Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the Star Wars Episode I We Never Got
Many people argue that Galaxy Quest is one of the best Star Trek movies. If you know the movie, you know it isn’t a Star Trek movie at all, but it has the heart, soul and humour of a great Star Trek movie.
I’d argue that we had a great Star Wars Episode 1, but it was released a year later than the Phantom Menace. It was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Imagine, a story about a seasoned warrior and his apprentice being sent on a mission to find a misguided child and to protect that child from a corrupting, powerful force. The seasoned warrior ends up dying, and the apprentice completes the mission. That’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Now imagine a story where a seasoned warrior and his apprentice are sent to stop a trade embargo and accidentally find a child who in the context of that film alone, shows little redeeming qualities, but also no penchant for evil. The seasoned warrior ends up dying, and the apprentice completes the mission. That’s The Phantom Menace.
I’m not foolishly saying that simply slapping ILM-quality effects onto Crouching Tiger would have made it a Star Wars story. I just remember sitting in the Imax movie theatre watching Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, and thinking, “Wow, This is what Episode I could have been.” Just the fact that the young woman had already started down the dark path and needed to be drawn back, first by being shown superior skills, then given education and respect made a huge impact on the weight of the story. The Phantom Menace had Jake Lloyd’s too impish and impulsive performance (I’m NOT blaming him. It’s all George’s fault.)
I’d actually mostly forgotten all this. But yesterday someone told me that there’s a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I hadn’t heard about it. I don’t know if it’s a worthy companion piece, or if like The Phantom Menace, it will dilute the value of a great story.