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Soundtrack review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (Shigeru Umebayashi – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (Shigeru Umebayashi – 2016)


“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” is a 2016 American-Chinese martial arts film directed by Yuen Woo-ping and written by John Fusco, based on the novel Iron Knight, Silver Vase by Du Lu Wang. It is also a sequel to the 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. The film stars Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Harry Shum, Jr., Jason Scott Lee. Once again the adventure focuses on finding the Green Destiny sword. I loved the first movie and I am very curious about this one. Shigeru Umebayashi takes over scoring duties from Tan Dun and any composition from him is a gift to me. I would listen even to what he hums in his home if I could.

Asian inspired scores are a very special genre to me, especially the ones deeply rooted in local mythology or legends. Somehow the instruments are very easily identifiable to me and I have grown familiar with them. The Japanese drums, the strings, everything has its place and I enter a sort of hypnotic state when I listen to a score like this. There’s also another strange association from my part but one that helps me connect with the music even better: to me, this sound somehow is the descendant of the old Western sound from the 60s. I get the same vibe of riding, the same need for marching choirs and the same feeling of vast and empty lands, of wind blowing and of a journey that never ends.

The musical fabric of this lonely and mostly quiet score is also very thin and fragile; I usually enjoy music like this the most when I am in a certain state of mind and when I am no distracted or distraught. I know this beforehand so when I write about “Crouching tiger, hidden dragon: Sword of destiny” I clear my mind and let the suave and emotional music occupy that space. Some subtle strokes of the strings or some whispers of the woodwind instruments could be lost otherwise.

I love the fighting moments when there’s nothing but percussion surrounding the fighters and building an imaginary musical arena for them. There’s a three cue section of the score from “Taiko – Wei fang” on that’s simply beautiful in that regard. As almost always Umebayashi introduces a waltz as well in the score, it’s like his little signature stamp.

There isn’t very much to separate this particular score from the others in this niche but luckily the niche is very narrow and enjoyable. The music is a bit distant and yet I can feel the emotional touch of the score. Moments like the themes for Snow Vase and Yu Shu Line show me why I hold such a special place in my heart for Asian film scores. “Sword of destiny” is a winter landscape with a  frozen lake and snowflakes falling gently on the shoulders of a lonely and reflective soul.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 60

Album excellence: 68%


Silent Wolf Theme

Back To Beijing

Wild Bunch Theme

Tea House Fight

This is our story my mother is our teacher

Taiko – Wei Fang

Silent Wolf And Yu Fend Off

Snow Vase Attacks Mantis

Snow Vase Theme

Protect The Sword With Your Life

Paper Lantern

Yu Shu Line’s Theme

Yu And Snow

Yu Still Watching Silent Wolf

Silver Dart Dies

Wei Fang Stole The Green Destiny

A Swordsman Of Honor

Theme For Sword Of Destiny

Theme For Sword Of Destiny – Revised




Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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