Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings came out September 3rd, and is Marvel’s first superhero movie with an Asian lead. With the copious amount of East-Asian culture incorporated into the film and half of it not spoken in English, this film is an empowering source of mainstream representation for Asian people.
The film follows Shang Chi (Simu Liu) and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) as their normal lives get interrupted by assassins sent by Shang Chi’s father, Mandarin (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), the leader and holder of the ten rings. After allowing Shang Chi ten years to live life on his own, Mandarin sends his men to retrieve him and his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), in an attempt to “bring back” their dead mother and live as a family again.
From the sets, the fight scenes, the humor, this movie got almost everything right. It was a relief that Marvel decided to put as much time and effort into the sets as they did in other films. Everything was gorgeous to look at, and no part of the buildings specific to East Asian culture looked like it was made by a white man who had a Chinese-takeout box as a reference. The first fight scene with Shang Chi’s parents was my favorite, as the martial arts style that was used made it look more like a dance than a fight scene. The man who choreographed it, Brad Allan, is who the movie was dedicated to, as he passed away during the development of the fiim.
Even in the middle of fight and chase sequences, the humor present throughout the movie was a joy as well. It was certainly an experience to be crying for an hour and then stopping midway just to laugh at an offhand comment. I can also appreciate the fact that having Katy as a getaway driver was realistic, as she’s a valet driver who frequently goes on joyrides. The other comedic relief character was a call back from Iron Man 3, which was a fun throwback for Marvel fans.
The one thing this movie got wrong was the lack of marketing done. Although there were a good amount of trailers on YouTube promoting the movie, that was the majority of the promotion that Marvel did. Unless you were actively seeking it out or a die-hard Marvel fan, it was news to you that the movie even existed in the first place until late August. Simu Liu himself did promote the movie a ton—however, a lot of people believe that he alone was the backbone for the entirety of the movie promotion. Especially compared to how they promoted Black Widow and Disney+’s premier access, Shang Chi and the Ten Rings was given the crumbs of Marvel’s marketing capabilities.
Being half Filipino myself, it’s rare for me to watch a movie and see people that really look like me or share my culture. Although I’m not East-Asian, Shang Chi still made me feel represented. Mandarin truly resembled my Lolo (Filipino word for grandpa). There was also one scene at the beginning of the movie where Shang Chi sits down for breakfast with Katy’s family, and those small interactions were something I’ve experienced with my dad’s side of the family. The Asian-American youth will be thrilled that there’s a Marvel superhero that looks like them; it’s really important that in our diverse society, everyone sees themselves properly represented in the media.
Nearly everything about Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was amazing: from the set design, to the fight scene choreography, everything was a joy to watch. I would absolutely recommend seeing it, even if you have to physically go to a theater again. Just make sure that coming out of the movie, you actually pronounce “Shang Chi” correctly.