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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: MCU Reinvention of Asian-American Identity

Lead Simu Liu says "We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year."

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Khushant Runghe
Khushant Runghe
Khushant Runghe is an Indian journalist covering the entertainment industry. He has a special drive for reviewing movies, series, anime, comics and movies.

UNITED STATES: Shang-Chi, also known as Shaun, represents the cultural impact of Asian-American superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Simu Liu becomes the first Asian actor to play the lead role in an MCU movie on the big screen.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the 25th film in the MCU follows the steps of a martial arts master who, after the loss of his mother, becomes an assassin in the service of Wenwu, Shaun’s father and the warlord of the Ten Rings.

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Among the Asian cast, Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai plays as Shang-Chi’s father Xu Wenwu; Fala Chen as the late mother of the protagonist; Ying Li and Michelle Yeoh as his aunt; Meng’er Zhang debuts as Shang’s younger sister Xialing; and, Awkwafina plays Shaun’s eccentric friend and partner Katy.

Disney, the owner of Marvel, has released only two other films with predominantly Asian casts: Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon.

Official trailer

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Watch the official trailer of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings below:

Marvel Studio’s Official Trailer

The cinematographic approach

MCU follows a specific three-dimensional storytelling pattern of superhero movies based on several installments such as the self-discovery of protagonists in the acquisition of personal conflict with an enemy and the remastering of original 1970s comics into the present day.

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The action sequences are a crucial component in maintaining the genre’s freshness. Well-executed and visually appealing, the Marvel movies rely largely on CGI action sequences but they can also become tiresome.

All of the phase four films and series are based on the post-Endgame trauma in some way: one must have followed all of the MCU films to fully understand the connections. Yet, Shang-chi is a standalone film of its own.

The plot

Every story needs a strong antagonist by adding an ideal person that contrasts the protagonist’s desire. The premise involves confronting Shang-Chi, on a path of self-discovery, and Xu Wenwu, owner of the Ten Rings. Both characters are subject to many shades of gray and become interesting to viewers.

With a divided life as a full-time valet driver and part-time partier, the renegade Shang-Chi ventures into the middle of a foreign land through the shadows of his past. Together with his friend Katy, he enjoys the happy moments of life until he becomes entangled in the web of the enigmatic organization of the Ten Rings.

The terrorist group Ten Rings appeared in 2008 when they kidnapped Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie. Here, the backstory is explored as the group’s owner Xu Wenwu has to reconcile his family ties or decide to give family up entirely.

Despite the fact that Shang-Chi follows dual patterns similar to those of his father, his character makes a unique impact on the screen and connects with the viewer since he sacrifices his rather conventional existence to confront his father’s organization and start helping others.

Read also: Black Adam: Dwayne Johnson’s Dawn the Mantle as Shazam’s No.1 Nightmare

What drags the narrative

The film begins with a fight between two martial artists. The scene of the battle on the bus piques the interest of the audience to see what may happen next, but the rest is somewhat predictable. Here, the impressive CGI effects don’t sell the show because there is an underlying lack of clarity and purpose in the settings.

Another downside is the fact that the narrative does not delve any deeper into the Ten Rings as an organization and not a single representation of their own version of “how things are” and their hidden motivations appears throughout the entire film.

Xialing is presented as a strong and independent character who does not need to depend on her brother Shang-Chi. She has supposedly acquired all her powerful abilities simply by watching her brother train and memorizing his moves. This contributes to the plot’s need for her to be powerful, but rather than being plot-driven, her character would have been better if she could have shown that she increased her power to the conclusion.

Some scenes of Katy in the climactic fight are particularly unusual as she exhibits some sort of skills out of nowhere and manages to excel without effort.

The teaser scene of Abomination vs. Wong was nothing more than a quick fight. It is there for no apparent purpose.

Also, the high-ranking warrior of the Ten Rings character Death Dealer was squandered, although he had a lot to offer. Death Dealer was the one who trained many of the warriors in the Ten Rings and also Shang-Chi until the latter fled to the United States.

Curiosity

Actors who participated in the movie came from different nationalities, which automatically made multilingual communication an experience. “Speaking was always rooted in just the logic of the characters,” says Cretton, who allowed the crew to converse in “whatever made sense for the scene,” whether in English or Chinese.

There is one specific improvised scene where Awkwafina’s character, Katy, discloses only being able to speak simplified ABC (American Born Chinese). “This is the first time that you really see in a [Hollywood] movie someone calling out a lived experience,” says Simu Liu.

On his Twitter account, Simu Liu also adds: “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise.

Verdict

This action-packed MCU movie with a touch of Kung-fu is a blend of visual spectacle and humor.

Transcontinental Times rating: 4/5

Author

  • Khushant Runghe

    Khushant Runghe is an Indian journalist covering the entertainment industry. He has a special drive for reviewing movies, series, anime, comics and movies.

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