Shang-Chi, the man and the film, are in conflict with the past. The 25th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie – oh, how time has gone – relies heavily on the franchise’s now foolproof formula, but also fully prepared to get spooky if and when the situation calls for it. While Shang-Chi, the character, reckons with his father’s mean ways, the hugely entertaining film from director Destiny Daniel Cretton attempts to right the mistakes made by its own parent, the MCU.
It’s a Marvel movie for a Gen Z crowd, ashamed of the more archaic avenues the franchise has ever taken, but also ready to engage and ultimately embrace awakened alternatives.
Watch the Shang-Chi trailer here:
Shakespearean in his family-friendly and visually flashy themes like Zhang Yimou’s wuxia epics, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a welcome return to form for the MCU after the unbearably impersonal Black Widow. Both films could be case studies of how the same basic structure can be molded into different stories.
In Cretton’s hands, the kind of origin tale we’ve seen dozens of times before takes on a freshness that the MCU has lacked since Black Panther. Aside from the Avengers movies, Marvel’s most recent solo offerings – the two Spider-Man films, Captain Marvel and the contractually obligatory drop of nothingness that was Black Widow – were indistinguishable from each other. Shang-Chi, while walking on familiar thematic terrain, feels positively radical in both style and texture.
But as critical as it is of cultural appropriation, I’m not sure it sufficiently merits the right to name certain things. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the MCU’s first film to feature an Asian lead role, but it’s – and let’s not forget – a Disney production shot in Australia. Nor can I tolerate the defamatory tone it takes against Iron Man 3, which remains one of the last examples of Marvel’s more risk-prone past, and among my favorite things the studio has ever done.
I have to bypass plot details for obvious reasons, especially since the trailers have done a great job of keeping several key developments under wraps. For example, none of the madness acts in the third act were messed up at all, and while it pushes the boundaries not only by MCU standards but also in the context of Shang-Chi, it seems to be in keeping with internal logic. of the movie.
But before this epic showdown, Shang-Chi’s action is a mix of intense close-quarters combat and fluid Crouching Tiger-inspired combat – all courtesy of late stunt coordinator Brad Allan, to whom the film is dedicated. . This is all highly unusual for the MCU, which has unfortunately been rather unimaginative when it comes to action, having stuck with the CGI show and the generic quick cut. And who can ignore the stories of how certain footage from Marvel Projects is previewed on computers before a script has even been written?
But more than the action in Shang-Chi, it was the strong emotional center of the film that surprised me. At its core, it’s a film about family and inheritance, and the relationship between a grieving father and his two children, who had very different reactions to the abandonment they suffered from him. .
Played by the great Tony Leung, Wenwu is the film’s secret weapon, and easily the best antagonist Marvel has created since Black Panther’s Killmonger. Eliminating the franchise’s long-standing “villain problem” – which is the code for when a Marvel movie pits a hero against someone who is simply their evil clone – Wenwu’s arc in the movie, I would say, is more resonant than even Shang-Chi’s.
He is not motivated by hate, but by love. There is no better antagonist than one whose journey you can understand, and while Wenwu’s actions are often reprehensible, you can still understand (if not agree with) his motives. It also doesn’t hurt that Cretton, in one of the show’s biggest casting shots, somehow convinced Leung to join the party, and not just for a glorified cameo. A scene where he sits down across from his kids and talks to them about what he does for a living is really great.
He captures the strained relationship he has with them. After their mother’s death, Shang-Chi fled to the United States and took on a new identity – Shaun – and her sister Xialing founded a fight club in Macau. They are reunited as adults when they learn that their father is planning a quest to locate and infiltrate Ta Lo, a mythical land their mother told them stories about.
Both an action star and a dramatic performer, Simu Liu is a natural; he’s got all the qualities that Marvel looks for while casting his net for leading men and women – easy charisma, strong physical presence, and, most importantly, instant relativity. As good as Liu is at his scenes with his father and best friend Katy (Awkwafina), the true indication of his talents can be found in a truly moving third act admission from Shang-Chi.
Also Read: Black Widow Movie Review: Scarlett Johansson Comes Out on Worst Marvel Movie Ever; a boring drop of blah blah
Small baffles aside – Awkwafina’s character has no reason to be involved in the plot as long as she is, and some of the CGIs can feel a little gooey – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is exactly the kind of fancy entertainment one would expect from a Hollywood movie of this stature.
Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings
Director – Destiny Daniel Cretton
To throw – Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Meng’er Zhang
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar