concept behind Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is such pure genius that someone should have thought of it earlier.
   It's a martial arts film, but one that spends just as much time and effort on the story line and character development as it does with the fight scenes. It's also subtitled, not dubbed.
   In most kung-fu films, characters are running around flapping their lips while dialogue spills out of their mouths. The result resembles a lot more like a sequel to "Chicken Run" than it does an action film. This plays more like an eloquent on-screen symphony.
   The film begins as we are introduced to Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat), a warrior who teams up with his love interest Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) in search of the stolen Green Destiny sword, the sword that belonged to Li's master.
   Yu suspects the governor's daughter Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), while others feel the sword might have been stolen by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei), a well-known criminal.
   As the film moves along, the story line gets more involved, dealing with Jen's arranged marriage, Li's vow to escape his days as a fighter and Yu's complicated feelings toward Li. Woven within the dramatic elements of the film, of course, are the fight scenes, which are nothing short of spectacular.
   I never expected to see characters run up walls or gracefully fly from rooftop to rooftop.
   The most amazing scene takes place on the tips of enormous trees. In the scene, characters fly from limb to limb, only breaking to throw a jab in here and there with their sword.
   "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a cinematic masterpiece. It's a magical film. The fact the characters can fly creates a more interesting and multi-dimensional aspect to the picture, even if the film would have still been well-made without it. The director cares about what we see and how much we become involved with each character. Most martial arts films rely on the fighting to create entertainment for the audience. It's refreshing to see a film that encompasses so much more.
   The members of the cast and crew of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" are deserving of every award and honor that comes their way. Hopefully on Oscar night, I won't be the only one who voices that opinion.
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