Kung-Fu + Love Story + Magic = Oscar

In all likelihood, no one is more surprised by the extreme success and critical acclaim that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has received than the director, Ang Lee.

Having directed the Ice Storm, Lee understands the essential elements of storytelling. But while Ice Storm is a tightly woven study of life and human relationships, Crouching Tiger mixes genres and misses the mark.

The fact that Crouching Tiger has recently received so much recognition only backs the argument that the year 2000 wasn’t exactly a banner year for filmmaking.

If you haven’t seen the movie – there are certain elements that the viewer is forced to accept – magic and myth are combined with a world of reality in bygone China.

For example, the main characters are great fighters and can fly through the air. That’s fine if there is some explanation – any explanation. But there isn’t and the viewer is merely supposed to accept that characters, that otherwise appear to be normal, are able to fly at will.

The fight scenes are incredibly choreographed and the film is shot beautifully, but that doesn’t hide a simple fact, that every other movie critic seems to be avoiding – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a kung-fu movie.

And, apparently, since there is a love story, it has transcended the genre and made its way into the annals of great movies – not true.

When the remake of The Fly came out in the ‘80s, audiences and critics marveled at the blend of horror, storytelling and special effects. The Fly still remains a very entertaining horror film, but it is not considered one of the best movies ever made.

In a few years, when the visual effects of Crouching Tiger are commonplace, this will not be considered a great film, but a good kung-fu movie.

[Update Note: Now that many years have passed from the writing of the article, I feel my final assessment above was very accurate … a good kung-fu movie and nothing more.]

Brian Barsuglia

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