Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, a mixed reception

Retiring from a life of conflict, Li Mu Bai gives away his prized blade, Green Destiny, as a sign of moving on. The sword however is soon snatched away and the search is on. The hunt leads to an old nemesis and her mysterious new discipline.

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WATAAA!!! Critical hit BITCH!

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon must be one of the most iconic titles within the Chinese film industry. I myself have scarcely even glimpsed the trailer of the film yet I knew of its existence. With a name that screams martial arts showdown, I was surprised by its huge focus on romance. Don’t be fooled by that statement however. Tons of beautifully choreographed fight scenes litter the movie to keep you on begging for more.

Word of advice for those who desire realism in their films. If flying Asians who have the messiah’s power of water walking shatters your immersion, steer clear of this movie.

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Did you know Chinese people have lighter bones for flight? 🌈 The more you know~

The movie is set in 19th century China, where cars are still are not a mainstream commodity and oxen roam the streets like stray cats. We are greeted by the expansive city of Beijing at that time, its sprawling streets and magnificent infrastructure. The Yu household is filled with ornate furniture which are characteristically of Chinese design.

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Remember kiddies, don’t try this at home. Unless you are Chinese.

Such a scene gives international/western audiences a glimpse of Chinese history and the intricacy of Chinese craftsmanship. This exposure of Chinese culture can also be seen within the fight scene between Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu. As she uses Green Destiny to cleave through the arsenal of Chinese weapons, audiences are able to see them in action and learn more of olden Chinese combat. Such subtle peeks into Chinese heritage would be one of the prime reasons why  the movie was such a success in the west.

One of its strongest points may also be its weakest points as well. In China, the movie was a flop. And I can empathize with them on this one. Flying through the air while skipping across water mid battle are some of the most tried and tested Chinese film tropes. While a fresh new concept to the west, it lays boring and repetitive on the Chinese palette.

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A very different take on fight scenes.

What the film does do well and differently is the way it frames its combat scenes. As Li Mu Bai chases Jen Yu through the bamboo thickets, the camera pans slowly onto Jen Yu’s face. Such point of view framing allows the audience to feel as if they are in the thick of the action. It also allows the audience to see the conflict of emotions written plain as day on Jen Yu’s face. Such framing techniques are a far cry from the quick shifts in camera angles that Wuxia films are renowned for.

A great film for newcomers into the Wuxia genre. Less so for seasoned veterans. 7/10.

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Hope you enjoyed my post! ❤

Enjoyed my post? Leave a comment in the comment section below!  •ᴥ•

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4 Replies to “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, a mixed reception”

  1. Greetings Shaawn. Ni hao ma? This was an easy to understand yet in-depth review of the film. Very true how most people who have heard of this title have never actually watched the film. Your explanation on why it ended up as a flop in China but did extremely well with the West made sense. For a newcomer into the Wuxia genre, this was an interesting watch- to see the characters flying and displaying the choreographed fight scenes was amusing. However this must have been pretty unimpressive to the Chinese viewers. It did give us non-Chinese viewers a glimpse into historical Chinese culture and how their fighting styles differed from that of the Western culture. I mean, I was a fan of the Zorro films and it was definitely very different. En garde!

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  2. I really enjoyed the little food for thought you left your readers. It makes one wonder why the movie was only a critically acclaimed film in the States but poorly received in China. Perhaps it is due to how the west is so enamoured by the idea of people flying through the air and exceptional Kungfu skills the characters possess. On the other hand, the local Chinese viewers see their screen plastered by the wuxia (martial arts) genre and this theme is probably overly used. Hence the lack of reception. All in all, I think Crouching Tigers, Hidden Dragon really did bring the martial arts scene to a higher level in the eyes of international viewers which is great.

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  3. Hello!! 🙂
    Having not read the synopsis prior to the film, I have to admit that I too, I did not expect the film to place romance as a central part of it.
    You mentioned that Shu Lien’s usage of the many weapons during her fight with Jen served to also highlight to an international audience the olden chinese combat. That was a key point that I missed out!
    Another point you mentioned was that the fight scenes zoomed into the character’s face so that it added realness so that we are “in the thick of the action”, as you put it. I felt that it was true for all of the fight scenes. With the different emotions flitting across the character’s face and the complementary background music, it really served to heighten our experience.
    Your review was concise and to the point and I would really like to keep reading more of your work!

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  4. It is about time that I read something simple on your blog entry, as meticulous and long winded you might be a person, I appreciate how you could also keep things simple and interesting in this particular post. I didn’t know that this movie was a flop in China until you pointed it out, well that is one more thing to note about this film. You noticed a new style of framing technique which was absent in other Wu Xia films, a keen eye for detail! Well, that’s about all as I am running out of time, until next time great work by the way!

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