a most valuable and meaningful present. The sword is ancient and very powerful, so soon enough, a mysterious assassin arrives and steals the irreplaceable artifact. Of course, this means Li must track down the thief and recover the powerful weapon, no matter what it takes. On this quest to retrieve the item, he is joined by Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), who he has passionate feelings toward. This mission further complicates the romance between them and in addition, Li’s father is killed and now vengeance must taken in that respect as well. As the adventure continues, the two will meet other people connected to their quest and of course, the focus on the sword is sometimes blurred by romance, anger, and various high risk battles using supernatural elements.
This film won four Oscars, countless other awards, and become the highest grossing foreign film of all time, a true darling of critics, arthouse lovers, and mainstream audiences. So is it really as good as the hype claims? I don’t think so, but I do think it is a fun movie and one that is very easy to recommend, to be sure. I’ve been a fan of Asian cinema for some time, so the elements in this movie are nothing new, but the scenes are well made, which makes them worthwhile. I think most viewers didn’t have much experience in Asian cinema however, so these elements were fresh to them and as such, they were more impressed, to say the least. I do like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and think it has some great moments, but I don’t think it is as visionary as many people seem to think. Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Chang Chen, and many others turn in superb performances, though I’ve heard complaints about their use of Mandarin. This one has terrific visuals, solid writing, a great cast, adequate direction, and some good battle sequences, more than enough to warrant a recommendation. Columbia/Tristar has given it a solid treatment also, so don’t hesitate to plunk down the cash.
I think my favorite part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the presence of Michelle Yeoh, who turns in an excellent performance. I’ve heard some complaints about how she handled the Mandarin language, but even so, she is dynamic and proves her skills once again. I think she is best known for her incredible action moves, but Yeoh is also a very good traditional performer, which she confirms in this movie. Of course, she also shows off her martial arts skills and in truth, I think she could put most men to shame. Her presence is one of power to be sure, but she is also beautiful and graceful, which rounds out her performances. You can also see Yeoh in such films as Supercop 2, The Tai Chi Master, The Heroic Trio, Easy Money, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Butterfly & Sword. The cast also includes Chow Yun-Fat (Hard Boiled, Full Contact), Chang Chen (Happy Together, Mahjong), Zhang Ziyi (Rush Hour 2, The Road Home), and Cheng Pei-Pei (Painted Faces, Kung Fu Girl).
Video: How does it look?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The same print flaws remain intact from the previous edition, but aside from that, this is a much more refined visual effort. Not all of the improvements are instantly obvious, but if you pay attention, you should be able to tell a difference. The better home theater you have, the bigger the improvements will be, but I could tell a difference in several setups, of various levels. I found the image to be sharper on the whole, but never too much so, so edge enhancement and the like are minimally present, which is good. The real difference comes in the small details, where subtle touches seem more refined, which I think makes a lot of difference in the end. The transfer on the original disc is very good, but this one is even better, though the print does need some work.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release includes 5.1 Mandarin soundtracks in both Dolby Digital and DTS, so both camps should be pleased here. I found both to be quite engaging in nature, as a good dynamic atmosphere is built, very impressive. But while most of the time, powerful scenes are noted in terms of audio, this time, the more reserved scenes seem to steal the thunder. The surrounds open up to engulf you in subtle touches of environment, which makes the experience much more immersive, of course. All in all, a couple of terrific audio tracks, though not reference level. This disc also includes English subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.