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“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Reviews
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2021 10:00 pm    Post subject: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Reviews Reply with quote

I finally got around to post some “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” reviews (better late than never) Very Happy. Below is the first one one I read a while ago. There will be many more to come...

Review: The real star of Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’ is not who you think it is

By Justin Chang, Film Critic, Los Angeles Times Aug. 23, 2021 9 AM PT

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Should I be delighted or depressed that a new Marvel superhero joint will soon be introducing a lot of people to one of the greatest actors and last true movie stars of his generation?

Since “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” left me in a pretty good mood, I’ll go with tentative delight. The actor in question is the Hong Kong screen titan Tony Leung, who isn’t the movie’s lead — that would be Simu Liu as Shang-Chi — but is every inch its star. Leung is one of those performers who moves through the frame with impossible grace and sometimes doesn’t move at all; if there are other actors who can express more by doing less, who can so magnetize the camera with a flicker of an eyebrow, they aren’t coming to mind.

Not that he has nothing to do here. Leung’s character, Xu Wenwu, is a centuries-old Chinese warlord and the bearer of those legendary 10 rings, Tolkienesque armbands that have made him immortal, invincible and ever lustful for more power. He’s the latest incarnation of the Mandarin, conceived in 1964 by Stan Lee and Don Heck as a mustache-twirling Fu Manchu baddie, though his more recent depictions have skewed away from Asian stereotype. Casting Leung amounts to an ingenious feat of reclamation: This Mandarin is not just a villain reborn but also a prismatic summation of the actor’s remarkable (and until now, Hollywood blockbuster-free) career.

When Wenwu takes over a shadowy criminal empire, you might glimpse echoes of Leung’s most significant villain before this one, from Ang Lee’s wartime drama “Lust, Caution.” When he stumbles onto a secluded village and locks eyes with a skilled warrior, Jiang Li (Fala Chen), their seductive hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart combat feels like a nod to Leung’s gorgeously abstracted martial-arts moves in Zhang Yimou’s “Hero.” And when Wenwu marries Li and then loses her, his obsessive longing casts him in Leung’s most enduring cinematic image: the figure of eternally thwarted desire from Wong Kar-wai masterworks like “Happy Together,” “In the Mood for Love” and “2046.”

I may be overstating the cinephile’s case for this movie, especially since the reckless juxtaposition of words like “Marvel” and “cinema” has been known to start an argument or two. Nevertheless, these allusions and associations feel like the product of some shrewd dramatic calculus by the director Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12,” “Just Mercy”), who wrote the script with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham. Leung’s presence gives the movie an extra-cinematic kick, a winking but resonant connection to an inexhaustible Asian canon of romantic dramas, underworld thrillers and martial-arts epics. It also provides an arresting entry point into a hero’s origin story that tries, with some success, to rise above Marvel business-as-usual.

Significantly remapping the origins of its comic-book hero (who was created in 1973 by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin), the movie leaps ahead several years to catch up with Wenwu and Li’s grown son, Shang-Chi (Liu). Despite his extraordinary parentage, he’s living a fairly ordinary life in San Francisco. Mom is dead and Dad is nowhere to be seen. Shang-Chi works as a valet driver along with his friend and fellow slacker, Katy (Awkwafina, in typically strong sidekick form), whose skills behind the wheel come in handy when a bunch of thugs ambush them one day on a bus. It’s a shock to Katy and likely some in the audience when her goofy best bud (whom she’s always known as just “Shaun”) unleashes a dazzling panoply of kung fu moves — abilities that were drilled into him by the father who abandoned him, but who now appears to be calling him home.

There are times (not enough, frankly) when “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” suggests an unusually demented comedy of cross-generational Asian conflict, in which the usual clashing sensibilities — East and West, traditional and modern — play out on a world-threatening supernatural stage. (The early nods to “The Joy Luck Club,” from the San Francisco setting to a brief cameo by the great Tsai Chin, are surely no accident.) In this interpretation, Wenwu looms as the big bad tiger dad to Shang-Chi, the gifted underachiever who’s gone West and gone soft. Caught somewhere in between is Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi’s estranged sister, whom he tracks down at an underground fight club in Macao.

That club (where Ronny Chieng makes an amusing bookie) becomes the site of a most unhappy family reunion, though not before a scene of vertiginous nighttime acrobatics on some rickety outdoor scaffolding. The action sequences here are a cut above the norm for this franchise, and I mean that as no huge compliment, given how indifferently staged, drably lighted and wholly unexciting most Marvel action sequences tend to be. It’s gratifying if unsurprising that more care has been taken with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” given its roots in classic action cinema. The fight scenes, often backed by the percussion of Joel P. West’s versatile score, draw on myriad influences, from the artful kineticism of Tsui Hark to the slapstick fisticuffs of Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow. The movie may not live up to those ambitions — the action is still too aesthetically anonymous, too CG-polished — but it’s nice that it has them to begin with.

It’s nicer still when Leung’s Wenwu returns, rocking a mandarin-collared white suit (Kym Barrett’s costumes are a highlight) and kicking this tale of an epically dysfunctional family into high gear. Speaking in a higher-than-usual voice that rumbles with torment, rage and pop gravitas, Leung sets the vengeful tone for a drama that’s Oedipal in its overtones and elliptical in its structure. Wenwu’s reemergence triggers several flashbacks to his wife’s untimely death and the grim fallout on their kids: We see young Shang-Chi being cruelly warped into a killing machine, while young Xialing is just as cruelly ignored. That doesn’t stop her from becoming a skilled, self-taught martial artist in her own right, intent on rebuking — and eclipsing — her father’s patriarchal disdain.

The movie’s own blind spots aren’t as easy to overcome. Despite the occasional “Captain Marvel” and “Black Widow” that comes down the pike, the Marvel movies tend to practice a feminism that’s both self-congratulatory and weirdly hesitant — a failure that feels all the more glaring for the filmmakers’ obvious attempts to address it. In drawing attention to Xialing’s personal history of neglect, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” insistently telegraphs its awareness of its own shortcomings. Short of squeezing her name into its already overextended title, the movie can only do so much to grant brother and sister the equal weight they deserve.

Xialing, frankly, may well deserve the lion’s share. Shang-Chi is the designated hero, but as inhabited by Liu, who’s better in motion than at rest — and at his best opposite Awkwafina, with whom he works up a sharp, funny rapport — his emotional arc comes only fitfully into focus. It makes sense that he would feel guarded about his past, but Liu seldom finds the necessary tension in that reserve. Shang-Chi has demons galore, having been abused, brainwashed and betrayed by the monomaniacal Wenwu, but those demons are more often articulated than fully expressed. This Shang-Chi seems to have inherited much of his father’s martial-arts prowess but not nearly enough of his charisma.

That’s neither a fatal flaw nor a surprising one, and not just because few actors here or anywhere can hold the screen against Leung. Reductive as the comparison may be, it’s hard to watch “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and not flash back on the superior “Black Panther” — not just because both movies represent a departure from the mostly white history of Hollywood superheroics, but also because they’re bound by a dramatic structure with its own built-in strengths and limitations. Here, as in that earlier picture, an appealing, somewhat recessive hero is surrounded by many whirling, diverting parts — parts that Cretton and his crew (including the director of photography William Pope and the editors Nat Sanders, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir and Harry Yoon) have smoothly marshaled into a self-contained world.

That world must, of course, fit snugly inside a larger one, and from time to time you’re reminded that you’re watching not just a movie but an installment, a feature-length cog in the relentless Marvel machine. Doctor Strange’s monkish sidekick Wong (Benedict Wong) shows up, as does another company player whose identity I’ll keep under wraps even if the internet hasn’t. Pockets of Sue Chan’s production design are strewn with references to the five-year “blip” from the last two “Avengers” movies.

But “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is most enjoyable when it shakes off the tedious franchise imperatives and forges its own path. The movie’s late-breaking highlights include Michelle Yeoh’s performance as Ying Nan, a mentor figure to Shang-Chi and Xialing who dispenses pearls of wisdom with customary poise and offers a warm counterweight to Leung’s brooding chill. Ying Nan pops up in Ta Lo, a secluded Chinese village that occasions some of the movie’s more striking visuals (including a dynamic joyride through a leafy labyrinth) and paves the way to the movie’s exciting mountainside climax.

