It’s not very often that I lend a review to a superhero film. Don’t get me wrong I am a massive fan of them, I did spend the first lockdown watching all the Marvel superhero films in order. However, usually, there isn’t much to write on.
Culturally there have been some huge landmark moments – Black Panther being the obvious one – but alas, I was not writing at the point of that film release. Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (Shang-Chi for short) on the other hand has created a moment in cinematic history that will *hopefully* change Hollywood for the better. One single film has broken down several barriers and provided the long-awaited representation of Asian Americans in a superhero film (in a lead role with a predominantly Asian cast).
It goes without saying that it really shouldn’t have taken this long and it is also not to say that the release hasn’t gone without issues. However, issues aside, I loved this film. I have mentioned it to every person that will listen and I truly think it is one of Marvel’s best single story, standalone films in a long time.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton the film is based of a story written by Cretton, Andrew Lanham and Dave Callaham. The film started to be developed in 2001 but only started to come into fruition in 2018. So, to say this was a long awaited release is an understatement.
The film features a stellar cast, with Simu Liu playing the central character ‘Shang-Chi’ alongside Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, Ben Kingsley, and Tony Leung Chiu-wai (to name a few).
The cast itself is phenomenal. I am particularly used to seeing Awkwafina in a comedic role, which don’t get me wrong she wasn’t lacking in this particular performance but you could tell that wasn’t her sole purpose. Instead she brought that awkward, under appreciated yet confident woman to the forefront of this story. In fact I appreciated how much she wasn’t a ‘sideline’ wing woman. Her character is treated with the upmost respect.
Tony Leung on the other hand brought his wealth of experience to the screen with a stellar performance as the overbearing and strict father, the ‘Mandarin’. The depth to this character alongside the dark storyline to which he plays a key part made for a movie that had loads of interesting and fleshed out narratives. Something which adds to the impact of the overall film.
Put simply, you cannot write or talk about this film without mentioning the special effects. Like mentioned in this article, the visual effects team pulled it ‘out the bag’ with Marvel’s first dragon fight, between The Great Protector and Dweller in the Darkness, the use of the ten rings and of course Morris, the headless furry friend of Trevor. It was the first thing I commented on once finished with the film and the thing I bring up the most when discussing it. The effects uplifted and pushed this film from any odd superhero film (to some degree) to a standout, sensory experience. In essence, Marvel’s Shang-Chi hit all the right notes when it comes to an action packed film.
I am aware I have gotten this far and haven’t touched upon Simu Liu’s performance. I think that is mostly because it deserves a space of its own. The way the character Shang-Chi is written means Simu’s character has multiple layers (yes like Shrek) and can be highly relatable to multiple people. He’s portrayed as an emotional man who is not afraid to confront his demons and stand up for what he believes is right. In that sense this figure is imperative to the film, he’s giving young boys, particularly young Asian men, someone to look up to and aspire to be. Similarly to his ‘sister’ Xu Xialing who is a strong, fierce independent woman who fights her own battles and wins every time. These two performances are figureheads of the film who without a doubt make an entrance.
Not only was Simu’s performance impressive but this was his first ‘big’ film. However he is also a stuntman, writer and producer and has notably popped off on the internet for being in a large amount of stock photos (I mean you’ve got to make money somewhere, right?). What got me was the spirit behind the film, Simu has put every bit of himself behind this, even when Marvel’s marketing budget was shockingly low. And you can tell in interviews just how much he loves his job and this film. Now that’s something you can get behind!
So, even with the odds stacked against them (ahem Marvel and Disney) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been more than successful. But to add to that it hasn’t just been successful for a Marvel film, when considered as just a ‘film’ it was highly entertaining and engaging. Filled with twists, turns and layers, you are in for a treat when you set your eyes on the opening sequence to the final credits. On that note Disney have announced you will be able to watch Shang-Chi on Disney+ on November 12th. It’s definitely one I am going to watch multiple times, simply to just appreciate all the effort that went in to creating this visual masterpiece.
Now if that doesn’t convince you to watch it, I don’t know what will.
Let me know your thoughts below!
Sending lots of love,