Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
is a martial-arts film, released in 2000, directed by Ang Lee
, and starring Chow Yun-fat
, Michelle Yeoh
, Zhang Ziyi
and Chang Chen
. It is based on the novel of the same name written by Wang Dulu, which was released as part of a pentalogy. It was the first wuxia
film to gain widespread Western acclaim; it won many awards, including four Oscars, and opened the wuxia
genre to huge new audiences.
A noble and well-known Wudang fighter, Li Mubai, decides to retire in 1778 after his failure to find the murderer of his master. This murderer was his mistress, Jade Fox, who was embittered by his refusal to teach a woman the Wudang technique. Although his estranged Lady of War
friend, Yu Shu-Lien, tries to talk him out of it, Li asks her to deliver his famed sword, the Green Destiny
, to a friend, Sir Te, so Li can leave his warrior past behind. Knowing the sword's deadly potential, however, Sir Te asks Shu Lien to have it safely stored in capital of Beijing instead. When Yu delivers the Green Destiny to the house of a governor, she meets the governor's headstrong daughter, the Rebellious Princess
Jen, and they become close owing to Jen's fascination with Shu Lien's free warrior life. Shu Lien realizes that Jen resents her Arranged Marriage
, longing to become a romantic adventurer like those of fairy tales.
However, a theft of the Green Destiny at night leads Shu Lien pursuing a masked assailant, and although the thief escapes with the sword, Yu comes across valuable information when she realizes that the thief is well-versed in the arts of Wudang. Li joins the investigation, and the two realize that Jade Fox had been posing as Jen's governess for a long time to avoid the authorities, including Inspector Tsai, who has been pursuing her in revenge for the death of his wife. Jade Fox challenges and kills Tsai in a secret showdown at night, but Li arrives and soundly defeats Jade Fox, who is saved only by the appearance of the thief, revealed to be Jen. Jen had, in fact, been the apprentice of Jade Fox, learning Wudang techniques from her, but Jade Fox quickly realizes that Jen had read the Wudang scriptures that Jade Fox, illiterate, had stolen, and surpassed the master in skill. Furthermore, a desert bandit who was once Jen's lover, Lo, arrives to disrupt her wedding.
And thus begins a chase of conflicting agendas and motivations, Li who wants to avenge his master's murder and pass his skills to the proper apprentice he sees in Jen, Shu Lien who wants to steer Jen back onto the right path and end this investigation, Jade Fox who wants to kill Li (and Jen out of jealousy for surpassing her), Lo who wants to take Jen away and marry her, and Jen herself, who just wants to be free...
臥虎藏龍 in traditional Chinese, 卧虎藏龙 in simplified.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the Trope Namer for:
"Crouching Tropes, Hidden Index":
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Green Destiny.
- Action Girl: Jen and Shu Lien
- The film featured two of Hong Kong cinema's most famous Action Girls, Cheng Pei Pei from the 60s and 70s (Jade Fox) and Michelle Yeoh from the 80s and 90s (Shu Lien), along with Zhang Ziyi (Jen), whom Ang Lee saw as a star of the future.
- After-Action Healing Drama: after Li Mubai is poisoned.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Jade Fox, who was really an embittered old woman abandoned who felt betrayed by her protege (Jen) at the end.
- Ang Lee says in the commentary that this was a deliberate homage to the martial arts films he had grown up with, where "when the villain dies, you don't feel good."
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Though Lo is less of a bad boy and more of a Lovable Rogue who fell for Jen because of both her beauty and her utter refusal to bow down to him
- Arranged Marriage: Jen is supposed to marry a high-class guy to further her dad's career. Her estranged lover Lo does not agree. (Of course, neither does she...)
- Arrogant Kung Fu Girl: Jen fits in this trope to an extent, particularly in the latter half of the story. She has The Gift of the art of Wudan, uses it arrogantly, and treats a lot of people she meets as enemies. A rare example who is both female and a protagonist of sorts.