Although tailored to the usual Marvel specifications — apocalyptic stakes, bloodless casualties — this endgame also has a distinctly personal undercurrent that seems to transcend the parameters of this particular story. Without divulging too much, this isn’t the first time a Leung character has stood before a mighty wall of stone, pondering depths of love and loss that only he can see or hear — a quick but not-insignificant reference in a movie whose porous sense of cinema history is the richest thing about it. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” may be far from perfect, but it knows that sometimes it takes a god to play one.

Last edited by yitian on Wed Dec 15, 2021 5:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2021 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is how and why I read this review first Laughing

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2021 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Applause Very Happy Great recommendation and praise for your role as Wenwu thumbright ...worldwide !
Very well done, dear Tony ! I'm sooo pleased for you love

Many thanks for your effort, yitian flower
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2021 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Safran wrote:
Great recommendation and praise for your role as Wenwu...
Very well done, dear Tony ! ...

Totally agree! I had so much fun going to movie theaters repeatedly, just to watch Wenwu love .
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2021 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is the second review article I read ... Very Happy

A Superhero Movie That’s Worth Seeing for the Villain Alone
Marvel’s Shang-Chi is the first Hollywood project for one of Asia’s biggest film stars. The result is pure magic.
By Shirley Li August 23, 2021

Shang-Chi ultimately belongs to Tony Leung, one of the biggest movie stars in Asia. (Marvel Studios)

The opening scenes of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings paint a rich portrait not of the film’s titular hero but of its villain. Played by the Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung, Wenwu (a.k.a. the Mandarin) is the owner of the magical Ten Rings. As such, he’s an immortal man burdened with, as the saying goes, the great responsibility that comes with great power. He wields his abilities brutally for thousands of years—leading armies, building terrorist organizations, and becoming less and less human as he sculpts the world according to his vision.

And then he meets a woman named Jiang Li (played by Fala Chen) from a mythical land called Ta Lo. Their first fight, a wuxia-tinged sequence set in a pale-green bamboo forest, transforms from a fierce battle into a dance of stolen glances and sensual touches. They fall in love. They start a family. He locks away the rings.

Superhero films don’t normally begin with a love story, let alone a lush, fairy-tale-like dive into its antagonist’s life. But Shang-Chi is no ordinary superhero film. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), Marvel Studios’ latest—and first, after 24 movies, to feature a predominantly Asian cast—is not so much an origin story as it is a mythological saga of a family torn apart by immense power and loss. The film follows Wenwu and Jiang Li’s son, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), who runs away as a teenager after his mother’s death. He’s trying to live a normal life in San Francisco, working as a valet by day and singing karaoke by night, when his father catches up to him with a plan to bring him home.

To tell the family’s long, tumultuous tale, the film skips through time and hops across worlds, offering a delightful melange of genres and influences. Sometimes Shang-Chi is a straightforward martial-arts drama, all fistfights and meticulous choreography. Other times it’s a high-fantasy epic, full of stunning scenery and complex lore. At one point, a dragon—a dragon!—shows up.

Like the Ten Rings, these disparate elements constantly threaten to careen out of orbit; some moments in the film seem overwhelmed by the business of world building. Luckily, Shang-Chi finds its much-needed center of gravity in Leung as Wenwu. The actor, one of the biggest movie stars in Asia, may be an unfamiliar face to mainstream American audiences, but in his first Hollywood role—something he’s reportedly been searching for since 2005—he practically runs away with the film. Wenwu is a supervillain who’s lived a life of crime and conquest, and in every scene, Leung imbues him with cool confidence. He’s equal parts charismatic and menacing, as if daring his scene partner to challenge him. Every line sounds like it comes with a knowing smirk. “I told my men they wouldn’t be able to kill you if they tried,” he tells Shang-Chi after a fight. “Glad I was right.”

But Leung also deliberately softens the character. Given his looks, he has rarely been cast as an antagonist in his feted career in Asia; as the star of Wong Kar-wai’s masterpieces about unrequited love, the actor is unmatched when it comes to exuding pathos and longing. So when he does play a villain—as he did in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution—he uses his magnetism to expose his character’s vulnerabilities, deepening what would be, in another performer’s hands, an uncomplicated depiction of a monster. In Shang-Chi, Leung slowly and precisely transforms Wenwu, revealing him to be no mere crime lord but a tragic romantic lead still grieving Jiang Li, clinging to conspiratorial thinking for guidance. He’s an avatar for loneliness, a living fossil of a man who had been excavated by love only to return to a life of unknowable power and no one to share that experience with.

His performance anchors the film and expands the potential of the comic-book villain. Of the dozens of Marvel antagonists who have appeared on the big screen, few—Loki, Thanos, Killmonger—have managed to make a similarly memorable, sympathetic impression. Even fewer characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe wrestle with the tragedy of doomed love; these movies have been notoriously prudish, often downplaying romantic story lines. Thus, rooting Wenwu’s motives in heartbreak rather than in domination, destruction, or revenge feels singular for a Marvel film: Shang-Chi’s central conflict goes beyond the classic one of good against evil, and far beyond the facile one of a son quarreling with his father.

In fact, Shang-Chi and Wenwu don’t necessarily disagree; Cretton repeatedly illustrates how the pair, after Jiang Li’s death, have coped in harmful ways. Both abandoned Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi’s sister. Both slipped into old habits—Wenwu put the rings back on, while Shang-Chi ran from fights, preferring to hide. Their disconnect is, in the end, one born of miscommunication and misunderstanding, of being unable to express themselves to each other despite their shared hurt. “Stop hiding,” one character advises Shang-Chi late in the film. “It only prolongs the pain.”

This may all seem like grim territory for a comic-book movie to cover, but parts of the film may resonate for Asian American audiences in particular. Shang-Chi is careful never to identify where Wenwu’s headquarters are set in Asia, but it underlines how an emotional chasm can develop between the younger, emigrant generation and the one that stayed behind: While Wenwu has spent the years since his wife’s death living in the home they shared, Shang-Chi has settled on the other side of the world. That distance has created a gulf of bitterness that’s only exacerbated by cultural differences. Shang-Chi has Anglicized his name to Shaun, for instance, but Wenwu opposes such renaming. Shang-Chi remembers his mother by wearing a pendant that she gave him as a gift. Wenwu dutifully waits until the Qingming Festival, a holiday in Asia during which families sweep tombs and pay respects to the deceased, to visit Ta Lo. While Shang-Chi fights his armies, Wenwu pauses to light incense at Jiang Li’s shrine.

The film’s meditation on grief tracks with the MCU’s apparent thematic goals in Phase Four, its collection of projects after the Thanos-centric Infinity Saga. Shang-Chi, like the Disney+ series WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and therefore contends with the way people recalibrate their lives after trauma. The MCU is exploring a world in which people have become hyperaware of how vulnerable they are to inexplicable events like the population-halving Blip.

Still, Cretton never lets Shang-Chi collapse into humorlessness. Liu’s charming Shang-Chi is surrounded by an ensemble of strong supporting characters, including his quippy best friend, Katy (Awkwafina); his aunt and mentor, Jiang Nan (Michelle Yeoh); and a few surprise guests who will certainly thrill longtime Marvel fans. The film revels, too, in staging its martial-arts sequences in inventive settings—a moving bus rolling down the hills of San Francisco, the scaffolding beside a skyscraper—and in getting to unveil a pivotal, previously hidden corner of the MCU.

But Shang-Chi ultimately belongs to Leung. He’s not just the star of the film’s opening—in his hands, Wenwu’s devastation catalyzes the action and permeates every frame, turning the film into a tragedy. He becomes the character around whom all others revolve, whether he’s in the scene or not. That’s how sorrow works, after all; it radiates. And Leung’s performance, like so many in his career, lingers long after the credits end.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2021 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't remember which one I read after the first two above. I am going to re-post everything appeared in Metacritic on the first day (August 23rd 2021), followed by selected reviews posted there on later days. Although most reviews are positive, few are not so. We get a taste of all flavors Very Happy .

