‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’: A Fresh Take on the Origin Story Trope

person will have to do the actual mathematics ( and I don ’ thymine doubt that person will ), but if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings international relations and security network ’ t the most action-oriented movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far — strictly in terms of proportion of time spent watching people beat each other up to meter spent vamping in the interim — it has to rank somewhere near the top. This is saying a set for a movie that does have a goodly dose of backstory to plow through, being a cross-generational, culture-forward beginning fib and family drama — a narrative with fleshy lifts on the exposition front and a batch of traps to avoid on the cultural presence .
But this is besides as it should be. I do actually go to an Iron Man movie wanting to see Robert Downey Jr. be a wise-ass for two hours ; if he has to do it from behind a masquerade for a few scenes, sol be it. Put the likes of Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung in a movie, on the early hand, and attach it to a kung-fu superhero, and my needs adjust accordingly. The promise of Shang-Chi, which is ampere much martial-arts movie as it is standard superhero lineage menu, is that a fortune of people will get their asses kicked : sometimes gracefully, even beautifully, and other times with the battering-ram baron you can expect of a movie advertising 10 rings at play. ( Frodo equitable had the one, and it was enough of a pain in the arsenic. )

Inevitably, person wants to unleash capital malefic upon the global, and person else wakes up one day to realize that it ’ s his destiny, province, and job to be the guy who stops the early guy. The success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was directed by indie film maker Destin Daniel Cretton ( Short Term 12 ), is that it manages to do everything expected of it : set up a new and, for many, not terribly companion ( or, because of date stereotypes, not always fondly remembered ) superhero ; break detached of those aforementioned stereotypes by giving the cultural legacies at its focus on a short weight ; satisfy audiences so used to the usual hero-journey theatrics of origin stories that phoning it in with “ the usual ” just won ’ triiodothyronine cut it anymore. And it accomplishes all of this efficiently and efficaciously enough that we indeed spend most of our clock watching people duke it out on the sides of skyscrapers, in belowground fight rings, on San Francisco public passage, and elsewhere. It ’ s a good movie. It ’ randomness got a credibly awful villain by way of Leung, a nice ensemble of desperate personalities ( played by Simu Liu, Meng ’ emergency room Zhang, Yeoh — even Awkwafina gets in a commodity kill when it counts ), and a dose of actually-poignant syndicate drama undergirding all the remainder. The rest — a afforest tangle that collapses in on people, dragons, souls getting sucked out of bodies, roles for women that are more than the criterion gender-flipping lip-service — is a cherry on top.

It ’ randomness credibly best to leave the intricacies of the life of Xu Shang-Chi ( Liu ) to the movie. Suffice it to say he and his baby, Xu Xialing ( Zhang ), descend from a bequest of power and myth. In one recess, there ’ s their mother, Ying Li ( Fala Chen ), defender of the obscure greenwich village Ta Lo, which, buried in bass in a forest, happens to be all that stands between humanity and its at hand end. In the other corner : their beget, Xu Wenwu ( Leung ), a centuries-old warrior who, empowered by a fabulous determine of bangles known as the Ten Rings, has been able to hoard money and power, fucking around with governments, building his own united states army and the like, for years and years. He can ’ thymine be defeated. then he sets out to find Ta Lo, the final frontier for a man who has everything. There, he meets Mom. And, in one of the movie ’ s most enjoyable scenes — a leaf-strewn snatch of pleasing wuxia fighting intercut with “ I think I ’ m in sexual love with this woman ” close-ups — he gets his fuck handed to him for the first fourth dimension in centuries.

Fast-forward to the present. Bad things have happened. Wenwu, who ’ five hundred set aside his ten Rings for love — which entails becoming deadly — has been given well rationality to traipse back over to the night side. And the kids that the couple had in the meanwhile, Shang-Chi ( Shaun, to friends ) and Xialing, have grown into consummate warriors in their own right — the young world because his founder saw him as the direct heir to the Ten Rings, the young woman because her father ’ south miss of interest became, in a skew way, an opportunity to train herself. And fend for herself. When we meet adult Shaun, he ’ s a hotel valet in San Fran pretending to be a normal guy, working alongside his girlfriend, Katy ( Awkwafina ), and contentedly failing to make anything of himself. Xialing, meanwhile, runs a fighting gang in Macau. The siblings are estranged.

Things are not allowed to remain that way, of course. Fates must be confronted. Legacies wrestled with at long last. function of the fun of Shang-Chi is that it goes through these motions with an actual sense of concern in them. The obvious frame-up of the thwart daughter, the never-heir, last getting to have her say doesn ’ metric ton just end there ; it becomes a manner of exploring an entire enate bequest akin to its own evenly brawny way of being and fighting. The bad-dad routine — unusually compel, thanks to Leung — grows more menacing with time, gnawing at Shang-Chi ’ s sense of who he can even become given the things he ’ second done and seen .

A few late, celebrated movies about asian american life ( Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell, and the like ) have openly wrestled with the trope of younger-generation Americanization ( and its attendant individualism ) butt against parental and ancestral ideals, immigrant ideals, the kinds of stories that make the children of immigrants feel terminally caught between two worlds. Shang-Chi doesn ’ triiodothyronine sidestep those questions. ultimately, family matters ; lineage matters ; young people are expected to make something of themselves. But the movie ’ south got questions about precisely those older ideals, and counterpoints, and some bracing variations. It ’ sulfur in this context that Xialing, rocky and resentful at first ( for good reasons ), emerges as more than fair a side story to Shang-Chi ’ s overarching Chosen One travel ; it ’ second what makes a fit of Shang-Chi being trained by Ta Lo defender Ying Nan ( Yeoh ) not only a pleasure to look at — Yeoh ’ second however got it — but interesting to think about. She ’ randomness imparting a kind of wisdom that life under the hitchhike of the Ten Rings is excessively beastly to understand.

The actual fights are satisfying, but they ’ re about excessively enamored of the wonders of splashy CGI, to the point that the exponent of substantial animalism — even the hardheaded, mystic exponent of great wuxia effects, in which reed-thin trees would barely buck under great warriors ’ weight, because that ’ s grace — gets muddled and deadened. then goes our hard, faster, louder earned run average ; the movie ’ s trying to make sense in its own moment. The drama built into these battles, the sense that something personal is always at stake, make up for it to an extent. The movie is solid ; even the Ben Kingsley bit, which is predicated on a pretty good in-joke if you know your MCU history, doesn ’ triiodothyronine wholly wear out its welcome ( but it comes close ). And the leads, Liu and Zhang specially, make enough of their roles for me to crave a future for the franchise, one that leaves the throat-clearing of origin behind, if only to see how far they can go with it — or rather, how far Marvel will let them go.

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Wenwu ( Tony Leung ) and Shang-Chi ( Simu Liu )
©Marvel Studios 2021.

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