- Ascended Fanboy: Jen was captivated by the stories of Li Mu Bai, Shu Lien and other warriors like them. However, she probably didn't expect that she would clash and fight against them.
- Badass Normal: Lo did not have the mystical kung-fu powers of the main cast but he put on a good show anyway.
- Bald of Awesome: Li Mubai among others.
- Bare Your Midriff: Believe it or not, this happened to Jen during her love scene with Lo. Granted, it only lasted for just under a minute, but for some fans, it was worth it.
- Battle Couple: Implied to be Li Mubai and She Lien, if they could ever get the couple part right.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Jen wants to run away from her Arranged Marriage and live a vagabond's life with her rebellious lover. She gets exactly that, at the cost of her family and Mu Bai's mentorship - not to mention his life. Breaking free of the system got her what she thought she wanted, but if she'd stayed and looked for loopholes in the society she lived in - Shu-Lien's offer of official training - she might have been able to have both. Her family would have been proud to have a Wudan warrior as a daughter, but they obviously couldn't marry such a daughter off as a bargaining chip, as the only kind of man who'd be willing to live with a Wudan warrior would have been, well, a rebel.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Jen and Lo before they got a Relationship Upgrade.
- Big Sister Mentor: Shu Lien to Jen.
- Bittersweet Ending: After killing Jade Fox and avenging his master, Li Mubai dies of poisoning in Shu Lien's arms, finally confessing his love for her as they share a Last Kiss. OTOH, Jen is finally free from her family, so she and Lo are ultimately reunited... only for Jen to have to leap off the side of Wudan Mountain in order to make her and Lo's "wishes" come true. It's strongly implied that this is the only way they'll get to be happy together, considering all of Jen's transgressions.
- Blade Run
- Broken Bird: Jen, and to a degree Shu Lien
- Carrying the Antidote: Averted by Jade Fox. Jen does know the recipe for the antidote, but concocting it ends up taking too much time to be of any help.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Very tragically played with Li Mubai and Shu Lien, who are clearly in love with each other but can't act on it because Shu Lien's deceased fiancé was Li Mubai's partner and best friend, and Mubai couldn't save his life. In fact, Sir Te lampshades the trope several times, urging Shu Lien (and IIRC, Mubai as well) to just act on their mutual love.
- Clean Cut: The Green Destiny, in the hands of the right wielder, can be drawn, cut pieces of iron in half, and sheathed again all in the one movement.
- Combat Breakdown: Jen fights Shu Lien with the Green Destiny, with Shu Lien using a wide variety of different weapons against her as the sword whittles down everything she tries. Shu Lien still wins.
- Combat Parkour: Jen Yu, most memorably in the restaurant scene. She uses backflips and rebounds off pillars and walls to evade and strike her opponents.
- Cool Big Sis: Jen sees Shu Lien as this at first, even calling her "older sister".
- Cool Sword: the Green Destiny.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: Jen catching a teacup (another character deliberately dropped it to make her reveal her skills).
- Death by Adaptation: Li Mubai and (possibly) Jen. However both of their "death scenes" are vague enough for them to have survived.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: Shu Lien's fiancee had died in battle and also happened to be best friends with Mu-bai. However, for years, Shu Lien and Mu Bai refused to enter into a relationship, out of respect and honour for their friend/fiancee. The possibility that he might have been pleased to have the two people dearest to him come together, after a respectable period of mourning, unfortunately never occurs to either.
- Driven to Suicide: Jen.
- Averted in that she was following an old legend that had previously been brought up in the film.
- Desert Bandits: Lo leads a very large gang that preys on the Han Dynasty's trade routes through the desert. He meets Jen when he raids her caravan, swipes her comb apparently for the heck of it, and then leads her on a merry chase through the desert.
- Dub Name Change: Jen is known as Yu Jiaolong in the original Mandarin, admittedly not a very feminine name to either market.