One thing I am pretty sure, which is I have never seen anyone who was negative about Tony's performance. Very Happy king

Shang-Chi & The Legend of the Ten Rings Review: A Unique & Emotional MCU Origin
Bolstered by a star-making performance from Simu Liu, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gets the MCU's newest hero off to a promising start.
By Rachel Labonte Published Aug 23, 2021

Marvel Studios may have taken 2020 off due to the pandemic, but its 2021 has proven bigger than ever. Just two months after this summer's espionage-themed Black Widow, the MCU is ready with another solo project: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi introduces a brand new hero to the franchise, and it's already clear he will appear in several more projects down the line. Non-comics fans might not be as familiar with Shang-Chi, so it's a good thing that his first movie is unique, compelling, and emotional. It also just might be one of the best origin stories in the MCU. Bolstered by a star-making performance from Simu Liu, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gets the MCU's newest hero off to a promising start.

Shang-Chi starts not with the titular hero, but with the other part of the lengthy title: The Ten Rings, an infamous criminal organization previously mentioned in various Iron Man installments. The group is led by Wenwu (Tony Leung), AKA the Mandarin, the power-hungry wielder of an actual set of ten rings which bestow him with incredible abilities. Wenwu is especially important to this story, because he's Shang-Chi's (Liu) father. In the present day, Shang-Chi has spent the past several years living in America well outside of his father's vicious grasp. However, an attack on a San Francisco bus leads Shang-Chi to realize his past isn't as far behind him as he hoped, sending him on an adventure with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) to reunite with his estranged family members and confront everything he's been running from.

On the surface, Shang-Chi holds most Marvel's biggest trademarks: quippy one-liners, references to the broader universe, and pulse-pounding action. At the same time, there are plenty of beats that feel like they could fit into a standard domestic drama. Cretton, along with fellow screenwriters Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, have structured a good chunk of Shang-Chi to be a family saga wrapped up in a superhero movie. Flashbacks are woven into the present day storyline, offering deeper shades to Shang-Chi, Wenwu, and Xialing (Meng'er Zhang), the badass sister of the title hero. It's a unique structure for a Marvel movie, but it serves the story well. Shang-Chi's family history runs deep, and by actually exploring it through the flashbacks, Cretton, Callaham, and Lanham give the impression that all of these characters have always been a part of the MCU.

By starting Shang-Chi with Wenwu, Cretton immediately sends the message that he won't be like past Marvel villains. The franchise is known for churning out underwhelming bad guys, but Wenwu manages to be among the very best. With a deeply personal goal that resonates with his entire family, the Mandarin is chilling and cruel, yet retains just enough humanity that audiences can feel some sympathy. It helps that Hong Kong icon Leung is the one playing him; with his steely gaze and physicality, he makes Wenwu even more compelling. And yet, Shang-Chi truly does belong to Liu and his new hero. Carrying a heavier backstory than most Marvel heroes, Shang-Chi balances the typical humor of the franchise with his inner demons, and Liu skillfully portrays his conflicted nature. There's no question: Liu is a star, and it'll be quite exciting to see him continue to flourish in the MCU. Shang-Chi features an impressive cast all around, with Zhang and Awkwafina both getting their own moments to shine, be it via action sequences or deeper character moments, these women are far from one-dimensional. Cretton treats both of their personal conflicts with equal respect. Michelle Yeoh, though arriving later in the film, is a welcome presence as a key figure for Shang-Chi and Xialing.

Shang-Chi has a great deal of things working in its favor, from the gorgeous locations (beautifully rendered by production designers Sue Chan and Clint Wallace) to the epic score from Joel P. West. At the same time, it falls into a few traps Marvel movies are often susceptible to. After giving so much time to a conflict rooted in family and grief, Shang-Chi's final battle becomes another CGI fest with world-ending stakes. The movie is far stronger when it keeps the focus on its themes of identity and loyalty, which sometimes get lost in the bombastic action. Make no mistake, Shang-Chi's action scenes truly are the best in the MCU, with the early bus fight and a precarious battle on spindly scaffolding in Macau being standouts. The final fight is thrilling, too, but it loses some of the movie's overall emotional weight. Additionally, while the women are all fierce and well-developed, Shang-Chi's handling of the hero's mother (Fala Chen) presents mixed results. Her story ultimately follows a tired trope, but she has more dimension than some previous Marvel moms, which helps.

Ultimately, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a great origin story in a franchise that has more origins than any other. Liu is destined for Marvel greatness, and the two post-credits scenes offer some hints about what lies ahead. MCU fans will find much to enjoy about this new offering, while casual viewers who prefer more personal stories might find themselves drawn to Shang-Chi's struggles. There's been much discussion over whether Shang-Chi should've been made available on Disney+, and indeed that would've ensured more people could see it. However, there's no denying it will make for a thrilling watch on the big screen, so hopefully those who feel safe enough to do so will venture out to see it. After all the delays, this is a movie well worth the wait.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2021 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review: Save for Tony Leung, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Is a Bust
On screen, Shang-Chi is rotely defined by the same “gifted kid” impostor syndrome as so many other self-doubting MCU heroes before him.
By Jake Cole on August 23, 2021

Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings into sharp focus an issue that’s become increasingly prominent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it has continued to dig deeper and deeper into a catalog that dates back to 1939, looking for what else might be available for adaptation, Marvel Studios is increasingly sanding away the distinctive character traits that led to considerable critical and commercial acclaim for Marvel Comics publications starting in the 1960s.

The essence of this film’s take on Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, is mostly the same as his comic-book counterpart, who made his debut in Special Marvel Edition #15 back in 1973: a martial-arts expert trained in various fighting styles by a father revealed to be a power-mad supervillain. But if Shang-Chi’s backstory and how it induces a moral crisis felt idiosyncratic on the page, here the superhero is rotely defined by the same “gifted kid” impostor syndrome as so many other self-doubting heroes in the MCU, from Star-Lord to Spider-Man.

Narratively, the film does devote a great deal of time to delving into Shang-Chi’s warrior grooming at the hands of his centuries-old father, Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who has been a conqueror throughout history thanks to his mastery of rings of magic iron that make him unbeatable in combat. Having long ago run away from home, Shang-Chi is lured back into his father’s clandestine empire by the man’s desire to revive his dead wife (Fala Chen), with or without the aid of Shang-Chi and his estranged sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang).

This premise could have been fairly described as Shakespearean if the film didn’t consistently shy away from Shang-Chi reckoning with the trauma that he’s faced since childhood to generically focus on our reluctant hero gradually embracing his superhuman powers. It doesn’t help that Liu fails to convey the profound misgivings that Shang-Chi might have about accepting his role as a fighter. His is a curiously affectless performance that can’t begin to hold a candle to what Leung brings to the film. Swinging remarkably between resilience and vulnerability, Leung effortlessly conveys the calm malice with which Wenwu asserts his absolute power as well as the anguish that the man feels over the loss of his wife.

Also unfortunate is that the details of Shang-Chi’s trauma are doled out by way of increasingly superfluous flashbacks that bring the narrative to a crawl every time the film is starting to work up a head of steam. The emotional flatness of these scenes is only underscored by the characteristic Marvel quips, mostly delivered by Shang-chi’s best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), in what may be the most perfunctory display of comic relief in the MCU to date. There’s also the matter of the film’s laughable moral calculus, which finds it equally reprehensible that Wenwu would brutally condition his son from pre-adolescence to become a killer and that the conqueror would chauvinistically refuse to put his daughter through the same training.

