We don't cover martial arts cinema very much around here, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an exception. Its incredible martial arts sequences made its characters look like sword-wielding superheroes, and its visual beauty, compelling cast and powerful story made it an international success. It's a film with dialogue entirely in Mandarin, but it still pulled in $128 million in the United States (and that's back in 2000), won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and picked up an Oscar nomination for best picture. So it's safe to say the film made an impression.
There have been whispers of a Crouching Tiger sequel for a while, and now it's finally happening. Netflix and The Weinstein Company announced yesterday that they've entered an agreement to produce Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend and release the film simultaneously on Netflix and in IMAX theaters on Aug. 28, 2015. So the film's not only a notable sequel to an iconic martial arts flick; it's also Netflix's first original movie.
“Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said. “We are honored to be working with Harvey Weinstein and a world-class team of creators to bring this epic story to people all over the world and to partner with IMAX, a brand that represents the highest quality of immersive entertainment, in the distribution of this film.”
While it's certainly an exciting deal for Netflix, theater chains aren't so happy that they won't have exclusive access to the film upon its release. Regal Entertainment announced today that they won't be a part of the Green Legend distribution and won't allow IMAX to screen the film on any IMAX screens in Regal cinemas. Regal spokesman Russ Nunley said the company “Will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3 inches wide on a smart phone. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.” Studios have been pushing to shrink the window of theatrical exclusivity for some time, and the theater chains are pushing back. That's obviously part of a larger story about the future of film distribution that will keep playing out for years to come, but for the moment, The Green Legend's still on its way.
Michelle Yeoh will return as Yu Shu Lien for The Green Legend, alongside fellow martial arts icon Donnie Yen (Ip Man), who will play a character called Silent Wolf. The film is already shooting in New Zealand under the direction of martial arts filmmaking legend Yuen Wo Ping (who choreographed fight scenes in The Matrix Trilogy and Kill Bill and has directed films like Tai Chi Master and True Legend), from a script by John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom, Netflix's upcoming Marco Polo series). There's no word yet on the exact plot of the film, but Crouching Tiger was based largely on the fourth book (of the same name) in novelist Wang Dulu's Crane-Iron series of books, and The Green Legend will be based on the fifth and final book, Iron Knight, Silver Vase (unfortunately, the books haven't yet been translated into English).
So, 15 years after the first film won us over, the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon story will continue, and it'll do it through an unprecedented Netflix distribution deal.