Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings won’t have as significant a cultural impact as Black Panther, because its representation of Asia is still very limited. Even if you are familiar with wuxia films, especially those starring Jackie Chan, directed by Zhang Yimou, or produced by Shaw Brothers, what director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, Just Mercy) has to offer is not new at all. But are they all mandatory?
The things above do hinder the achievement of potential, but looking at the climate of superhero films that are still too Western-centric, what Shang-Chi has to offer is still a breath of fresh air. Top Movie Site
Shang-Chi, who now goes by the name Shaun (Simu Liu), hides his identity as a kung-fu master, living a simple life as a valet with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Until a reunion occurs between Shang-Chi and his younger brother, Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who now runs an underground fight club in Macau, as well as their father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), the leader of the Ten Rings, an organization named after ten magic ring, which grants him superpowers as well as immortality.
Created by Cretton with Andrew Lanham (The Glass Castle, Just Mercy) and Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984), the script still offers a familiar formula around a dysfunctional family, which then leads the process of finding the protagonist’s identity. Since he was trained as an assassin since childhood, does that mean it’s a destiny he can’t let go? We already know the answer to that question.
The script does not move from a formulaic narrative, nor does it explore the theme more deeply, but the portion of the drama, especially regarding family relationships, is able to appear solid thanks to Tony Leung. In the hands of the legendary actor, Wenwu is not a villain we will hate, but understand. Leung not only gives the charisma of a murderer who has lived for thousands of years, but also the fragility of an ordinary man who loses his love, loses his greatest reason for having a conscience. He’s not a world destroyer. But in order to restore his destroyed “world”, Wenwu was willing to destroy the world. Watching Leung made me think, “If I were put in his situation, would I do the same thing?”. Best Movie
In the realm of action, Cretton combines three elements, namely massive CGI-laden battles typical of the MCU, Jackie Chan’s chaotic fighting, and martial arts as an expression of taste and philosophy as often used by Zhang Yimou. The last two types appear most impressive. Simu Liu and Meng’er Zhang (such badass) help Cretton maximize the creative setting of the action (buses, skyscraper construction), which also emphasizes choreography, while reducing the amount of manipulation through editing.
The influence of Zhang Yimou’s works is felt right at Wenwu’s first meeting with his wife, Ying Li (Fala Chen), and when Shang-Chi is trained by his aunt, Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh). Rather than fighting, those moments are more like an exchange of feelings. Yeoh, armed with the experience of starring in martial arts titles for nearly four decades, moves beautifully, but is not weak, like an entity that has rid itself of the worldly phase.
But Shang-Chi is of course still an MCU installment with all its signature ingredients (for better or worse). Humor that even though tends to be hit-and-miss still provokes some laughs, expansion of the universe through a series of cameos and hints that the protagonist will play a big role in the future, as well as massive action set-pieces that still have a place, although in the latter half, the film is closer immerse yourself in a fairytale feel, as the setting moves into a fantasy world full of mythological animals.
The CGI at the climax is a bit inconsistent, which may be due to the budget allocated to wrap up the final fight, when Shang-Chi switched to the kaiju genre. On the one hand, this choice strips away the emotional intimacy that wuxia elements bring, but on the other hand, it also emphasizes that the face of Asian films is not just martial arts, as is the stigma that is often attached to it. The things above do hinder the achievement of potential, but looking at the climate of superhero films that are still too Western-centric, what Shang-Chi has to offer is still a breath of fresh air. Movie Review