For months I had been looking forward to seeing Marvel’s latest film “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and I am glad to say it was worth the hype. This movie was a representational milestone for Marvel as it was the first-ever Marvel film with an Asian-American superhero along with the majority of the cast being from Chinese descent.
Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, possessed natural charisma while also providing some incredible action moments. He was nothing short of fitting for the role. Co-stars Fala Chen and Michelle Yeoh executed the choreography so beautifully that it felt like poetry in motion. It all felt like a huge tribute to martial arts. I didn’t want it to end because of how elegant and beautiful it was laid out.
We also see cameos from Wong, a character from “Dr. Strange,” and the Mandarin, who is the leader of the Ten Rings army, going all the way back to “Iron Man 3.” The connection in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from, “Shang Chi,” and “Iron Man 1,” was truly incredible and I definitely recommend watching the “Iron Man Trilogy” before seeing “Shang Chi.”
The platonic relationship between Katy (played by rapper/actress Awkwafina) and Shang was one of my favorite things in this movie as it gave us the perfect ratio of humor and action. Throughout the movie we see their friendship develop as Katy learns more about Shang-Chi’s childhood and upbringing. Katy not only adds a humorous touch to the movie but she is also an emotional rock for Shang-Chi as he struggles with traumatic memories from his childhood caused by his father. Katy also has one of the movie’s most pivotal scenes when she joins the battle at Ta-Lo. One of the fighters tells her to shoot the bow and arrow quickly and says, “ If you aim at nothing, you hit nothing.” In this scene, Katy has to shoot one of the flaming dragons to save the island, and she hesitates because she fears disappointing Shang like she perceives that she disappointed her family early on in her life. The fighter tells Katy to trust her instincts and to focus on her goals. This quote affected me deeply. It taught me that the only way to reach your goals is to aim higher and I believe that this will lead to some major developments for Katy and alter her future in the MCU.
Another aspect that I enjoyed was how Marvel presented a sense of reality by making a lot of the dialogue in a language other than English to show the heritage of the actors in the movie of Chinese decent. The language used was Liu’s native language, Mandarin, and the four main characters used a lot of Mandarin slang to provide casual representation. Even in the opening scene, Shang’s mother, played by Chen, tells him the history of the ten rings and explains, “cheng e yang shan” which is the option to suppress evil and use the rings for a better cause. Even though the movie included a lot of Mandarin vernacular to enhance the connection with Mandarin understanding watchers it still had subtitles for English-speaking watchers.
The artistry and the flow of the movie were well put together. Costume department director Kym Barret put together outfits that complemented the history of Chinese culture while also including modern elements. But, something about “Shang-Chi” that has been really messing with my brain is the crossover of actors between the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” We see so many similar actors like Yeoh, Awkwafina and Ronny Chieng. This really shows the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood. One of the next big Marvel movies, “The Eternals,” stars Gemma Chan, an Asian-American Actress who is also in “Crazy Rich Asians.” I hope that in the future of Marvel, we are able to see more underrepresented races and ethnicities along with the portrayal of Asian culture. Hopefully, “Shang-Chi” is only the beginning because I cannot wait for more.
Many people said that this movie would flop or that it was just a Marvel Experiment, but Marvel fans showed an outpouring of support, and the movie made a whopping $83 million on its first weekend and has now grossed more than $150 million.
My main takeaway from “Shang-Chi” is that all cultures have a deep-rooted history and your past is something you should celebrate and cherish with those you love. I urge you all to see this movie to support Asian representation in Hollywood. It was definitely worth the watch.