All of this might have been elevated by the presence of martial arts scenes driven primarily by complex practical stunts. But even the most grounded choreography is plainly being aided by computer effects, and the chopped-up close-ups on the action consistently reduce the sparring characters to a blur. As per usual for the MCU, the final act devolves into loud and chaotic visual nonsense, with the Oedipal reckoning between Shang-Chi and Wenwu giving way to an incomprehensible conflagration of magical beasts and largescale warfare that only further emphasizes the lack of interest that the film has in its ostensibly probing human drama.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings retcons Marvel history to strengthen the MCU
Maaaarvel Kooooombat
By Joshua Rivera Aug 23, 2021, 12:00pm EDT

The Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings begins like a fairy tale. Long ago, an ancient warlord discovered 10 magic rings that gave him immense power and immortality, which he then wielded for conquest. For a thousand years, he accumulated power, until one day, he fell in love, and set the quest aside. Then his love was lost, and he returned to his warmongering in secret, losing his family in the process. The story continues in a present-day setting, when he decides it’s time to bring his family together — violently.

This mythic opening neatly sums up all the many aspects Shang-Chi attempts to fold together, mostly successfully. In its first half, it’s a remarkably well-paced action film, and a serviceable family drama with comedy elements. In its second, it’s a surprising but languid fantasy film where, as with Black Widow before it, the expectations of a Marvel finale clash with the rest of the story. That said, as the first MCU film set firmly post-Endgame since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home (a Sony production), Shang-Chi is refreshing in how little it’s concerned with big-picture universe-building details. Instead, the movie focuses on an extremely personal story that also implies exciting things about the future of Marvel movies.

At first glance, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) seems like the most normal dude to headline a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He lives a low-key life in San Francisco under the anglicized name “Shaun,” parking cars at a boring hotel valet job by day, and drinking with his best friend Katy (Nora “Awkwafina” Lum) at night. They’re a bunch of slackers capable of much more, something friends and family remind them of constantly, to no avail. Then assassins come for Shang-Chi on a bus, and the audience and Katy learn that Shang-Chi was trained from childhood to be one of the deadliest fighters alive — and he is still extremely good at combat.

The bus fight occurs astonishingly early in Shang-Chi, and it’s a solid encapsulation of what the movie is best at: lengthy spectacle that merges effects-heavy action with exciting fight choreography and personal stakes. With a few small exceptions and one very large one, every fight scene in Shang-Chi advances the audience’s understanding of characters and their relationships. Often, the fight scenes do this better than the plot, which is heavy with exposition and eager to move its characters from one scene to the next, from San Francisco’s Chinatown to the neon nightlife of Macau, China.

Narration introduces the audience to Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi’s father, but viewers get to know him through combat — first as a warlord who single-handedly humbles entire armies, then as a man on the threshold of a forbidden land. When he meets its guardian, Jiang Li (Fala Chen), their blows slowly become steps in a dance by which they fall in love. Similarly, the bus fight reveals who Shang-Chi really is. Throughout the film, physical confrontations are the means by which he struggles against his family history, and the tragedy that forced him and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) to leave home and not see each other for a decade.

At its heart, Shang-Chi is not a story of heroes and villains, but a family drama concerned with three people coming to terms with long-suppressed anger and grief. Director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, Just Mercy), who co-wrote the script alongside Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, unspools this drama tenderly and with plenty of humor — anchored by a tremendous performance from Tony Leung, who brings a level of subtle humanity to every moment he’s on screen.

When the color drains from the frame and it’s time for the clichéd third-act CGI battles, it feels like a bit of a betrayal. In its second half, the movie pivots to become a fantasy film that takes its heroes to a gorgeous land of myth, at the cost of gradually introducing a threat removed from the story’s personal stakes. It’s all in the interest of an extended fight against CGI creations that, while unlike anything on screen in a Marvel movie thus far, still swallow up the human characters at the heights of their respective arcs.

The shift also does a disservice not just to Leung and the other performers (some of whom will be a shock and a surprise for longtime MCU fans) but to the work of cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix), who presents the action clearly, without succumbing to the Marvel impulse to shoot battles with plain wide shots and zero subjectivity. Fights are observed through windows, against lights, from behind and above and underneath. The stellar work of Shang-Chi’s international team of fight coordinators is not lost on the screen.

When Shang-Chi owns its place in the Marvel universe, it’s more interested in retcons than future developments. The film massages prior plot points from the Iron Man films regarding the Ten Rings terrorist organization and its puppet leader, The Mandarin. It develops a cohesive new status quo that mocks the racist stereotypes of the source material, while providing a new and less problematic way forward. It’s a fascinating bit of IP housekeeping that aims to turn an embarrassing product of its time into a viable 21st-century franchise, and credit is due to Cretton and Callaham for crafting a script that achieves these goals while still telling a human story. Its light world-building reinforces the notion that Shang-Chi isn’t just a character in this universe; he’s tied to its future in a way that may be made more explicit in future films.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also ends like a fairy tale. Some of the characters, home again after their miraculous journey, return to their mundane lives, wondering how they’ll ever live in the dull day-to-day world they came from. Then the obvious answer presents itself: They don’t have to. Things are going to be very strange and exciting for them from here on out. Hopefully, that’s true for us, too.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2021 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review
The Prodigal Son returns.
By Francesca Rivera Posted: 23 Aug 2021 12:00 pm

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings strikes a tricky balance: reflecting the real-life complicated conflict between first-gen Asian American children and the wishes of their immigrant parents while also serving up the dynamic action scenes that the MCU is known for. Director Destin Daniel Cretton skillfully juggles both of these lofty goals, logging an entry in the Marvel universe that’s both emotionally resonant and delightfully exciting enough to outweigh its occasionally uneven visuals and unfulfilled lore.

Simu Liu makes his mark on the MCU as its latest superhero, Shang-Chi, who’s being targeted by his father Wenwu (an enthralling Tony Leung) and his The Ten Rings, the weapons and secret crime organization. When his father’s vision collides with Shang-Chi’s moral compass, he has to decide to finally take responsibility and stand up to his father, while also attempting to forgive himself for his part in the sins that first tore their family apart. In this, the movie tries to balance a handful of big ideas, some of which deal with issues squarely attuned to the children of immigrants: Whose path do you follow, the one designed for you or the one you make for yourself? How do you grieve unmet expectations in any aspect of your life? It’s an interesting, but obvious, way to frame the hero’s journey for a major superhero film starring actors of Asian descent.

Speaking of our leads, Liu and Awkwafina have easy and genuine chemistry that slyly sells the idea of Shang-Chi (Shaun, to his American friends) and Katy as a capable duo for many adventures to come. The classic immigrant parent question of when will they get real jobs (i.e. grow up) hangs over them throughout the film, but especially with Katy, who is vocal about everyone having a calling except for her.

Shaun and Katy’s friendship anchors the film, and it’s refreshing to have a duo with already built-up trust, making it easier to believe that she’d still stay by his side after learning about his secret life. Their relationship also allows them to maneuver a bus (a la Speed) through the hilly streets of San Francisco to safety, or to parkour through bamboo scaffolding in a scene that is as exhilarating (if not quite as humorous) as the scaffolding scene in Rush Hour 2. Both our leads are equally skilled (to a point of deus ex machina with Katy) making them a formidable pair who can handle anything the MCU has to throw at them – and, rest assured, it throws plenty at them in their introduction.

On this note, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has the best action scenes of the MCU to date, which is pretty unsurprising when you consider the nature of its protagonist’s powers. Fights are filmed with a kinetic energy that moves fluidly with the action and keeps us right in the middle of it all, showcasing and giving credibility to Shang-Chi’s natural instincts and training. The wuxia fight scenes in the mystical land of Ta Lo, especially between Wenwu and Xiang Li (played with graceful warmth by Fala Chen) lean into gorgeous qinggong choreography to highlight the realm’s magical realism. And as a means of characterization, it’s nice to finally see an emphasis on different martial art styles as a physical and mental practice in the MCU. Learning from the way his mother fought not only helps Shang-Chi face off against his father, but completes the hero in a way that allows him to access the heart of the dragon within himself.

Yet, it’s unfortunate that while the fights are well-shot, some of the other visual effects are uneven. When it comes to singular details, you can sense the impact and the energy of the literal Rings in action, or the weightlessness of leaves and water. Ta Lo’s scenery, however, looks flat and cartoonish, with harsh lighting - breaking any sort of illusion that filming took place anywhere other than a greenscreen stage. It’s a small thing, but when the third act is set entirely in this pocket dimension, it becomes distractingly bad. Luckily, we get a stand-out villain arc that sees us through some of these moments.

