Film Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

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A lot is riding on Shang-Chi, and The Legend of the Ten Rings as Marvel expands its universe with a Chinese superhero and an Asia-set film.

The character starts with a blank slate, with no history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also comes with the baggage of cultural representation and diversity arguments that have dogged superhero films for a long time.

Each kung fu motion will be scrutinised for technical perfection, so you can’t just dazzle the audience with superbly orchestrated action scenes.

The protracted opening prologue set in China and entirely in Mandarin demonstrates that Marvel is doing things differently this time.

When the action eventually travels to San Francisco, and English dialogues appear, you start to question if the movie is indeed in English.

The Plot

The movie follows a pre-determined plot. A boy flees his home to avoid his vengeful father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), pushing him to become a serial killer.

He appears to be living a happy life in San Francisco as a valet parking automobile and racing them on occasion until his past catches up with him.

Then he must accept his true identity and confront his father and the obligations he has been avoiding.

The father is a renowned crime lord with godlike strength and immortality and a mystery assassin group known as the Ten Rings.

He is dead set on obtaining what he wants, and he will go to any length to get it, even if it means putting his children’s lives in jeopardy.

The rest is a predictable tug of war between loyalty to family and righteousness, sacrifice and self-servitude.

Despite Shang-traumatic Chi’s background, he becomes relatable from the start, one of the film’s great triumphs.

His carefree existence in San Francisco and his obnoxious friend Katy (Awkwafina), who cannot communicate in her tongue, depict millennial immigrants.

As a result, it’s easier for him to startle people when he saves a bus full of passengers from a gang of assassins on his own.

Simu Liu’s martial arts skills are brilliantly displayed in the bus scene, one of the most compelling action moments in the film.

Despite originating from a CGI-heavy superhero universe, Shang-Chi heavily relies on human strength and agility, borrowed from the wuxia film genre. Wenwu’s lengthy introductory sequence is an excellent illustration of this.

Although this is an origin story, there were numerous concepts in past MCU films such as Iron Man and Doctor Strange.

Connecting the dots may be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the Marvel universe. It does, however, tie back to the greater Marvel universe with explanations, et cetera, to show that this is not a one-off occurrence.

The rarely-seen-before visual spectacle and action scenes are what you may enjoy without any context. Shang-Chi is one of Marvel’s most aesthetically gorgeous films to date.

The location change has enabled new flavours to be introduced into the production design. The typical concrete jungle backdrop of other superhero films has been replaced by magnificent outdoors and a burst of brilliant colours, enhancing the considerable screen experience.

From Tony Stark‘s baggage regarding Howard Stark’s legacy to Loki’s desire to prove himself to his adopted father, Odin, Daddy issues have been crucial to the MCU.

It becomes the central theme of Shang-Chi, driven by Wenwu’s tormented character, who possesses all of the world’s might yet has lost the one thing his heart desires.

Even without the glamour and glam of the superhero genre, Shang-plot Chi’s succeeds.

There’s also something odd about the titular figure being surrounded by so many others who are more robust and charming, as if it’s an almost purposeful attempt to set him apart from other MCU superheroes.

Aside from Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, and Meng’ er Zhang all seem to outshine Simu Liu at times. Let’s hope that future films give us more reasons to root for Shang-Chi rather than make us laugh at his expense.

The Ratings

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t fully free of Marvel’s old template, but this fascinating origin narrative widens the MCU in more ways than one,” according to Rotten tomatoes. ShangChi has a Tomatometer rating of 91 per cent, based on 183 reviews.”

Kanaka Yeldutti
Kanaka Yeldutti
Pursuing MA in mass communication at Pondicherry University. An avid writer, Blogger with a keen passion for Journalism. Areas of interest are sociocultural struggles, women-centric issues, economic inequality.

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