Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

This movie made me realize a lot of things about the MCU.

I’m more interested in new heroes than in sequels. We haven’t had an origin story in a while, and origin stories are great. And Black Widow was really mediocre.

Knowing nothing about Shang-Chi beforehand, I didn’t know what to make of this until the trailers came out, at which point I got majorly hyped. I feel like that hype was completely justified. 🙂

Marvel doing a martial arts flick! Amazing! I could maybe complain that there was a little too much CGI toward the end — I mean, come on, his Chosen One power is being able to wake up the thing that will beat the thing we need to kill — but for the most part, this is a superhero movie about how you don’t need superpowers to be a badass, just cool martial arts skills.

Man, I don’t even know where to begin. Quite a few fights got me to go “ooh!” out loud. You like kaiju fights? We got kaiju fights, I ain’t even mad. In another comparison to Black Widow, this did the ‘family fighting together’ thing way better.

I guess let’s talk characters. Usually, the good guy is the least interesting character in his own movie, just there to win the day, but not Shang-Chi? Like, he’s almost that person. Almost. But he’s just so charming. Plus, he’s a real dork. He was a dorky-looking kid, and he grew up to be kind of a loser. Awesome. I dare say he’s just shy of being a himbo. Simu Liu was great at everything he did.

Katy. Oh boy. Best character in the film. She just jumps off the screen and strangles you with her not-giving-a-shit and not-being-here-for-weird-stuff. A total gremlin, I think the kids would say. I loved her.

And let me tell you something. She’s no one thing, but she is definitely The Love Interest. And me? I’m sick of Love Interests. A guy and girl show up on screen at the start of the movie, you know they’re getting together by the end. Call it Chekov’s Lust. But her and Shang-Chi? I actually wanted to see them get together by the end. Waipo had the right idea. :V

If anyone’s on the uninteresting side, it’d be Xiaoling, but even then, she’s totally cool, just a complete badass from start to finish. I liked her interactions with Katy. I really liked how they got to “he has a sister” really quickly, and then she was pretty much automatically part of the team.

I love how everyone in this movie had something to do. Even Trevor, but we’ll get to him.

Because first I wanna talk about the villain? Like, oh my god? All the buzz has been about Tony Leung’s performance, and it is 100% correct, he was fantastic. It’s hard to call Wenwu a villain even. I mean, sure, he’s an ancient, ruthless and powerhungry conqueror who leads a shadowy organization of assassins, but he doesn’t come off that way? He’s a hard-ass dad. He’s a man who’s hurting deeply over the loss of his wife. He couldn’t figure out what to do with his kids. He slipped back into his old, bad habits after the woman who straightened him out was taken from him. Goddammit, his motives were so perfect. He’s just sad, open to emotional manipulation by extradimensional squid-dragons. It’s a trap anyone could fall into.

I don’t feel like there’s ever been this kind of relationship between a hero and their antagonist in the MCU before. Tony Stark had to fight his father-figure in the first movie, but that’s really not the same. And by the end, they reconcile just before he dies, that was so great. I saw a film critic called him “a supervillain with a soul”, and they were absolutely right because you can see it get sucked out of him right at the end there. :B

Okay, so Trevor. I will say I’m glad they included him as basically an apology for the plot of Iron Man 3. (And not just an apology to the nerds, either.) It could have maybe been worded a bit better, but that’s nitpicking. That said, they paid too much attention to him. He’s basically Watson in Black Panther, the token white guy to keep the Anglos pacified. Except he’s not nearly as important, his appearance throws the tone completely out of whack, and did we need Morris? No, I don’t think we did. They could have done something else, use the pendants again or something. Like, it’s cool that they included this mythological Chinese beastie that Westerners are unlikely to know about, but it was very marketable. Transparently so. Trevor and Morris don’t bring the movie down, but I have to admit I’m sort of blanking them out in my memory as I write this.

But everything else? Great. Michelle Yeoh, always a pleasure to see her. Katy getting to do some cool stuff by the end. All the imagery, oh my god, the only complaint I have on aesthetics is that the scaffolding fight was too dark, everything else was amazing. And I think I even vibe with the Chosen One story here because, like, that doesn’t come up until the eleventh hour? It’s not even so much “the power was inside you all along” as “hey, this might work if shit hits the fan”.

Okay and like… It’s been a huge deal that this is a highly Asian movie. I, of course, am not Asian, but I do try and pay attention to what people say, and I caught a lot of stuff that they touch on, like Katy being more Americanized than her mother or grandmother, the talk about her Chinese name, difficulties speaking English and adjusting to life overseas. Fact is, we didn’t need Trevor past his apology cameo: Katy’s our American POV character, nevermind her heritage. And I’ve heard good things said from Asian reviewers, I’d just like to hear more getting into the nitty-gritty of how Asian-American life was portrayed in this movie.

Also, totally need the soundtrack.

This is a really, really good movie, and it’s weirdly got me hyped for Eternals, because hey, another set of characters I know nothing about! Fewer sequels, more new story! What the hell are those rings, even?

About Present Perfect

I'm a goddamn pony.
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