Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee‘s Oscar-winning mystical martial arts romantic adventure with touching performances and astounding fight scenes choreographed by the great Yuen Wo Ping, was an international smash success when it was released in the final months of 2000. More than half of its $213.5 million worldwide box office take was made in the U.S. and later was honored with ten Academy Award nominations, four of which the film won including Best Foreign Film. Not since the release Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon nearly three decades before had a martial arts epic had such a widespread cultural impact. Many films attempted to emulate Crouching Tiger‘s style and global success, including Curse of the Golden Flower and House of Flying Daggers, with little or no luck.
Crouching Tiger had been based on the fourth novel in the Crane Iron Pentalogy by wuxia novelist Wang Dulu, leaving open the possibility of sequels. The family of Dulu, who died in 1977, saw very little money from the box office take of the movie, so they were reluctant to make a deal for the rights to the other novels in the Crane Iron series with Sony, the distributor of Crouching Tiger. After a drawn-out battle the Weinstein Company emerged triumphant with the rights and now plans to begin production on an untitled sequel this May. The movie will be based on Silver Vase, Iron Knight, the fifth novel in the Pentalogy, and John Fusco, the screenwriter of Young Guns and Hidalgo among others, has been retained for scripting duties.
Jet Li’s Fearless Blu-ray Edition
Directed by Ronny Yu
Starring Jet Li, Nakamura Shidou, Sun Li, Dong Yong, Nathan Jones
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Jet Li was planning to stop making martial art movies after the filming of Fearless. He didn’t stick to that plan, but had he done so he would have gone out on an extremely high note.
Fearless tells the story of the life of Huo Yuanjia (played by Li), though it takes some major liberties for dramatic effect. In real life, Huo had many children and grandchildren, not a single daughter, and he was not the only person responsible for the forming of the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Also, humorously, the film greatly embellishes the facts around the fight between Huo and a boxer named O’Brien (Nathan Jones). In reality, there was never any fight, O’Brien simply left town after a dispute over the rules of the match. I don’t imagine that would make a great sequence in a martial art film though, so it’s safe to say the film was “inspired by” Huo’s life rather than a factual account of it.
The Blu-Ray edition holds three versions of the film: theatrical, unrated, and director’s cut. I can count on one hand the number of director’s cuts that are significantly different from the original film. Fearless is one of those films and the director’s cut is a significant improvement over the theatrical version. Running 40 minutes (yes, you read that correctly, 40 minutes) longer that original version, director Ronny Yu found a lot more story to tell, with none of it seeming gratuitous.