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Man: Hey, you wanna go and see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”? It’s a new martial arts film.
Man 2: Yeah, I really like martial arts movies, like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Mortal Kombat”.
***AFTER THE FILM***
Man 2: That was the most AMAZING martial arts film I’ve ever seen.
Man: No it wasn’t.
Man 2: Yeah it was, it had words at the bottom of the screen and everything. That well-known martial artist Chow Yun Fat was in it! He was better than when he was in “Romeo Must Die”!
Man: Please be quiet.
Man 2: Shhhhhh, everyone will think I’m dumb if I say I didn’t like it. IT WAS IN CHINESE.
Now I’m not saying “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” isn’t a good film, because it is. It’s just not a good martial arts film. It was so hyped-up and over-lauded probably because a majority of the western audience hadn’t ever seen a true Asian martial arts film before. This was possibly down to the fact that this was one of the first major internationally released Asian martial arts films – and all the western world had were Van Damme and Seagal as true representations of martial arts cinema.
So when The Twinkle-Toes Troupe™ ran across water and fought on a branch, everyone went insane. I remember telling everyone that they needed to check out Jet Li’s 90s stuff and Jackie Chan’s 80s films if they wanted a great example of the martial arts genre, but no-one listened and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” became the most critically-acclaimed martial arts movie of all time.
The wuxia pian sub-genre had been around for ages anyway, with older, better examples remaining largely unseen by international audiences, therefore allowing “Crouching Tiger” to seem so refreshing. In a further blow to the martial arts genre, it also led even Chinese filmmakers to jump on the ‘Americans love flying Asian people’ bandwagon and internationally-released films that had great potential like “Hero” (Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen) ended up as exercises in wire-heavy “Crouching Tiger” clones.
However, it IS quite good if you want to see Zhang Ziyi in a wet T-shirt.
What the critics said: With more action than all the “Lethal Weapons” combined and more heart-swelling humanity than “The English Patient”, “Crouching Tiger” manages to please all of the people, all of the time. Miss it and you’re avoiding cinema at its very best. – Total Film