- Movie Name:Shang Chi
- Critics Rating: 4 / 5
- Release Date: 2 September 2021
- Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
- Genre: Adventure/Action
In the trailer of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, our titular superhero is told, "You're a product of all who came before you." But, if you genuinely want to hold this origin story, you must concede it is not what we have seen of Marvel superheroes in previous films. This is wholesome and alive with the bonus of being visually impressive and mythological rich. Surprisingly, it is very un-Marvel on the surface with precisely chosen moments that remind us of MCU's preceding phases.
With much uproar, Marvel introduced its first Asian superhero Shang Chi (Simu Liu). He lives quite a life as a valet in San Fransisco and wastes most of his time karaokeing with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). One day, when least expected, he receives a cryptic letter from his sister and thus begins his eventful family reunion. But until now we don't know that he's a blast. He can kick tens of goons on a moving bus while crashing numerous cars parked on the sidewalks. After this over the top bus sequence, he's up to save his sister, whom he hasn't met in years. But he forgot to mention these little family details about his past to his best friend. And just like a loyal BFF, who has your back and hops on with you at the last moment without asking details is the most amiable, Katy. Together they're on a mission to save Shang Chi's sister, confront his dad and rescue his mother's ancestral village in an alternate dimension. Oh wait, and through all this, there are some dragons too. Strangely, at moments it feels like a chapter plucked from JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
In the first half, you are assured that Shang Chi and Katy make for a great team. If Liu's Shang Chi is committed to supplying an adrenalin rush to the screen with some classic wuxia movie stunts, Awkwafina's Katy brings Marvel's staple humour to it. It is in the second half that we get to know more about his parents (Tony Leung and Fala Chen), their legacies and their ancestors.
However, there’s something harsh about pitting Liu up against Hong Kong cinema legend Leung. He is such an irresistible artiste that you'd turn to him even if he's standing in a corner saying nothing. He's the one bringing conflicted drama to the story. On papers, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might be called a superhero origin story but substantially, it’s also about Leung being the anti-hero Wenwu / The Mandarin. He's a bewitching sociopath led by vengeance and love. He left his legacy for the woman he loves and after her death, he rises to his bench to bring her back even if he slaughters her family, the world, the timeline or the universe in the process.
But these are not the only ones to impress us. In the hands of director Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings consciously corrects its past failings. They desperately want us to forget how they deprived their magnetic women superheroes in the previous three phases of spectacular battles. The film gives space to its women to shine equally if not brighter. If Awkwafina gives us more giggles than Simu Liu, Michelle Yeoh (Jiang Nan) and Meng'er Zhang (Xialing) deliver some stunning martial arts sequences.
Whereas, in terms of representation by Marvel, it offers a warm portrayal of Chinese culture that is getting a shoutout from viewers from Asian backgrounds for its authenticity.
Shang Chi's strength lies in balancing itself. For every high octane action sequence, there's a back story to get you readjusted to your seat. The amazingly choreographed fights will bring you to the edge of your seats and at the same time, you can't help but groove to the peppy background score. There are so many good songs on their list.
Apart from music, Marvel once again excels in terms of CGI. The graphics are so compelling that you don't regret stepping inside a cinema hall in times of a pandemic. They're worth it.
Carefully crafted Shang Chi has some moments that are a reminder of some loved moments from previous films. For instance the fitting pit scenes from Thor and Agents of Shield. They give Marvel geeks a sense of pride with a nostalgia moment of Wong and Abomination but never make it complex enough to wee off newbies. And we finally get to know what happened with Trevor Slattery after his appearance in Marvel One-Shots: All Hail the King.
In a nutshell, Shang Chi is without a doubt a wholesome entertainer. It can impress most. It's a family drama, a revenge tale and of course a visually appealing action entertainer for superhero fans. You know how the story will unfold, you have seen such films and if you've read comics, you definitely know the story but how it pans out is effective. It is a definite watch in the theatres.
BTW, if you were hooked to 'Come and get your love' after watching Guardians of the Galaxy, Hotel California will be next on your playlist after watching Shang Chi.