Tony Leung’s Wenwu is one of Marvel’s most sympathetic and complex antagonists, whose misguided actions (with well-intentioned motives) pit him against his children. Yes, he has used the Ten Rings for a millennia to accumulate power, wealth, and an army, but what does it all mean if he has no one to share it with? When Wenwu first meets (and fights) Xiang Li, who becomes his wife and mother to his children, it’s literally life-changing! Electrifying! Hot! And just… so deeply romantic. The cinematography of their fight slows down to highlight their longing glances, and we’re reminded of how well Leung plays a tragic romantic hero when Xiang Li dies.

It’s unresolved grief (which is love persevering, after all) that drives Wenwu into desperate action, and it’s up to Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who have already moved on, to stop him. How Wenwu handled and reacted to her loss is a little less romantic and predictable, crediting all his goodwill on her existence rather than working on those qualities himself. The focus on Wenwu’s emotional arc ends up sidelining our main character for longer than would be ideal but also allows Shang-Chi to become the hero we come to know him to be.

Interestingly enough, for all its cameos and references to the larger MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t looking for external validation for its existence. Shang-Chi’s story stands completely on its own, and you almost forget that he – and Katy – are set to become important players in the MCU. What does remind us that this is a Marvel movie is the withheld lore about the Rings and Ta Lo’s magic that are clearly being saved for a later reveal. Sure, the movie still works without a deep dive of what the Rings do, but this habit of Marvel leaving out basic information that’s needed to understand the importance of an object is starting to get frustrating. An otherwise strong film is weakened by the MCU’s insistence on taking advantage of our trust that these things will be explained in later projects.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton skillfully connects Shang-Chi’s personal stakes with the larger MCU by way of an emotionally complex villain, a stellar cast with fantastic chemistry, and incredible action sequences. The visuals of a magical world like Ta Lo could look more uniform, and the lack of lore – seemingly withheld for future MCU reveals – is frustrating. But these shortcomings aren’t glaring, as the rest of the movie has so much to offer. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings carefully avoids the usual Asian-versus-Asian-American cultural expectations of dealing with grief and assuming responsibility by forgiving generational sins and claiming a future where destiny and choice can coexist.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2021 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Review: Fresh MCU Origin Story Boasts Franchise’s Best Action Yet
Destin Daniel Cretton's first MCU outing packs a massive punch, and new franchise stars Simu Liu and Awkwafina add heart and humor to boot.
Kate Erbland Aug 23, 2021 12:00 pm

It starts with a legend: many centuries ago, a seemingly regular man was gifted with a set of 10 magical rings (origins: unknown) that allowed him to tap into a power beyond all human comprehension. For nearly a thousand years, this gifted man (played by Tony Leung, one of the world’s most gifted men) used the rings to gather the wealth and influence he desired, plus an army of decidedly meat-headed meanies who lived to carry out his wishes. But by the power of love — or at least, the necessary exposition such a love story brings with it — the man was temporarily freed from his nefarious activities, until old enemies returned and pushed him to once again tap into both the rings and the bad attitude they inspired in him.

Such is where Destin Daniel Cretton’s alternately fresh and convoluted Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” begins, and with a cute kid being told the story of a money-mad bad guy who changed (kind of) to make the world a better place (sort of). No wonder young Shang-Chi is so conflicted: his literal origin story is messy. Thankfully, Cretton zips past this awkward (yet necessary) opening to bring us into Shang-Chi’s (or “Shaun,” as he’s gone by since he slipped into America and attempted to assimilate) current world, which is a far cry from any fairy tale involving magic, mystery, and mean dads.

Shang Chi is played with the appropriate mix of bluster and heart by Simu Liu, a former stuntman who positively nails the awe-inspiring action sequences in the film, yet still manages to feel like the kind of dude who could slip into regular society without arising much suspicion. When we first meet Shang-Chi, he’s well-aware of his odd legacy (he was, of course, the kiddo being told the story of the guy with the rings, who happens to be his dear old dad) and eager to hide away from it. He’s spent the last decade scrapping by in San Francisco, working blue-collar jobs, living in a neat but small garage apartment, and spending time with his witty best pal Katy (Awkwafina). If you’ve never seen a film about special people with hidden abilities and shocking backstories, he’s the last person you’d expect to be descended from a thousand-year-old kind-of bad guy who drove the kiddo to the brink of sanity after training him to be an assassin during his tween years. That old story!

But such is the power of Cretton’s film, one rife with tropes and archetypes and familiar beats that, more often than not, is wildly entertaining and a wholly energizing entry into the cookie-cutter world of the MCU. Shang-Chi might want to hide from who he really is, but the real world (read: the world of superheroes and magical rings and universe-splitting villains, the world he lives in) is not satisfied with such basic desires. Shang-Chi already knows something is amiss when a bunch of wacky bad guys attack him and Katy on a bus — how wacky? one of them is known as Razor Fist, and his fist is indeed a razor. He’s forced to defend himself in ways not exactly befitting your friendly local valet guy.

Bolstered by the awe-inspiring fight choreography of recently deceased second unit director and bonafide stunt action badass Brad Allan (the film is dedicated to Allan, who passed away earlier this month), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” doesn’t just boast the best action of the MCU, it manages to do it with two (two!) eye-popping action sequences that unspool before the film’s first act is over. Infused with the grace of martial arts, the raw power of a star who actually practices his own stunts, and the kind of cogent sequences that will surely make audiences marvel at knowing what the hell is going on at any given minute (apparently, a major ask in the world of the MCU), “Shang-Chi” may be built on familiar lines, but in the moments when it’s allowed to be its own film, it’s a vastly different (and vastly superior) film compared to its predecessors.

It is, however, still on the hook to fit into many of the same boxes. After it becomes clear that Shang-Chi is a) not a regular guy and b) bound for a major face-off with his conflicted dad, the hero-in-the-making and his BFF head off to Macau to try to put the pieces together. It will be somewhat hard, mostly because the film’s middle sags with exposition and backstory, as its screenwriters attempt to maneuver around a few finicky problems. Chief among them is that the film likely would have fared better had it been split into two features: a more grounded origin story that plays up the charm and excitement on offer during its first twenty minutes and a bombastic film dedicated to the flexing of Shang-Chi’s prodigious muscles. But this is an MCU origin story, and that’s a subset of the series that leaves little wiggle room.

Once landed in Macau, Shang-Chi (who, during a very funny bit on the plane ride there, manages to dispel a variety of lies he’s long fed Katy, including his actual name) and Katy soon find themselves plunged into an underground fighting ring, that just so happens to be run by Shang-Chi’s righteously pissed little sister Xialing (a delightful Meng’er Zhang in her first role). Both Shang-Chi and Xialing have fled the Lil’ House o’ Assasins run by heartbroken daddy Wenwu, and it seems that he’s eager to bring the entire clan back together ASAP. And we mean the entire clan, including their dead mom Jiang Li (played in copious flashbacks by the riveting Fala Chen), who he is convinced is calling out to him from behind a mystical wall.

Sounds like a lot? It is, and that’s before the mystical wall — located in Ta Lo, the magical hidden village from which Jiang Li hails — and its loaded backstory are revealed. Ta Lo’s residents (who, if a lovely, quite long bit of storytelling leads us to believe, might actually be aliens?) have spent centuries protecting their secretive little pocket of heaven, training up their young ones (like Jiang Li, and her older sister, played by Michelle Yeoh) to be fierce warriors, all in the expectation that they will have to fight the evil that they (and their dragon, coined “The Great Protector”) once managed to lock up behind it. That’s the evil that’s calling for Wenwu — or is it? — and his mad quest to open it up, destroying Ta Lo, inevitably puts him and his two heartbroken kids on different sides of a fraught fight.

