Simu Liu is ready to kick butt and take names this weekend as the first ever Asian Marvel superhero to hit the MCU boxoffice. Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is epic, a non-stop action, heartfelt, and dramatic introduction to his world.
Shang-Chi isn’t an overachiever, which is one of the things we loved most about this film. He’s a total millenial slacker, and hey, who isn’t tired after all this generation has been through? Just a fun night at the karaokee bar please. But the universe has other plans, and Shang-Chi has to take on a mantle he’s been running from all his life.
One of the most incredible action sequences in the film kicks off near the top when a band of mercenaries attacks him for the mysterious pendant given to him by his mother. This sequence kicks off an incredible martial arts battle on a San Fransisco bus that leaves your jaw on the floor. The fight choreography is stellar! It earns our hero the moniker “Bus Boy.” “Shang-Chi” peppers its hero’s tragic back story throughout the film, but doesn’t fully acquaint us with him in the present before it jumps into his past. With two hours of story, it’s reasonable that the film had to jump forward to get to the meat of the adventure, but we hope the sequel shows us more of what he left behind, that he fought so hard to keep.
Awkwafina plays Katie in the film, and our one bone to pick, is her character was written much like her Peik Lin role in Crazy Rich Asians. Hilarious, obnoxious, and awkward. While we love Awkwafina, the filmmakers seem to have inserted her as herself into the movie pulling us out of the MCU and into our minds thinking “oh, look…Awkwafina is in a Marvel film…weird.” She furthers the stereotype of previous characters as she does double-duty as the hero’s potential love interest, an equally ill-fitting part. We say ill-fitting due to the lack of chemistry between her and Simu Liu. We just didn’t buy it. Also, having someone so average, with no training join in on a battle with no experience, felt…forced. This is why the hero leaves his friends at home. It would’ve been more interesting to find out she had been watching him, and was in cahoots with his father, only to come over to his side. Give her a better, more well rounded backstory. A normal (if somewhat klutzy) civilian fighting intergalatic demons? We didn’t believe it.
Shang-Chi gets so much right. It filled us with joy to see the ease with which Mandarin and English were interchanged, and used. Never once did it feel forced, it felt natural, like breathing. We don’t mind a subtitle. We live in a world where most people in the United States, and especially across the globle speak at least two languages. There is something about connecting with the words you hear. Millions of Chinese-Americans kids are going to feel seen. But this ripples to everyone who grew up speaking one language to their parents and another to the world. It resonates to your core, and this will surely endear audiences as they experience Shang-Chi and his journey, one many of us have experienced: balancing two identities.
The global pandemic might prevent Shang-Chi from matching its film box-office haul and initial cultural influence, with some movie fans perhaps not wanting to sit in a full theater just yet. It will only have a 45-day window on big screens before it is available on Disney Plus. In a normal world, we believe Shang-Chi may have shattered the Black Panther numbers, but we live in a weird in-between at the moment, as we struggle to find our way back to normalcy. If you do feel uncomfortable about the theater in a mere 45 days you will be able to see it with premiere access on Disney+. Lets see how this model plays out.
Pro-tip: There are TWO bonus scenes. Sit through those credits baby .
Also if you are a fan of the Shang-Chi comics, you can throw that storyline out. Like, OUT..out. These comics are littered with racial faux-pas full of asian sterotypes that this origin story does a great job of cleaning up.