By: Brandon Kennedy, Staff Writer
The newest movie from Marvel Studios is out. I had the pleasure to go see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. As you are aware, the hero’s journey begins when the character goes on a quest and in this quest eventually saves the world. But what would you do if the one person who threatens the world is your own dad? Personally, I found Shang-Chi to be a great journey throughout. While having some key flaws, it has its share of highlights. One key flaw is this idea that the main villain of the film is being manipulated throughout the film by something that isn’t human, and that can speak perfect Chinese in people’s minds. It’s very hard to believe. A highlight is the fact that this ties into the MCU so well and doesn’t even need to reference other movies all that much to do so. Like there is a certain character who appears fighting Wong. This character hasn’t been seen since The Incredible Hulk. It combines the art of kung-fu movies with the mythical nature of Chinese history and combines them to great effect. There wasn’t too much that went unexplained in this movie. Having said that, there are things that could do with a bit more explaining, see the mid-credits scene.
The acting from Simu Liu (Shang-Chi) and Awkwafina (Katy) for instance was subpar at times and great at other points. An example of really bad acting was during the fight scene on the bus, Shang-Chi fights his way to victory and Katy just asks the point blank question of “who are you?”, when she is aware of who he is. The acting in that scene just seemed dumbfounding. A great part was when Shang-Chi was asked when he and Katy would get married by Katy’s grandmother, and Katy just isn’t for the idea. Shang-Chi seemed like he was embarrassed and that was a really well acted scene. It was kind of funny too which was great. Another great scene was the dinner scene between Wenwu and Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy. They just have a nice chat and Wenwu gets to know Shang-Chi’s friend Katy for a bit. For the most part they both play somewhat believable roles, Shang-Chi as a character couldn’t accept who he was and later came to embrace his heritage. As far as the relationship with Katy to consider, it is explained how they became best friends, but some things about their relationship go unexplained through the entire ending of the movie. The assumption is they grew closer. Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing, played by Meng’er Zhang, was played exceptionally well. You could tell while she was close with Shang-Chi, that there was this distrust about her character.
Which is exactly what you’d expect from having been raised the way they were. All the Chinese-American actors do a great job exemplifying the unique Asian culture that the film is about. Just like in the film Black Panther, this film is about the culture as much as it is about the unique storyline that Marvel Studios has conceived. I really enjoyed Tony Leung’s character as the father, you could feel that while he meant well for his family, he was being led down the wrong path. It is his character motivations that leads the character of Shang-Chi and Xialing to their own respective destinies. While playing the role of a tragic villain is not the best one, it is this trait that makes most recent Marvel villains worth watching as their plans come together.
There are varying themes throughout the movie. The theme of family is an important one, as family is described throughout the movie as transcending. This idea that we are who we came from is one I’m not sure we needed to think about, because in reality we are not our own father and we are not our mother, we are our own individual person. It’s like if two clones were to live drastically different lives growing up and suddenly meet in the same things. They’re not the same person. However, for the purposes of this plot the idea of we are who came before is an important plot element for the film. More important though, in my opinion, is this idea of acceptance that is shown throughout. Shang-Chi cannot accept who he is. The father cannot accept the fact his wife is gone. Xialing cannot accept the limitations that were placed on her by her father. Towards the end, all the characters learn to accept their limitations, and even in some instances learn to lean on each other. The final thing I’d like to discuss are the action set pieces. On the bus, which was in the trailer, was a crazy way to begin the character’s journey. The best fight scenes are the ones between Leung’s character and the final showdown towards the end was definitely worth waiting for nearly two hours for.
Overall, I’d like to address the fact this movie is following Black Widow, which was a disappointing film not worth waiting the extra year for. The reason for that was it didn’t explain much that we needed to know and felt like it was just filler. Also it didn’t leave any room open for a direct sequel, as Black Widow died in Endgame. There are positives and negatives to being second in a new saga. If you’re into martial arts films or films with a mystical Chinese setting, then you won’t be disappointed. If you’re expecting full explanations from beginning to end, then you may not understand it. Still, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is worth a watch.