While Shang-Chi’s battle between who he is and who he wants to be, who can protect and who he can’t, and what it all means in the emotional milieu of his family sounds like standard-issue superhero stuff, Liu infuses these struggles with a real believability and charm. It’s only bolstered by the addition of Katy (Awkwafina, funny as ever, but ably handling a character with her own internal struggles) and Xialing (who will make you wonder why the heck a girl can’t wield the 10 rings, or at least why the siblings can’t split their birthright).

Less easy to swallow are the many issues inherent to Wenwu — introduced as an all-star level villain who literally spent entire centuries screwing with the world for his own gain before the love of a good woman inspired him to settle down — which are effectively papered over through casting (again, Tony Leung!), rather than insightful writing. Blame the demands of the MCU and its origin stories: there’s got to be friction (even if it doesn’t always make sense), and it’s sure as hell got to lead to a no-holds-barred battle royale that has both emotional and physical pain on the line. There are only 10 rings, and only one man can wield them. You see where this is going.

Still, there are surprises throughout the film, and while Cretton can’t always balance the comedy (the appearance of an old MCU stand-by, played for laughs) and the drama (Wenwu’s grief, the required references to the so-called “blip”), the moments when they do merge are joyous. So too is the world-building, particularly in the gritty underbelly of Macau (can we get some extended scenes from Xialing’s wild fight club?) and the lush majesty of Tao Lo (which is teeming with adorable magical animals and some rich history). The emotion may be messy, but it’s also real: of course Shang-Chi and Xialing would feel the way they do; Wenwu’s reaction to his deep grief is the most realistic part of his character.

All of these parts converge for a final battle that, much like the film it exists inside, tips between genuinely wonderful hand-to-hand combat and busy CGI; its more grounded elements and the requisite “movie magic” are constantly at odds here, perhaps more than any other MCU film since “Iron Man 3.” It sets up plenty of predictable parts to come, but the pleasures of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” when it’s allowed to be its own thing are deep. As the MCU only continues to expand, Cretton’s film should be pointed to as a sterling example of what’s possible when a hero is allowed to be his own man, on his own terms. The rings? They’re just a prop.

Grade: B
Disney will release “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in theaters on Friday, September 3.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2021 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings review – Marvel’s martial-arts action-fest is spirited fare
Lead Simu Liu and a gallery of scene-stealing support acts, including Awkwafina, make this a fun ride
Peter Bradshaw Mon 23 Aug 2021 12.00 EDT

Marvel has now given us its first east Asian lead, in the form of the young martial arts master Shang-Chi, engagingly played by Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who graciously puts up with a gallery of scene-stealing supporting turns who are variously iconic, charismatic and better at comedy.

This is an action-adventure fantasy in which the stylised, anti-gravity qinggong fighting styles of wuxia fiction are effectively brought into alignment with Avenger-type superpowers. It’s an entertaining, if generically pretty familiar MCU movie with incidental funny roles and ironic quirks to provide approachability and relatability and leaven the seriousness. There’s a final, drawn-out spectacular battle which is 15% too long in the traditional manner, featuring an evil giant dragon which, like the Death Star, has a strategically vulnerable spot.

Shang-Chi is a young man who is in denial about his vocation and his magnificent warrior destiny; he lives in San Francisco, calls himself “Shaun” and works as a humble valet-parking guy at a swanky hotel along with his best friend, who may yet be more than a friend (the movie is itself undecided on this score). This is Katy, amusingly played by Awkwafina, who is incredulous when she realises that there is more to her friend than he has been telling her, and is especially derisive about his fake name being so unimaginatively close to the real one.

A scary and mysterious crew of tough guys corners Shaun and Katy on a city bus, demanding the pendant that Shaun always wears around his neck; this leads to an enjoyable, rip-roaring close-quarter punch-up, as the vehicle careers downhill out of control. It also leads to a revelation: Shang-Chi’s father is in fact a legendary immortal in possession of 10 occult rings of huge power.

In the original comic book series, Shang-Chi’s dad was in fact Dr Fu Manchu, the now justly discredited racist yellowface figure famously (or infamously) portrayed on screen by Peter Sellers at a low career point. In this retconned universe, Shang-Chi is the son of someone called Mandarin, played with steely coolness and charisma by Tony Leung, and it is Mandarin who has his eyes on the pendant. In fact, the word “Mandarin” could itself be regarded as problematic and orientalist, but the movie itself has a witty and spirited rejoinder to these points, dredging up a surprise character of the same name from a previous MCU movie, who has something to say about racist typecasting in the acting world.

And so Shang-Chi and Katy are to encounter Shang-Chi’s long estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) who runs a cage-fighting syndicate in Macau, and also Shang-Chi’s aunt Jiang Nan, played by Michelle Yeoh, who is the effective matriarch of the family’s home village in China. She is also the sister of Shang-Chi’s late mother, whose tragic death is the source of all this drama, and whose memory fatefully haunts Mandarin’s every waking thought.

Inevitably, there is a mid-credits sting that folds Shang-Chi back into the larger MCU picture, and establishes the essentially genial and good-natured comic strand which is an important part of the film: it is different from the theatrical seriousness of, say, Black Panther. The mythical component of Shang-Chi is closer tonally to Thor. It’s an entertaining romp, although the formulaic quality is becoming a little obvious. Another Shang-Chi might well have to say something more about what action the young hero took with regard to his mother’s death (a flashback on this point seemed to be withheld from us), and it will have to give Awkwafina the starring role she deserves.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is released on 2 September in Australia, and 3 September in the US and UK.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2021 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Film Review: Marvel’s Martial-Arts Saga Nails the Characters and the Kicks
Tony Leung delivers what might be the superhero genre’s best performance yet in a film that blends dazzling fight choreography and dramatic depth
Todd Gilchrist | September 2, 2021 @ 9:55 AM

This review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was first published on August 23.

Marvel Comics creators Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin originally conceived martial-arts hero Shang-Chi as a loose composite of the imagery and mythologies of Bruce Lee, Caine from “Kung Fu” (whom Lee created), and Sax Rohmer’s pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu. If Marvel Studios has thus far made slow progress in developing solo adventures for its many superheroes of color, it takes another successful stride, if not quite as sizable as “Black Panther,” with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a film that builds simultaneously on the lexicon of 50 years of Hong Kong action films and the thematic boilerplate of MCU origin stories.

Simu Liu (“Kim’s Convenience”) injects an earnest, charming humility to the character’s introduction into Marvel’s world of larger than life conflicts, while Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh provide Hong Kong bona fides as his father and aunt, both of whom are eager to indoctrinate him in the secrets of wuxia storytelling.

We meet Shang-Chi (Liu), hiding in San Francisco as a hotel valet under the name Shaun, an obfuscation his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) later rightfully points out is a lazy way to keep a low profile when his father Wenwu (Leung) is a thousand-year-old warrior with super-powered bracelets, endless resources, and foot soldiers around the globe working for his organization, the Ten Rings.

After defeating a team of henchmen that came in search of a necklace given to him by his late mother Jiang Li (Fala Chen, “The Undoing”), Shang decides to reconnect with his estranged sister Xialing (newcomer Meng’er Zhang), worrying that she will be targeted next. He arrives in Macau to discover not only that she does not need his help, but she has also established a not-so-secret empire of her own as a fight broker; the postcard that he thought she sent is actually a decoy from Wenwu to obtain her matching necklace as well.

With Katy in tow providing a running commentary for each new development, Shang and Xialing get captured by their father, who brings them to his stronghold to divulge his reasons for seeking their childhood keepsakes: Wenwu hopes to find a path to a village hidden deep in a neighboring forest where he believes Jiang Li is being kept prisoner. Despite their troubled upbringing under Wenwu’s alternately merciless tutelage of Shang and seeming indifference to Xialing, the two of them are torn about whether or not to help him. But when they find an opportunity to access the village — and learn from their aunt Jiang Nan (Yeoh) the real secret behind the voice summoning their father — Shang, Xialing, and even Katy join the fight to stop Wenwu, in the process confronting a family legacy that their father hopes to fulfill and that they are determined to rewrite.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Just Mercy”) and cowritten by Cretton, his frequent collaborator Andrew Lanham, and David Callaham (“Mortal Kombat”), “Shang-Chi” oozes with lore from classic Asian martial arts movies (themselves drawn, in turn, from classic cultural storytelling tropes) from the ‘70s to today and enhanced with the best computer-generated imagery that money can buy. You can see echoes of everything from “The Big Boss” to “House of Flying Daggers” (and plenty of Shaw brothers and Tsui Hark movies in between) in the storytelling and set pieces; for the uninitiated, it offers an overview of the genre, almost like a Quentin Tarantino movie, whose influences and inspirations will be fun to uncover and explore on their own after future viewings.

