I like all the MCU films (well, apart from the 1st Thor 😛), but some of them can lack a sense of wonder in terms of its worldbuilding (the opposite of Lord Of The Rings say), and a feeling of imagination within its action. That’s much different with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, although to say a lot about why potentially risks spoilers.
A newcomer Simu Liu plays Xu Shang-Chi, who in shame of his past moves to San Fransisco to start a new life, switching his name to Shaun but then having to confront his past as his (terrorist) father turns up in a haunting. What’s worth addressing first before delving into all this is naturally Shaun has special abilities (although more honed over time martial arts rather than superpowers), and onscreen it makes all the visual difference that Liu did a lot of his own stunts, which is a great start.
What pretty much sucks though is he’s clearly a great actor but when having to stand up to his father (Tony Leung, playing Xu Wenwu), the writing lacks the capacity to allow us naturally being able to follow him throughout, on charismatic terms especially. Given Liu tweeted in 2014 “Hey Marvel, great job with Cpt America and Thor. Now how about an Asian-American hero?”, and followed up with “LOL” after getting the role five years later, it’s definitely unfortunate.
Still, almost in making up for this, Awkwafina as his best friend Katy utterly chews up the scenery every second she’s on screen, essentially serving as a secondary protagonist. And I haven’t even properly got to Shang-Chi’s father yet. Xu Wenwu, having once gone by the name The Mandarin, is a coup to Shang-Chi‘s presumed reputation given that Leung is an internationally respected arthouse actor. The Ten Rings as a terrorist organisation certainly doesn’t play into media stereotypes, and the antagonist’s goal even plays out closer to that of an Anakin Skywalker-style tragedy, rather than thin MCU villains of the past.
And speaking of The Mandarin, I’m going to spoil that (seriously, this is a spoiler) ben kingsley returns as Trevor from Iron Man 3. Granted naturally he’s more comic sidekick here than truly crucial to the narrative, but seeing his storyline wrap up, while making us double-reflect on terrorist representation (not at a cost of distracting from this movie’s beauty though) is quite a coup. Indeed, without adding a spoiler, it’s thanks to him that we get a bridge into the film’s true beauty, almost comparable to a live-action version of Hayao Miyazaki’s flicks.
So, all I’ll otherwise add then is as a result, post-Thanos Marvel certainly seem like they’re increasing on the variety side of thematic and aesthetic approaches towards their product. At certain points there could be an element of conservatism within their risk-taking before. Now that no longer appears the case, should I so boldly predict? So go watch this at a cinema while you can, Your Cinema Needs You!