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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: Dr. Drew
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon order
Ang Lee

Chow Yun Fat
Michelle Yeoh
Zhang Ziyi


star Printer-Friendly version
If you look up the word “diversity’ in the dictionary, chances are that you’ll find a picture of Ang Lee. The director, whose previous films include THE ICE STORM and RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, has a knack for choosing movies which seem to completely differ from one project to the next. As if his previous filmography didn’t already solidify that reputation, it’s now been confirmed that Lee is set to helm a movie starring none other than that mean green bastard, the Incredible Hulk! Unbelievable. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Academy Award winning martial arts epic, makes it way onto a DVD that’s got a "making of" documentary and a solid commentary track.

After years of combat, a Wudan warrior (Chow Yun Fat) decides to withdraw himself from service and give his mythical sword, The Green Destiny, to a close friend before he formally “retires”. Much to his dismay, the weapon is stolen by a masked thief and he must now track down his prized sword before it falls into the wrong hands. We also encounter a young aristocrat (Zhang Ziyi) who we learn has a dark past and may not be who she presents herself to be. The warrior, along with one of his companions (Michelle Yeoh), must now hunt down the thief while avenging the death of his long dead master.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 12 months, you know that everybody and their grandmother absolutely LOVED this movie. It won 4 Oscars (including Best Foreign Picture honors) and is unquestionably the most popular foreign film to hit North America in quite some time. I know I’m probably going to catch a lot of heat for saying this but I didn’t think that the movie was as good as many people would have me believe. With that having been said, it’s by no means a "bad" movie so don’t start sending me hate mail just yet. Crouching Tiger succeeds in doing what no other martial arts film has seemingly done before, that is finally injecting a decent story and romantic element with some wild style fight scenes. While most Hong Kong kung fu flicks present a paper thin script interspliced with chop socky action sequences, this one takes the action and raises it to another level. The beauty and majesty of the fights become a veritable art form and are absolutely breathtaking to behold.

It was very cool to finally see Chow Yun Fat in a role which didn’t involved him annihilating seedy gangsters in his traditional two fisted guns ’a blazing style. And while this is his first martial arts movie, he fits right in and looks like a natural, complete with some truly insane swordsmanship. Michelle Yeoh and co-star Zhang Ziyi are terrific too as the tough as nails female fighters. My biggest beef with the movie rested with its overall pacing which I found had the tendency to periodically bog down just when things started to get interesting. This really hurt the movie, particularly halfway through, when things shifted towards this drawn out romantic flashback. Parts of the movie also has scenes which momentarily border on melodrama but again, I’m nitpicking. Special mention goes out to director Ang Lee and choreographer Yuen Wo Ping for creating some stunning visuals, the countless gravity defying fight sequences are truly the crown jewel of this movie. With great acting, incredible action and beautiful visuals, this one is sure to please most moviegoers.
Commentary: A commentary track from director Ang Lee and co-executive producer James Schamus comes off as being a quirky and fun listen. Schamus serves as the interviewer and isn’t afraid to ask dopey questions for comedic effect and Lee isn’t afraid to respond with just as much humor. We get interesting anecdotes as we learn that Lee went with his crew to a hardware store to test out saws to achieve the perfect sound effect for the vibrating sword shots. They also deconstruct many of the fight sequences and go into Lee’s distinctive shooting techniques, while briefly touching on John Woo’s influence. Given how “arty” (for lack of a better term) the movie is, it was nice to listen to a track that didn’t take itself too seriously. It’s definitely a great listen for fans of the epic.

Much to my surprise, the DVD doesn’t include a particularly incredible array of extras. “Bravo: Unleashing the Dragon” is 21-minute "behind the scenes" featurette which blends cast and crew interviews with plenty of production footage. After having seen the movie, I was dying to see how they managed to create many of the wire-fu shots and while the DVD does briefly shed some light on the subject, I was expecting so much more. We also learn that star Chow Yun Fat spent months training for his role, to achieve the skills necessary to engage in many of his sword fights. A bit part also shows Chinese singer Coco Lee recording the movie’s title theme, “A Love Before Time”. The last four or so minutes of this extra is devoted entirely to the design and conception of the movie’s score which was a nice little nod to composer Tan Dun. “A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh” runs about 13 minutes and is pretty much self explanatory. She focuses on what attracted her to the project and her experiences working with Lee and Yun Fat. A 6-minute slide show montage from the movie as well as production notes finishes up the extras. The DVD features some wicked menus, with snippets from many of the martial arts confrontations from the movie.
Given how many critics and fans fell in love with this movie, the DVD has to be considered as somewhat of a letdown. Where were the special effects extras? Where was the reference quality video? The disc manages to only cover the bare minimum in terms of added supplements (although the commentary track was great) and there doesn’t seem to be any plans for a re-release of the movie anytime soon. If you’re a fan of the movie, this one’s a no-brainer, go pick it up. For the casual viewer though, I’d recommend holding back and renting it first before deciding on a purchase.
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