More importantly, the writing trio has created a fully fleshed-out character with Shang-Chi rather than a caricature or pastiche of the martial-arts icons on whose shoulders stands their hero, who possesses the abilities to defeat any opponent coupled with a motivation to avoid fighting at any cost.

At the beginning of the film, Shang is torn between wanting to forge his own path and yielding to the filial piety baked into his upbringing and reinforced through years of grueling martial-arts training. Indeed, it’s receiving his first “adult” assignment from his father (to murder the man responsible for his mother’s death) that instigates his journey of self-discovery. What the film does well is to showcase how Shang discovers that he’s able to achieve fulfillment not by ignoring the past but by confronting it head on, and eventually seeking balance between his father’s indefatigable thirst for power and his mother’s pursuit of harmony.

That this is represented in some really extraordinary fight choreography only adds dimensionality to Shang’s journey; as Simu Liu exploits his opportunity as a relative unknown on screen to the advantage of a character who audiences are watching discover himself, Cretton also leverages Tony Leung’s veteran status (not just as an occasional Asian action star but as one of the most accomplished and gifted actors in the world) to lend gravitas to the choices that lead Shang towards his inevitable path to superhero-dom.

Put simply, Leung never does too much in a scene, and he conveys subdued romantic longing better than almost any actor in the last 40 years. Here, he gives what is probably the best-ever performance in a superhero movie, certainly for a villain; with his possession of the Ten Rings, Wenwu has all he could ever want, fears nothing, and desires only that which transcends all human abilities, enhanced or otherwise — his wife back by his side. Leung conveys effortless authority leavened with a distant sadness, and it makes viewers care, both about him and about the overall stakes of Shang’s evolution, so that when the film pivots into world-ending sequences where monsters and martial-arts choreography become more important than the characters, audiences can still be invested, or at least less put off by familiar climactic tropes.

The action is all terrific, from Shang’s first display of skill in an accordion commuter-bus brawl to a showdown with the forces of evil on the back of a mythical flying dragon. Unfortunately, “Shang-Chi” does not always flow smoothly between its scenes of exposition and setup and these explosive set pieces, as Cretton repeatedly prefers first to study the characters and their motivations and then to put them through their paces, instead of doing both at the same time. It’s honestly an admirable choice in a genre designed quite literally for cutting to the chase, but it’s a pacing better suited for “Crouching Tiger” or one of Zhang Yimou’s action-oriented films than Marvel’s. Some of these reflective moments undercut the urgency of the final battle, much less Shang’s encroaching self-discovery.

Still, Liu leads the cast with a workmanlike understatedness that evokes the sturdy invisibility of someone like Matt Damon, a comparison that seems more apt since Cretton has indicated that he took inspiration from “Good Will Hunting” for the hero. As his platonic best friend Katy, Awkwafina rides a thin line between appropriately pointing out the incredible nature of each new situation in which they find themselves and undercutting the emotional weight of a story that needs to be at least a little bit serious, but she delivers a youthful charge that better connects this film to, say, Paul Rudd’s “Ant-Man” entries and the other Marvel films better than reams of interconnected mythology ever could. Meanwhile, Meng’er Zhang is a great acting discovery playing Xialing, a character who deserves to be lionized and spun off like Shuri was after “Black Panther,” and Yeoh once again supplies a unfussy, stabilizing presence both on screen and as a performer that grounds all of the mystical mumbo-jumbo and makes it seem believable.

Following the cathartic reset of “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel’s Phase Four films cannot help but feel a little bit like they are struggling to recapture their predecessors’ magic and narrative momentum. Even if it was long overdue, or maybe precisely because it was, “Black Widow” still felt like the remnant of a timeline before heroes had reached total market saturation. “Shang-Chi,” by comparison, feels like the new beginning that its predecessor was meant to be, as much as anything, because it truly ventures in a new direction — building distantly on the world that has now become common moviegoer knowledge, but adding stylistic flourishes and an unhurried pace from Cretton that suggests it’s content to be its own story instead of a cog in a larger machine. (Truly, the only letdown comes during a post-credits scene where you’re reminded that this character will have bigger obligations to a story that’s not his own later on.)

Marvel is, of course, working tirelessly to construct the next stage(s) of its universe, but like the bamboo scaffolding that surrounds a Macau high rise, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” offers a good reminder that it’s nice to slow down and take a little extra time to explore what’s already built instead of firmly affixing your view on stories that haven’t yet been reached.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” opens in U.S. theaters September 3.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Review: Simu Liu's a refreshing kick to the face in Marvel's 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings'
Brian Truitt | USA TODAY | Published 12:00 ET Aug. 23, 2021 | Updated 10:05 ET Aug. 27, 2021

Robert Downey Jr. and his main man Tony Stark aren't around in the Marvel movies anymore. Thankfully, they’ve found a suitable successor in the unfairly charismatic Simu Liu and his dragon-riding, power-punching alter ego.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (★★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters Sept. 3) puts martial arts and Asian-influenced fantasy elements on display in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time (because we’re just going to forget that Netflix “Iron Fist” show ever happened). As the debuting title superhero and a new champ for representation, Liu exudes likability, swagger and depth – plus, forms a great buddy-action combo with co-star Awkwafina – and “Shang-Chi” really cooks when he’s in a street-fighting groove. However, director/co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton’s ambitious adventure loses some of that storytelling momentum when diving into its involved mythology.

Even when the film veers very strange, with magical creatures and over-the-top personalities, Liu’s subtle charm keeps the audience engaged as his character weathers a number of physical and personal obstacles. Shaun (Liu) is a San Francisco valet who parks cars with best friend Katy (Awkwafina), and their existence consists mainly of late-night karaoke and the occasional joy ride.

That is, until one day on the bus, they’re attacked by a band of bad guys led by the vicious Razorfist (Florian Munteanu). Katy’s surprised to find her bud battling villains like a kung fu Spider-Man, and one of them nabs a pendant from Shaun that his late mother Li (Fala Chen) gave him.

To get it back, Shaun flies off to China with Katy in tow, revealing to her that his real name’s actually Shang-Chi (pronounced like Shaun with an extra “g”) and he was raised by his ruthless father Wenwu (a magnetic Tony Leung) to be a young assassin for the shadowy Ten Rings army. Shang-Chi seeks out his estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who runs a colorful fight club in Macau featuring a couple of familiar MCU faces (including Benedict Wong's lovably droll Wong), and the siblings reunite with dear ol’ dad just in time to learn of his nefarious plan to invade their mom’s mystical homeland.

The best action sequences are actually front-loaded: Shang-Chi enjoyably fights goons video-game-style on the aforementionedSan Franciscobus as well as atop flimsy scaffolding on a Chinese high-rise, and there’s a meet-cute flashback where Wenwu and Li engage in an elegant martial-arts encounter a la “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” that’s one of the more intimate moments in MCU lore. Those bits are a breath of fresh air to the usual superhero CGI-fests, though we get that here, too: A clash featuring father, son and 10 magical rings is pretty much if “Doctor Strange” and “Black Panther” had a battle baby.

While most of its characters are new to the universe, “Shang-Chi” is very much a part of the Marvel landscape – it most notably pays off (and fixes, to a degree) the divisive Mandarin subplot from “Iron Man 3” plus charts a path forward, of course. Where Cretton really excels is owning some of the franchise’s larger character themes, including family legacy, reluctant heroism and embracing one’s destiny. Shang-Chi and Katy are both souls needing to find purpose, and Liu and Awkwafina give them a winning relatability, even when driving through a forest that’s trying to eat them.

