Get ready, martial arts fans! Yuen Woo-ping’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is releasing soon on the streaming behemoth, Netflix. With over 60 martial arts films under his belt, Woo-ping is one of the most influential filmmakers and choreographers. Over here in the United States, most viewers recognize his name as the man behind the fight scenes of The Matrix Trilogy. Ever since then, Woo-ping has been sought out to choreograph martial arts scenes, such as those in Ang Lee’s original masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. What better way to celebrate the release of Sword of Destiny than by remembering some of his most iconic fight scenes?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) vs. Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang)
Who knew Ang Lee could direct such a masterful martial arts film? With the help of Woo-ping, this fight scene shows the beauty of martial arts as the two women go at it with various weapons. Intent on keeping the Green Destiny for herself, Jen battles Yu Shu as she goes from one weapon to another, each being destroyed by the legendary sword (and with a bit of humor added). This is one of the best martial arts scenes that was a beauty to watch in theaters.
The Grandmaster (2013)
Ip Man (Tony Leung) vs. Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang)
Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster arthouse film. I’m used to Kar-wai’s slow and subtle direction style, but it didn’t quite work for me in this film. Fortunately, Woo-ping's choreography was able to balance Kar-wai's arthouse take on martial arts. The close-ups on the fight scenes showed the tremendous power of each of the fighters, emphasizing on their movements. The sound design/mixing alone makes you feel each and every one of the fighters’ punches and kicks. Plus - who wouldn’t want to see two very good-looking people fight? Leung and Ziyi are absolutely stunning even as they battle it out.
Once Upon a Time in China II (1993)
Wong Fei-hung (Jet Li) vs. Nap-lan Yun-seut (Donnie Yen)
Woo-ping does it again with his creative use of weapons. In this case, Wong and Nap-Ian go for broke with the use of bamboos and rope. It’s interesting to see just how dangerous each of these weapons look when used in fights and it definitely works between the two martial artists. You can’t help but feel the pain as both fighters get their blows in with their respective weapons of choice. Jet Li and Donnie Yen, two of the most prolific martial artists, are spectacular to watch as they go head-to-head in this film.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn) vs. Agent Johnson (Daniel Bernhardt)
How do you follow up one of the most intense car chase scenes in a movie? By having a one-on-one fighting match on top of a speeding truck on the freeway, of course! Everyone knows you shouldn’t mess with any of the Agents, but Morpheus, intent on keeping the Keymaker safe, does just that. There are so many fight scenes within The Matrix Trilogy, but this one stands out to me simply because they’re on top of a frickin’ speeding truck as they exchange choreographed punches, kicks and flips, thanks to Woo-ping.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
The Bride (Uma Thurman) vs. The Crazy 88s (Yuen Woo-ping’s Stunt Team)
I originally watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 without any expectations, simply because I couldn’t fathom Quentin Tarantino as a martial arts director. But this movie blew my mind. I admit that I loved Volume 2 more mainly because it gave viewers the The Bride's and some of the other characters' backstories, but Volume 1’s fight scenes were way better.
The Bride single-handedly maims, stabs, and slices her way through The Crazy 88s (which interestingly/ironically is Woo-ping's stunt crew) with all the bloody mess you can ask for. Unfortunately, the United States version was “censored” to a black and white version of this. Fortunately for you, the uncut version can be viewed above. (Fun fact: I imported a DVD copy of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair so I can watch the “colorful” version of this scene.)
It's been 16 years since the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon released in theaters to positive reviews (and a few Academy Awards). With Ang Lee out of the director's seat, it's still promising that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny will still be a fun martial arts film with Yuen Woo-ping not only choreographing the fight scenes, but directing the film as well.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny hits Netflix and select theaters on Friday, February 26th.
Besides Yuen Woo-ping's martial arts movies, what are some of your “must see” flicks or scenes? Sound off below!