“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” brings together the very best of Eastern and Western storytelling [spoiler-free review]
By now, you would have probably seen the overtly positive reaction towards Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Critics who have already seen the movie (including myself) have already given it praise with little negativity in their critiques. The fact that Disney held its world premiere last week (almost a month from the wide release in theaters) is further proof that they know they have a hit on their hands.
So why all this confidence in the newest Marvel film? I’d argue it’s because of the near-perfect harmonious blend of Eastern and Western storytelling.
Like all of its previous feature films, Marvel once again took inspiration from its comic book history to introduce a new character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU). Shang-Chi first appeared in a Marvel comic back in 1973 as the comic book giant’s first series that featured an Asian superhero. However, beyond the character’s Asian descent and proficiency in martial arts since infancy, that’s the extent of where the comic book inspiration ends, and the MCU version begins.
In the MCU feature film, we very much get an Asian lead named Shaun (played by Canadian-Chinese actor Simu Liu), whose real name is Shang-Chi, and is proficient in martial arts fighting styles. We then get a deeper look at the origin story that is steeped in even more Asian culture.
For example, Shang-Chi is Asian-American in the film, residing in San Francisco, which is an area in the U.S. where many Asian people reside to this day. It’s in the first few minutes of the film that we get a lot of Eastern cultural traditions that are not shied away from like the use of the Mandarin language, showcase of true Chinese cuisine, the importance of family, and even some of the healthy and not-so-healthy cultural expectations like getting a specific job or getting married.
As for the Western story influences, that’s where the infusion of Marvel comics come into play. This very much is a Marvel movie in the sense that it has lots of action and a good-over-evil three-act structure narrative. People love the MCU because their stories revolve around variations of this story structure that usually have heart and purpose, which are the stories that people project themselves on and connect (therefore love) best to. That’s the reason why we love Iron Man so much; because we now miss him and laud him for his heroic act at the end of “Endgame.”
So like the first Iron Man movie, we once again get introduced to an obscure character who has the potential for us to fall for again. However, Shang-Chi is different for the fact that he embodies more of what the future of the MCU will become – a blend of elements as much as the Infinity Stones were to make something powerful and magical.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has everything that Marvel Studios and a Western audience has come to love these past ten years of the MCU. At the same time, it’s been heralded as the best Marvel film to date. And one can argue that much of that comes from what only Shang-Chi as a character can bring to it all.
The greatness of this movie culminates in the character of Shang-Chi himself, where he emerges as a hero that only became one when he confronted his dark past and became worthy of harnessing the powers of the Ten Rings and the legend and power it holds. It’s where his heritage meets his present circumstance that it all begins to make sense – and with it an amazing movie for everyone (not just Asians) to see and enjoy.
Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” comes to theaters on September 3 and later to Disney+.
Details (from IMDB) –
Runtime: 132 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language.
All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge courtesy of Marvel Studios/The Walt Disney Studios.