Marvel has been uncannily aces at casting its heroes since Downey in “Iron Man,” and Liu, the Canadian star of “Kim’s Convenience” and a relatively unknown commodity in America, is simply a joy to watch. He's the MCU's most significant and infectious rookie since the late Chadwick Boseman, with the same face-of-the-franchise appeal as Chris Evans.

OG A-listers like Downey, Evans and Scarlett Johansson departing and making way for Liu – alongside other new headliners like Anthony Mackie and Florence Pugh – gives the MCU the refreshing kick in the face it needs, even if the “Shang-Chi” plot sometimes seems stuck using the same old moves.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings review: Marvel's newest hero mixes old legends, fresh tricks
By Leah Greenblatt August 23, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT

It seems important to acknowledge that the release of a movie as Marvel-massive as Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (in theaters Sept. 3) marks a major step forward for Asian representation on screen. It also feels important to note that it is fun: a Technicolor whirlwind of a film whose explosive fight choreography and dense mythology are leavened by a sweet and surprisingly nimble script.

The affable, elastic Canadian actor Simu Liu (Kim's Convenience) is just a regular guy called Shaun, a Gen-Z San Franciscan content to park cars and hit late-night karaoke bars with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). At least until a crew of international assassins approaches him on a city bus and demands the pendant around his neck — forcing him to defend his honor and reveal that he is in fact the prodigal son of a thousand-year-old supervillain (Hong Kong legend Tony Leung) formerly known as the Mandarin.

That dated alter ego, blessedly, has been retired, but the man who now goes by Wenwu is back in business after the death of his beloved wife, Jiang Li (Fala Chen), and extremely insistent on reuniting with his estranged offspring. (There's a daughter, too, played by the fierce Meng'er Zhang.) Somewhere behind the scrim of the mythical city where he and Li first met and fell in love, Wenwu believes, is the life he lost when she was killed; her surviving sister (Michelle Yeoh) sees that hope differently.

The dynamics of their family drama are fairly standard, as much as any millennium-old conflict can be, and the final scenes run into battle fatigue. But director Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12) fills the screen with fantastic beasts — dragons are the least of it — astonishing set pieces (a bustling underground fight club; the side of a Macau skyscraper; that bus!), and goofball bits of humor. There are the requisite MCU cameos, popping up like whack-a-moles: Serene Dr. Strange gatekeeper Wong (Benedict Wong) drops in for several scenes, and Iron Man's Ben Kingsley returns as the washed-up actor Trevor Slattery, a holy fool with an impressively Shakespearian hairpiece and a faceless little CG sidekick who looks like a furry ottoman with wings.

But many of the movie's thrills lie in the less familiar: the general lack of major artillery means the action is mostly fought with fists or ropes or arrows, which makes its obligatory stream of mortal combat feel almost balletically brutal (if oddly Disney-bloodless), and far more elegant than the genre usually allows. They'd be crazy not to give Meng'er Zhang, as Shang-Chi's ferociously watchable sister Xialing, her own spin-off, and Awkwafina, who spends at least a third of the movie in a fanny pack and lime-green parachute pants, polishes her sardonic slacker M.O. to a high one-liner shine. Even the end credits' inevitable tease of a sequel feels less like a threat, for once, and more like a promise. B+
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings Review
While revelling in the slacker life in San Francisco with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is confronted by the dark past that he thought he left behind. Forced to return to his father Wenwu (Tony Leung)’s dangerous organisation, The Ten Rings, Shang-Chi teams up with Katy and his estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) to stop Wenwu for good.
by Laura Sirikul | Posted on 23 08 2021
Release Date: 03 Sep 2021

Being the first of anything comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility. Black Panther was the first film in the MCU to celebrate Black and African culture. Captain Marvel became the first women-led film in the franchise. Now, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings marks the MCU’s first Asian-led superhero film. Of course, there have been characters of Asian descent in the MCU before, including Wong (Benedict Wong) from Doctor Strange, Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) from Thor, and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from Ant-Man And The Wasp and WandaVision. But they’ve always been the main heroes’ sidekick, flunkey, or comic relief. Shang-Chi features not only the first Asian protagonist but also a predominantly Asian cast. Happily, Asians can collectively breathe a sigh of relief—because the movie is good. Actually, it’s really good.

After running away from his father, formidable crime lord Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi, (Simu Liu) starts over in San Francisco, where he meets his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Living the loafer lifestyle, Shang-Chi’s daily rituals include breakfast with Katy’s family, working a valet shift, and drinking and karaoking the night away. Basically, living the good life. However, after ten years, Shang-Chi’s past finally catches up with him. Driven by vengeance fuelled by heart-breaking loss, Wenwu forcefully reunites with his son and daughter Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) in hopes of recruiting them — along with Katy— into his terrorist organisation, The Ten Rings, an evil empire built around the power of ten ancient rings that Wenwu wears around his arms to generate blasts of energy.

Co-writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton, best known for indie darling Short Term 12, understands family dynamics and beautifully sets the tone for a heart-warming story syringed with humour. But despite the humanity on show, it’s the innovative martial arts that are the USP. Although there are many mystical elements, Shang-Chi thrives when the scenes are rooted in the real world, especially in its fight sequences. The action is fantastic, thanks to fight coordinator Andy Cheng and supervising stunt coordinator, the late Brad Allan, to whom the film is dedicated, the choreography the best yet in the MCU. A bruising bus battle between Shang-Chi and Wenwu’s henchmen is even more hypnotic than the trailers suggest, Liu showing off a barrage of blistering moves to disarm his father’s lackeys. The action doesn’t rely heavily on digital trickery in the real-world; but even its CG set-pieces within the fantasy realm of the hidden magical city of Ta Lo, which Shang-Chi has mysterious ties to, do not diminish the beauty of the diverse fighting styles. These fight scenes are truly gratifying; the martial arts in an early sequence between Wenwu and powerful warrior Jiang Li (Fala Chen) feel more like a dance and the result is simply mesmerising.

The cast is stellar. Liu knocks it out of the park as Shang-Chi, adding a tad of levity to the known-to-be-serious comic book character. As expected, Awkwafina hits all the comedic cues while remaining Shang-Chi’s anchor through his journey of self-discovery. The chemistry between Liu and Awkwafina is palpable, exuding a real sense of a found family. Perhaps the most intriguing character is Zhang’s Xialing who has the most compelling backstory; but at times, feels she is just there as set dressing for the main hero. It’s unfortunate she isn’t given more to do.

A dashing Leung as Wenwu provides depths of character in what could be a one-dimensional bad guy. However, the film’s real villain is grief. Grief drives Wenwu to perform nefarious acts, even at the expense of his own children. For those of Asian descent, grief is difficult to overcome. In an early scene, Katy’s mother comments on how moving on from a loved one is a Western idea. As such, Leung’s performance is filled with tangible anger and anguish that really brings the character to life.

In the debit column, Shang-Chi does have some pacing issues where the story, at times, becomes convoluted with so much information to set up the world of Ta Lo and how it relates to the MCU as a whole. The rushed ending makes some of the character arcs feel unearned and brushed aside. Also, it’s a bit tiring to see another dragon trope involved in an Asian-led film. Which is a shame as there are subtle nods for the Asian diaspora to relish — Shang-Chi taking off his shoes before entering Katy’s home, Katy’s grandmother asking Shang-Chi when he and Katy are getting married, and Ronny Chieng’s mystery character telling Katy that he speaks “ABC” (American-born Chinese) — that feel never feel forced or over-played. It’s a winning blend of Chinese culture mixed with the successful Marvel formula that avoids the typical Asian clichés and stereotypes of accents and bad drivers, while pointedly calling out some of the racial errors from Marvel's past. Given what’s on show here, the future for Shang-Chi and Asian representation in the MCU looks bright.
Featuring funny and endearing moments amid beautifully choreographed action sequences, Shang-Chi excels as a story about family and how it can be twisted by grief. Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung bring multi-faceted characters to life and, despite pacing issues, it delivers a hugely entertaining step in the right direction for Asian representation.
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