- Lo was originally named Jiaohu, and Sir Te was Be Laye
- Duel to the Death: This movie has a duel in which a father and daughter challenge an old villain who slew their wife/mother. Later, Jen, armed with Green Destiny, fights Yu Shu-lien, armed with a variety of weapons, though the duel is not lethal.
- Empathic Weapon: The Green Destiny always described as a mystical, ancient weapon made out of "no ordinary metal" which only the hero can properly wield, although we never see it actually betray its thief, talk, or do anything similarly magical besides look really cool. And cut through basically anything, resulting in the complete destruction of first a tea house and later on every weapon in Shu Lien's armory.
- Epic Movie: Fantasy style wuxia epic with a Hollywood flair. Biggest Chinese language film in the US.
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Half the clientele of the restaurant turn out to be disciples of one kind or another. It doesn't help them at all.
- Evil Mentor: Jade Fox, to Jen
- Faux Fluency: The dialogue is in Mandarin, but of the four actors, only Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen are native speakers, and Chen has a very regional accent. This could be why the film wasn't as well received in its native country as it was abroad.
- Famed In-Story: Li Mu-bai.
- Flynning: Any sword fight in the film.
- Groin Attack: Averted. Jen tries to karate chop Lo, but he catches her hand.
- The Hecate Sisters: Jen as the maiden, Shu Lien as the mother and Jade Fox as the crone.
- Heel-Face Turn: Jen, right before the end as Jade Fox dies and Li Mubai lies poisoned decides to help the heros out.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Jade Fox gets killed by the pieces of her own shattered sword.
- Holding Hands: There was a very sweet scene where Mu Bai takes Shu Lien's hand and presses it to his face gently.
- Hong Kong Dub: Gloriously averted in the English dub, which completely matches the actors mouths to the point at which it seems like the actors actually did their lines in English. They did not. Ang Lee wins the Shown Their Work Award.
- I Have the High Ground: The fight along the tops of the bamboo grove.
- It's Personal: Policeman Tsai and his daughter challenge Jade Fox, after she had killed their wife/mother.
- Imperial China
- Improvised Weapon: Li Mubai can school you with a stick.
- In a Single Bound
- Intergenerational Friendship: Between Jen and Shu Lien.
- Interesting Situation Duel: In and on a bamboo forest.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lo
- Just Friends: Shu Lien and Mu Bai tried to invoke this, but eventually, their feelings for each other won out, if not before Mu Bai is fatally poisoned by Jade Fox.
- Kneel Before Zod: "Bow to your teacher!"
- Lady of War: Shu Lien.
- Last Kiss: Between Mu Bai and Shu Lien, before Mu Bai was about to die. Also doubles tragically as their First Kiss as well.
- Legendary Weapon: The sword Green Destiny, an Absurdly Sharp Blade famously wielded by Li Mubai and which serves as a MacGuffin for much of the movie.
- Living Legend: Li Mu Bai is incredibly well known. In a negative fashion, so is the Jade Fox. Everyone knows or suspects who each is and responds to the reputation involved.
- Love at First Punch: Lo and Jen
- Loveable Rogue: Lo is the quintessential Loveable Rogue.
- Magical Realism: as one reviewer put it, "You will believe a Chinese person can fly."
- Master Swordsman: Li Mubai, of course. He demonstrates the superiority of his technique to Jen using a twig at one point.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Jen and Lo.
- Meaningful Name: "Jen" is just what the American translator slapped on her; in Chinese it's "Jiaolong". Likewise, Lo is "Xiaohu." These translate as something about a dragon and a tiger, respectively...
- Not to mention the title itself, which is drawn from a Chinese proverb reminding us to beware those who hide in plain sight.
- Memetic Badass: Li Mu Bai, In-Universe example.
- Moment Killer: After Shu Lien apologises to Mu Bai for being unable to stop the thief from stealing the Green Destiny, believing that was the reason why Mu Bai had come to her, he quietly replies that he had came here for another reason, before he knew the sword was stolen. He was about to say something to her (presumably about his feelings towards her), when a servant enters, interrupting the moment.
