SYTYCR Round 2.8: Hayley VS. Henry Swanson (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON)

by Nick Jobe · August 19, 2012 · So You Think You Can Review · 9 Comments

Finally got some more good voting and commenting! I don’t know if it was the controversy of the review or me threatening to discontinue the tournament… but either way, keep it up! And congrats to Zelda’s Kid Sister for winning and moving on to the next round! Now it’s time for the final battle of Round 2! We have Hayley, who won the first round with her review of The Room, facing off against Henry Swanson, who made it here with his review of Singin’ in the Rain. And today they’re looking at Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Read, vote, comment, enjoy! You have until Tuesday. On Tuesday, the identities of the Round 2 fallen will be placed up and Wednesday will begin the even shorter Round 3. Below is the updated bracket (Note: I have added all movies from this point on). Click to make it bigger.





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Review #1
By Hayley

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the first time I saw this film I had tried to talk my way out of it. I was young, and martial arts movies weren’t really my thing unless they involved Jackie Chan. Go ahead and laugh, but for me at age thirteen, Jackie Chan was the man, damnit! If there was ever a film that was going to change my views on martial arts movies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is it.

The story follows Lin Mu Bai, (Chow Yun-Fat) a famous warrior that’s ready to lay down his powerful sword, The Green Destiny for good. He gives it to an old friend, but the sword is immediately stolen. Lin Mu Bai’s fellow warrior, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) aids him in his search. They have long been in love with one another, but have never acted upon it. Tying everything together is Jen, (Ziyi Zhang) the daughter of a wealthy family. Jen is unhappy with the marriage that has been arraigned by her family, and it soon comes to light that she has been secretly trained to be a fierce fighter.

“Subtly ridiculous” is a good way to describe this film. The characters are flying, catching darts inches from their faces, running on tree tops and defying gravity in every which way possible. The beautiful score is what keeps this from being over the top. It made me look at the fighting almost as if it were dancing. It was choreographed so well. The stunning cinematography just made it even more beautiful. “Subtly ridiculous” may seem like a harsh thing to say, but I say it with appreciation for the film.

Underneath it all, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is also a love story. Upon re-watch, it’s no surprise that director Ang Lee brought such a touching story to light. I consider Brokeback Mountain to be one of the best love stories of all time and now I know it didn’t come out of nowhere. Ang Lee was already good at bringing romances from pages to screens. This is merely a comparison I thought of right away. I don’t mean to take away from the actual screenwriters, they did a great job as well. Although the film drags in parts, I found the characters to be very intriguing. Particularly Jen. I have a soft spot for dreamers, and that’s what she was. She dreamed of the life as a warrior even though she made some selfish decisions. I admired her toughness, even if I kind of wanted to drop kick her towards the end. (I’d elaborate, but that would require major spoilers) The chemistry between all of our leads is strong and only makes us care about them more. Minor flaws aside, this is a fantastic film. Tommy Wiseau (the director of The Room, the film I reviewed in round one) would probably say: “What a story, Ang!” *awkward laughing*

