Is Marvel’s Shang-Chi a breath of fresh air?

After a lackluster beginning to Marvel’s fourth phase, is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” the hit the studio was hoping for? (Photo: IMDP)
AMMAN — The 25th film in the Marvel cinematic universe and the second in Phase IV after “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” presents us with a new superhero — a martial arts master.اضافة اعلان

The movie tells the story of Shang-Chi, who has to face a past he though he left behind and is drawn into the world of the mysterious Ten Rings Organization.

The screenplay was written by Dave Callaham together with the movie’s US director, Destin Daniel Cretton, and Andrew Lanham. It tells us of the beginnings of Shang-Chi, son of the “real” Mandarin, a fictional supervillain from the Marvel universe.

Shang-Chi fled from the clutches of his father to lead a new life. But escape from the Mandarin is rarely as simple as all that.

The movie will take you on an adventure to explore a new universe. 

It feels as though Marvel wanted to do this one well. As the hero is Chinese, a good part of the dialogue is also, which plunges us directly into his world.

Only dialogue between non-Chinese characters in the film is in English.

This movie is filled with magic that is different from that of Doctor Strange, and populated with Chinese mythological creatures.

We get the impression that we are discovering new things and it is a breath of fresh air that blows over the Marvel universe.

The production

This film appropriates the universe in which it evolves, while adding well-placed visual references, easily moving from the cinema of Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, to that of Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee, and on to Jackie Chan.

It encapsulates all Chinese cinema and even some manga elements, like Dragon Ball Z. The choreography of the fights scenes are excellent and varied, very much in the Chinese martial arts tradition.

Bill Pope›s cinematography sets the tone for the whole production.

Between the “normal” universe of San Francisco and the Chinese universe of magic, he manages to pass from one to the other seamlessly, immersing us fully in each. The editing and pace are good despite a few small hiccups. In the end, the two hours and 12 minutes pass quickly.

The special effects are high quality, in particular that of the magnificent digital sets of Ta-lo, one of the Chinese god realms, as well as its creatures. Finally, the music of Joel P. West is a clever mix of traditional Chinese music with more contemporary sounds. 

The actors involved

Canadian actor, writer, producer, and stuntman, Simu Liu does the job. He plays a serious Shang-Chi when needed, but has good comedic timing and captivating martial arts skills.

Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, plays the tortured and grieving Mandarin.

He brings his know-how, his skills, and his a-game. Actress and rap artist, Nora Lum, known professionally as Awkwafina, (from “Crazy Rich Asians”), is the comedic asset in her role as Katy. Finally, Michelle Yeoh is always excellent in these kinds of films and this movie is no exception.

All in all, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a good movie from the Marvel stable and quite possibly the best new character introduction since Doctor Strange.

A solid movie, without being perfect, it will satisfy and entertain fans. A very pleasant surprise.

Is this origin story up to the challenge?
Xu Wenwu, known as the Mandarin, is entering the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU), the real one.

After being played by Sir Ben Kingsley, the comic book character gets a new cinematic incarnation, this time played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

Marvel seems to want to blow away the cobwebs on a saga that seemed at its end. 

In San Francisco, Shang-Chi lives a peaceful existence alongside his friend Katy. But, when the mysterious Ten Rings Organization sets out to pursue him, he will have to face his family heritage and reconnect with a past that he would rather have forgotten. 

The MCU’s phase four launch was not without its pitfalls, at a time when the pandemic has forced cinemas to keep their doors closed, Marvel had to review its lineup. 

While several of Marvel’s upcoming films appeal to moviegoers, like Doctor Strange 2 or Spider-Man 3.

There is no denying that there is a general feeling of weariness among Marvel fans, and it is in this post-pandemic context that Shang-Chi came out, designed largely to appeal to Asian audiences.

Disney tried that first with 2020’s Mulan.

However, Shang-Chi has a definite advantage over the adventures of Disney’s princess: the unprecedented nature of the plot and the potential gateway that could be made with Iron Man 3.

The 10 rings being an important plot element in both. In 2013, it was Sir Ben Kingsley who played the Mandarin in Iron Man 3

But in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” things are different. The Mandarin is a legendary figure who has made it rain and shine around the world for centuries.

The plot explores this through the notion of filial loyalty and heritage, just like in “Black Panther” or “Thor” to name a few. 

Cretton’s film manages to make some sparks.

The first part of the movie seems to break free from Marvel›s highly codified recipe and lays the foundations for an innovative and ambitious universe.

The flow is rather fluid. However, after a fairly refreshing hour, things turned sour. Shang-Chi falls back on a CGI light show.

Cretton’s inspirations were numerous. The film aims to pay tribute to martial arts films, as evidenced by the presence of Michelle Yeoh in the cast.

The director takes great pleasure in directing the action and it shows.

Efficiently and admirably choreographed, the hand-to-hand combat sequences are undoubtedly the strength of the film.

Even if “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” sometimes overuses slow motion, Cretton’s inventiveness delivers a fun and uninhibited film that ads color to the MCU.

A breath of fresh air

Since “Black Panther” (2018), Marvel Studios has offered films that were undoubtedly thrilling and addictive to watch, but unfortunately not always innovative. Locked into a narrative arc that began in 2008 with “Iron Man,” the franchise was clearly struggling to renew itself. 

Marvel’s series on the small screen, like “Wandavision” (2020) and others, whet fans’ appetites for feature films and fueled both their impatience and expectations of what is to come In Marvel’s drawers since the 1980s, Shang-Chi is undoubtedly the surprise of the late summer.

The hero, after leading a quiet life in San Francisco, finds himself confronting his past and the leader of the terrorist group from the Ten Rings.  

With such a poor and unoriginal synopsis, it was hard not to be afraid of this new Marvel movie.

But that was before considered the many strengths of the film. Far from being a conventional origin story, the movie dives into Chinese culture and pays tribute to the martial arts that invigorate the action scenes. 

The charm of the movie is not in the collective but in the individuality of each protagonist and character. The director managed not to lock them into conventional superficiality and instead offers us exciting characters. 

This movie may not revolutionize the Marvel universe, but that is not what was asked of it.

The film is a touch of freshness from Marvel. Admittedly, it follows the same Marvel formula: a touch of humor and a generic staging of an origin story that gives us a quick understanding of the hero.

However, the film presents Chinese cultural imagery through an American prism.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” saw returns of $196 million over the weekend, surpassing “Black Widow’s” $183 million to become the highest-grossing domestic release of the year so far.

The combination of an exclusive theatrical release and positive receptions from critics and audiences has helped.

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