SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
Shang-Chi, the master of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
Spoiler Level: No Spoilers
Although I grew up reading Marvel comics, I need to admit that I did not read much Shang-Chi. And I’m sure I won’t be the only person who will be in the same boat going in to watch Shang-Chi and the Legend Of The Ten Rings. But seeing that I’ve read the comics that the other Marvel movies were based on, I thought this would be a good movie to go in and experience without knowing much about the comic book storyline to see if I would still enjoy the movie without feeling lost because I didn’t do my usual research. And I have to say, this movie took me on a wild ride as both a comics fan and as an outsider.
Before I share my thoughts and insights on the writing, story, and acting, let me share my experience and say do not make any judgments or criticisms about the movie until you’ve watched through the end credits scene. As I was watching the movie, I had a mental list of things I wanted to criticize, only to have them blow up by the end of the movie (particularly about Wong and Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, but I am not going to spoil it here).
What I love about this movie are the multiple themes and aspects that the writing and cinematography accomplish with such complexity and ease at the same time. One of the themes, dualism, is a prevalent piece of Shang-Chi’s journey where he ultimately has to accept that he was born of and is part of both worlds. This idea gets reinforced in the photography and costume design with the opposing blue/red colors of the attire as well as the weapons and rings.
Being a martial arts film, it requires action, and this movie does not fail to deliver. But what I found most intriguing about this is how they were also able to incorporate a sense of grace and beauty within the fight scenes between Wenwu and Li (then again with Wenwu and Shang-Chi). It gives a sense of serenity that we don’t usually get from martial arts movies, and it adds to the story of family love that we see develop in the movie between parents and children, as well as siblings.
We also get to see how the role of ancestors plays a major part in one’s identity, where primary characters focus on how one’s name is not just a representation of one’s self, but also represents those before us, which is something that Shang-Chi and his friend Katy wrestles with during the film.
As much as I have enjoyed the story and the writing, I do have to criticize how the story seems a little rushed, especially since this is the first time that we, the audience, are experiencing the mystical world of Shang-Chi. In Doctor Strange, we were introduced into the mystical arts by going through the protagonist’s journey, whereas in this movie, we are sort of expected to dive right in, instead of being immersed into it. I have to imagine this has to do more with lack of running time than anything else, but it does leave us wanting and desiring to understand more of this mysticism. But perhaps we will be exposed to it in future films, and if that’s the case, then the writing here is fine the way it is. I was also critical at first about how the movie poorly utilized Xialing because she is definitely portrayed as someone who is just as strong and capable as Shang-Chi and wonder why it’s not shared between the two of them, but again, you’ll need to watch the entire movie through to see why this criticism quickly dissipates.
There were many great characters in the movie that many people can identify with and enjoy. A lot of fresh and new faces but with familiar stories; some familiar and surprising faces that end up being a joy to watch on the screen. But one of the characters that stand out for me is the antagonist, Wenwu. He has a bit of a familiar villain archetype that we see in Thanos (that is, you can understand why he is the way he is but don’t agree with what he’s doing). Throughout the whole movie, you see that he’s always strutting that line where he is trying to do what he thinks is best and even tries to change his ways multiple times. There was one particular scene that was moving where, in the middle of a battle, he still took the time to pay respect to a passing family member, which is not something you were expecting in the movie.
If you’re not familiar with the Shang-Chi comics but a huge fan of the MCU, you will still find a lot of great ties from previous movies and see the connections it is making with future movies. I won’t spoil too many easter eggs and ties in with the MCU, but I will say that there are ties to Iron Man 3 that were expected because of the Mandarin name, but you will also see a throwback to Killian and AIM’s test subject as well.
Overall, this is a great movie in and of itself, while also sits very well in the overall MCU both past and present. Shang-Chi is for everyone, from those who are a fan of the character's comics, to fans of the MCU and martial arts films. It will get your adrenaline going, touch your heart, and make you feel like you're watching the MCU unfold right in front of you. You’ll need to watch the entire movie to appreciate it, and it has left me excited to see more of Shang-Chi on the big screen.
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS: The Legend Rises
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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