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September 6, 2021

Marvel Breaks Tradition with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

by Jonn Holland

There is an authenticity to a film based on Chinese culture and mythology with most of the roles filled by Chinese actors. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is that film. Much like The Black Panther had an all African or African American cast.

The authenticity is one of the things I like most about the film. It just wouldn’t work well if there where a Korean or Japanese actor playing a role meant to be Chinese. Or a Caucasian portraying an Asian, which has been done throughout Hollywood’s history.

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

For example, David Carradine played Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970’s television series “Kung Fu.” Famously (or infamously depending on your point of view) the legendary Mickey Rooney portrayed a very stereotyped Japanese character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

By casting Awkwafina, Simu Liu, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Michelle Yeoh and other Chinese actors in principle and supporting roles, Marvel has broken an old Hollywood practice. Yet, it is not the only reason I enjoyed this film.

The fight scenes are a culmination of many films to come from Hong Kong in the last thirty years. Specifically, different fighting styles used in films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Rumble in the Bronx,” or a more recent Hong Kong epic, “Shadow” are all present in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

When Shang-Chi is first confronted by his father’s men while riding a bus, he fights in a way very similar to Jackie Chan in “Rumble in the Bronx.” He is quick and acrobatic, slipping in and out of broken windows to evade his enemies, or spinning around a bar for an unexpected attack.

Katy (Awkwafina) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.

In a scene where Xu Wenwu (Leung) meets Li (Fala Chen) for the first time, the fighting is beautiful, powerful and seems as though they are dancing rather than battling one another. You get the impression they are making a deeper connection through their Kung Fu. It becomes clear with each attack, every counter, each is falling in love with the other.

In larger battles the fighting style becomes more warrior like. Precise and deadly.

Each of these styles are a treat to watch. More so if you have any Martial Arts experience.

I enjoyed the story most, but I have always been a fan of “the hero’s journey” it is a theme used in “Star Wars” “The Matrix” and even “Gladiator.” Famous novels have made use of that type of story telling and it makes sense to use it for this film.

We follow Shang-Chi, introduced to us as Shaun, a valet who works with his best friend, both content with doing as little as possible and singing Karaoke. Until Shaun is forced to confront his identity as Shang-Chi, his past and the legacy of Wenwu. Along the way, he and Katy each discover their destiny to become heroes.

(L-R): Katy (Awkwafina) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel truly hits the mark with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The fight scenes are exciting, the visuals and cinematography are fantastic and mesmerizing, the humor entertaining. This fan is not surprised the film has broken box office records for Labor Day weekend. Since opening, it has grossed $90 Million in the U.S. and Canada and $146.2 million worldwide according to IMDB and Box Office Mojo.

If you missed it this holiday weekend, check the film out this Friday or even on a discount night. It is well worth a family night at the movies, or a group outing with friends.

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