(Li Mu Bai and Jen Yu face off in the bamboo forest)
This is not a King Hu film. However, from the survey of his work, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is obviously an homage to King Hu’s work. There is wuxia like we’ve never seen before in this film. Li Mu Bai, Jen Yu, Yu Shu Lien and Jade Fox all possess martial arts skills that transcend reality and allow for battles that seem more like two super heroes facing off than skilled masters of kung fu.
(Chang Pei Pei as Jade Fox)
Chang Pei Pei as Jade Fox is an obvious link to Hu and her natural grace that was apparent in Come Drink With Me is leveraged here to create a troubled and complex villain. There is combat and effects carried out through the use of wires, a staple of King Hu’s wuxia films as well as music and pacing that gives every fight sequence an almost balletic feel. Also like many of Hu’s films Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon seems to run a little long, however it is necessary for the two complex stories that the film is telling.
While the combat and editing for the fight sequences is very much in the style of King Hu, the story is very different. It seems a bit more engaging and also easy to follow, it is concise and every scene has a definitive purpose for pushing the story forward. I feel that story is the one thing King Hu could have improved upon in many of his works.
All in all Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon evokes A Touch of Zen in many ways. There are obvious ties between Li Mu Bai’s character and the Abbot from A Touch of Zen, especially in the final scene where Li Mu Bai fearlessly awaits his death without fear. The similarity between the Abbot and Li Mu Bai is also evident in how both consistently offer redemption and share there wisdom with friend and foe alike. There is also an iconic and beautiful bamboo forest battle sequence. The film as a whole stands as an excellent piece of wuxia and also an homage to all of King Hu’s work in the genre.