4/5 Lambs

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Review #1
By Henry Swanson

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a beautiful film to watch. I’m curious, though, as to what martial arts fans think about it. It’s not action-packed; the first fifteen minutes are all just a few people sitting around talking. It’s basically about human beings with tragic flaws and feelings of being caged by what life has handed them. There are fight sequences that add excitement, but they’re earned and serve the narrative. Ang Lee mostly accomplishes what he set out to achieve, and the more I think about the film, the more I love it.
I can’t always get behind the mystical realism of some martial arts films. When everyone is flying around like gravity has been cut in half, it’s easy for me to be taken out of the experience. It says something, then, that Crouching Tiger has that element in spades, yet I loved every second of it.
I think it all starts with the story. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is a master swordsman who is in love with Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). They’re both part of the wuxia class of martial artists, which means they try to right wrongs and be the best people they can be for themselves and others. At the start of the film, Mu Bai tells Shu Lien that he is giving up his prized sword, the Green Destiny, and changing his lifestyle. The two have long held feelings for each other, but out of a sense of duty, they never acted on their mutual love. The problem with giving up the sword occurs when Mu Bai entrusts it to Shu Lien’s employer. The sword is stolen, and the theft could potentially cause political strife for friends of both Mu Bai and Shu Lien. Naturally, by trying to give up his fighting ways and embrace his love, Mu Bai has embroiled himself even further in the lifestyle he’s grown tired of. It’s a tragic story, but the sorrow on display is shown in such a poetic and beautiful manner that even without much in the way of tension relief, it never becomes too depressing.
Besides Mu Bai and Shu Lien, there are two other main characters. Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) is a young aristocrat about to be married off to a powerful family. She’s also the sword thief (this happens in the first 20 minutes, so it’s not a spoiler), and the back story between her and her (non-aristocratic) lover, Lo (Chen Chang), is laid out as a lengthy flashback alongside the present-day narrative.
Jen’s theft of the sword is the catalyst for every tragic thing that happens, which is what led me to think about my feelings toward her for the last couple of days. Ang Lee has characterized her as the hero of the film in a sense, and I just don’t have a clue what the hell he’s talking about. She’s young, brash, and doesn’t think about anyone but herself. She steals Mu Bai’s sword “for fun,” and repeatedly rejects his attempts at taking her under his wing. That’s interesting, because traditionally, in martial arts movies, the would-be pupil chases the master around until he relents and decides to teach him or her. In Crouching Tiger, it’s the opposite. Mu Bai has never had a pupil, and at one point he says it’s his one unfulfilled goal in life. Does Jen care, though? Nope. She just wants to do whatever she feels like and be an asshole to everyone she encounters. If she’s a hero, then Gordon Gekko is the patron saint of the middle class.
Even though the film spends a great deal of time showcasing Jen’s assholishness, the ones you should feel empathy for are Mu Bai and Shu Lien. It’s pretty obvious that they’ve loved each other for decades, but they both care too much about doing “the right thing.” In Mu Bai’s case, he actually makes a concerted effort to fix his pig-headedness by giving up his sword. Shu Lien, on the other hand, never really confronts her own feelings even though she wants to. It’s so frustrating to see them struggle to just love each other when this other little bitch runs around without caring at all. I just want to choke the life out of Jen, and if I knew any grappling techniques, I would try them all out on her (hopefully) unsuspecting ass.
Lo is a character I can get behind. He’s a desert nomad who’s fashioned himself his own local legend. To people traveling near his territory, he’s known as Dark Cloud. That name brings with it a sense of fear, but the pretense is short-lived once he meets Jen. He tries to steal her comb, and as you could guess by my previous characterization of her, it doesn’t go over well. One thing leads to another, and Lo falls madly in love with Jen. The thing is, I don’t believe she ever loved him back. I think she was enamored with a new lifestyle, and she milked his love for all she could get from it. I’m not giving anything away by reiterating how selfish she is, even in the face of the one person who loves her unconditionally.
It’s easy for me to go on tangents when talking about Crouching Tiger. There are a lot of little character traits that I’d love to sit here and discuss for the next hour. Obviously, that can’t happen, so I feel that I should mention the one obvious thing still not discussed. That’s right, Yuen Woo-ping. The man directed Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master, and Iron Monkey. He was also the action director/choreographer for Kill Bill Vol. 2, Once Upon a Time in China, and even The Matrix. I’m doing him a disservice by not mentioning every single martial arts film he was a part of. He’s a legend in the field, and his work on Crouching Tiger is more than just his reputation preceding him. Every fight scene is a fluid, cinematic exercise in how to infuse meaning into each blow. The characters are visually represented in how they fight, and even the sorrow and frustration of Shu Lien is explicitly shown when she confronts Jen in a pivotal scene toward the end of the film. Without Woo-ping’s expertise, the physical clashes between characters would have distracted from the dramatic tension that serves as the film’s anchor. That’s a really heavy way of saying that the action set pieces are nothing less than brilliant. If you want to impress someone with your martial arts choreography knowledge, just pop in Crouching Tiger. You can thank me later with an exchange of money or political favors.
The bottom line is that you owe it to yourself to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Even if martial arts films aren’t your cup of tea, I think there’s enough here to engage you on some level. It’s not a punching fest by any means, and the occasional bouts of melodrama don’t even come close to dampening the emotional impact of the characters’ tragic lives. Once this tournament is over, I might even do a write-up on the ending of the film for the sole purpose of understanding the character dynamics. In any case, give me your thoughts in the comments. Whether or not I win this round is irrelevant; I just want to discuss this film with you.
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Now Vote!

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9 Responses to SYTYCR Round 2.8: Hayley VS. Henry Swanson (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON)

  1. Wow, this was tough! I thought both were well-written, but gave the edge to Henry Swanson for the added discussion Yuen Woo-ping. That said, I could easily have seen Hayley taking down a couple of the earlier round 2 winners. Tough draw. Good reviews by both of you.

    PS: Nick – Seriously? Super Mario Brothers AND Napoleon Dynamite as two of the last three? 😉

    • Nick says:

      Haha, yeah. Neither film was on my original list, but I had to get new films due to who made it this far and the films they’ve already reviewed. Mario was my idea. Napoleon Dynamite was a suggestion which I thought was awesome, because it already has the “…only likes guys with skills” thing and “Vote for ___” thing that goes along with it.

      And hey, it was either that or Battlefield Earth. I figured with all the super-classics front-loading this tournament, we needed to end with a bang. (And Napoleon Dynamite is an awesome flick anyway!)

  2. Bubbawheat says:

    There were things I didn’t much like in either review. Hayley spelled the main character’s name wrong, which is a pretty big mistake, calling him Lin instead of Li. It also felt very short, the only thing I really got out of the review was “subtly ridiculous”.

    Henry’s seemed to go on a few too many tangents, especially when he talked about personally kicking a character’s ass. But overall, I had to go with Henry’s review.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would much rather see Battlefield Earth than Napoleon Dynamite again. — The Honorary Swede

  4. Perfect example of why there should be a limit to the amount of words you can use.

    • Nick says:

      There IS a word limit. And Henry Swanson’s review isn’t even close to the longest review seen in this tournament… so… yeah.

    • SJHoneywell says:

      Pretty much what I was going to say. I didn’t have a problem with the length at all. Matter of fact, I thought Hayley’s review was too short.

    • Jason Soto says:

      Are you on some medication where all you see are tons of words everywhere? I think both reviews are the perfect length honestly. And hell, I’ve written reviews that were only three words long before. It’s more of a preference thing than anything.
      -Jason

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