Spoiler-Free Review: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021) starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, & Michelle Yeoh

Shaun (Simu Liu) is a sweet/laid-back man in his mid-20s working as a valet parker at a fancy San Fran hotel, along w/ his bestie, Katy (Awkwafina). He has a small/humble apt. in Chinatown and is V close to Katy’s family (which incl. her grandma, mom, and teen brother). However, while on their commute one morning, we see that there is much more to this mild-mannered young man! Katy almost can’t believe her eyes as Shaun fights off a gang of (V tough/skilled) ruffians on the bus. This is a long and quite impressive action sequence which reminded me of Speed (1994). It turns out that Shaun has a (complicated) family and a painful past (which he will need to face). Thinking that his younger sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is in danger, Shaun and Katy fly to the glam/island city of Macau.

In the late 1980s, Stan Lee had considered a film/TV series about Shang-Chi, and had in mind Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), for the role. Shang-Chi was visually based on Bruce Lee. Liu was knowledgeable in taekwondo, gymnastics, and Wing Chun. For this role as the Master of Kung Fu, Liu trained in tai chi, wushu, Muay Thai, pencak silat, Krav Maga, jiu-jitsu, boxing, and street fighting. The young actor tweeted in December 2018 re: asking Marvel for the role; he later retweeted that original tweet on July 20, 2019, thanking them! Tony Leung (a star of Hong Kong cinema) gets his 1st role in an American film here as the multi-faceted villain (Wenwu); it’s his first English-speaking role (he speaks it fluently). The character upon who Wenwu is based, The Mandarin, wears 10 alien rings on his fingers. In this movie, the rings were revised to be Hung Gar iron rings worn on the forearms (5 on each arm); these are traditionally used in martial arts training to strengthen the arms/fists.

I tried to explore the reasons that could have led him to become who he is. He’s a man with history, who craves to be loved. He is a sociopath, a narcissist and a bigot, but he is also human and has a family. -Tony Leung

The director/co-screenwriter, Destin Daniel Cretton, is Asian-American and raised in Hawaii; he received critical acclaim for his indie movies, most recently- Just Mercy (2019) starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Kung Fu Hustle (2004), Tai Chi Master (1993), The Matrix (1999), Donnie Yen’s Ip Man films and Jackie Chan films were cited as influences on the martial arts action. Michelle Yeoh (who plays Ying Nan) starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as some viewers will recall; she brings gravitas to any role she takes on. Shang-Chi started filming in March 2020, but was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming resumed at the end of July and ended in October. This production was recognized as the 1st feature film to reopen Disney operations globally since the COVID-19 lockdown.

I heard a BIT re: this movie from some of the podcasters and YouTubers I follow. A few weeks ago, I got curious to see it after having convos w/ a few (much younger) gals on Twitter who have Asian heritage also. A few were already Marvel fans; others were curious to see a movie focused on Asians and Asian-Americans. Way back in 1995, the V handsome/martial arts expert, Russell Wong (who has Chinese/Dutch heritage), starred in the short-lived TV series Vanishing Son; I think that was the 1st time that I saw an Asian-American man as a lead anywhere! There are elements in Shang-Chi here that are unexpected in Hollywood movies, incl. “code-switching” which is done quite well by Shaun. Liu (in his 1st lead role) comes from Canada and speaks both English and Mandarin fluently. Much of the dialogue is in the Mandarin language. As the main villain, Leung does a fine job; you can see why he’s so respected in his field! Though some viewers were disappointed that Shaun and Katy didn’t end up having a romance, Cretton explained that he wanted to show a close/platonic relationship of a male and female (as this still is rare in movies).

2 thoughts on “Spoiler-Free Review: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021) starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, & Michelle Yeoh

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