- Motive Rant: Jade Fox tells Jen that the priests of Wudan are womanizers and would not let a woman learn the art of wu shu.
- Mysterious Protector: Lo, at some point
- Named Weapons: Green Destiny.
- Ninja: The thief of Green Destiny. Another character is also briefly one, though he was quickly caught and unmasked.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The producers tried to have the cast speak with the same accent, but since each of the four main actors had a different one (Cantonese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, and Beijing-regional), they decided to give it up as a bad job. Some members of the Chinese audience were not impressed.
- Plot Device: The Green Destiny a Named Weapon, without which, the plot could not have moved forward and forces the characters to act to get it back.
- Poisoned Weapons: Jade Fox specialized in this, using it to kill Mu Bai's master and eventually Mu Bai himself.
- The President's Daughter: Jen, of course.
- Razor Wind
- Rebellious Princess: Jen
- Revealing Skill: Shu Lien suspected that the governor's daughter Jen was more than she claimed to be, and had martial arts training. Shu Lien confirmed these suspicions by deliberately dropping a tea cup—Jen caught it in midair and returned it to the table, without spilling a single drop.
- Roof Hopping
- Rule of Two: Subverted. The apprentice (Jen) was a more skilled combatant than the Master (Jade Fox), but the Master was more treacherous.
- Runaway Bride: Jen runs away from her family and husband the day after she gets married.
- Scenery Porn: The bamboo forest. The deserts and mountains of Xinjiang. The Temple of Wudan Mountain (a real life temple stand-in!)
- The Shangri-La: The Temple of Wudan Mountain, where Li Mubai learned the deepest secrets.
- She-Fu: Jen. There's a flashback where she's fighting Lo before she learns most of her skills seen later, and despite having learned some martial arts already, she's not very effective.
- Shipper on Deck: Sir Te has implied that Shu Lien and Mu Bai should just get together.
- Shrouded in Myth: The Green Destiny, Li Mu Bai himself.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Jen and Lo start their relationship by trying to kill each other. Their first kiss was during another fight they were having.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In the good ending of the GBA version, Li Mu Bai survives.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Lo disagrees like whoa! (Attacks with knives. While shouting. A lot.)
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Of Good, actually; Jen and Jade Fox spend most of the first act fighting the good guys in roughly ascending order of their skill, though Mu Bai wrecks the order.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Li Mubai and Shu Lien, Jen and Lo. The first couple don't get together, the second do. To a point. (See Bittersweet Ending.)
- Supernatural Martial Arts
- Thunderbolt Iron: The Green Destiny is "made out of no ordinary metal..." using a technique which was lost centuries ago.
- The Time Of Legends: Nominally set in "pre-modern" China, but people can fly and no one bats an eye.
- Tree Buchet: Shows up during the bamboo forest fight.
- UST: Shu Lien and Mu Bai.
- Villain Exit Stage Left: Jade Fox is almost killed by Li Mu Bai, but escapes the legendary warrior - who is capable of Roof Hopping to the point of flight - by jumping over a wall. And he just lets her get away. Justified, Li Mu Bai wanted to steal her apprentice, if he'd pursued he probably would have had to kill them both. Even killing Jade Fox would kill any chances of getting the apprentice.
- Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Although Jade Fox stole the Wudan 'secrets', Jen Yu is the one who learned from them and didn't share it with her master. Jade Fox was Genre Savvy at this when seeing the fight between Li Mu Bai and her apprentice Jen Yu when she was able to give him more of a fight than herself, thus she tries to kill her apprentice near the end.
- Waif-Fu: Jen
- Walk on Water
- Wall Jump
- Wall of Weapons: Yu Shu Lien is using a Wall of Weapons to try to defeat Jen Yu who wields the legendary sword Green Destiny.
- Warrior Therapist: Both Li Mubai and Shu Lien.
- Wire Fu
- Wok Fu: There's a massive scene like this.
- Wuxia: One of the most known examples in the West.