Our days. Thirty-year-old Chinese Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) lives in San Francisco, where he works as a valet with his girlfriend Cathy (Aquafina). They’ve been friends since college, working together and having fun at karaoke nights together, but Cathy has no idea who Shang-Chi is, especially since she knows him as Sean.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings(2021) movie meaning
At some point, everything changes dramatically when Shang-Chi and Cathy, who are riding the bus, are attacked by a whole gang of well-trained people, led by Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) – a huge, athletic Romanian who has a hefty blade protruding from his injured right hand .
And then Cathy sees that Shang-Chi, who, in her opinion, does not even know how to fight, easily scatters these people like kittens, and successfully confronts the Razor Fist. However, although Shang-Chi successfully repelled the attack, the attackers still achieved their goal: they took possession of the pendant with a beautiful green stone that Shang-Chi always wore around his neck – this is an amulet presented by his long-dead mother.
Cathy demands an explanation from Shang-Chi, who tells that the attackers were sent by his father – the all-powerful Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chu Wei), the leader of the Ten Rings criminal group, the owner of legendary artifacts that give him incredible strength. Shang-Chi is sure that the father of the same people will approach his sister Xialin (Zhang Men’er), who lives in Macau. Shang-Chi has his sister’s address – some time ago he received a postcard from her with the address – and he is going to immediately fly to his sister to protect her from danger.
But Katie categorically declares that she will fly with them: after all, they are best friends, she will not leave him.
Shang-Chi is a martial artist who first appeared in Marvel Studios comics in 1973. Stan Lee, former president of Marvel Comics, discussed a film or television series about this superhero with Brandon Lee, the son of the legendary Bruce Lee, back in the eighties. The fact is that it was Bruce Lee who was inspired by the artist Paul Gulasi, the creator of this character.
Shang-Chi from the comic
And at the beginning of the 2000s, DreamWorks Pictures even developed the film “The Hands of Shang-Chi”, which was produced by Ang Lee, and Stephen Norrington was invited there as a director. However, the picture did not take place.
In 2005, the character of Shang-Chi was mentioned in the list of characters for the newly formed Marvel Studios, which were planned to create separate films.
The great success of the Black Panther comic film, which explored African and African American culture, as well as the success of Crazy Rich Asians, hastened the development of this project, which would similarly address Asian and Asian American cultures. Moreover, as part of the New Ethics, Marvel Studios principally attracted Chinese-American screenwriter David Callaham and Japanese-American director Destin Daniel Cretton to work on the project. And the main actors, at the request of the studio, also had to be of Chinese origin.
The Ten Rings organization itself, shown in this film, has periodically appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even since the first Iron Man. Iron Man 3 also featured the organization’s sinister leader, a certain Mandarin, and viewers were shown the organization’s logo. There was a serious mistake with the logo: the inscriptions there were made in Mongolian, and this caused the wrath of the Mongolian government. In the new film, the logo contains Chinese characters, which are synonymous with strength and power.
When working on the script, the authors focused on several areas: the tragic and traumatic family background of Shang-Chi and his sister, the life of Asian Americans, martial arts, Shang-Chi’s awareness of his identity, and also planned to connect the epic final battle with the legendary semi-mythical village of Ta Law and its inhabitants (the connection with Wakanda from Black Panther is quite obvious).
In the production, director Cretton was inspired by the famous martial arts films: both films with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and, of course, the airy wushu style from the famous “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
What did they get out of all this? It turned out great, the last time I got such a pleasure from a movie comic was in 2017 when I watched Thor: Ragnarok directed by Taika Waititi.
It all started with the legend of Xu Wenwu and his ten rings, and then it went like such a typical comedy about funny Asian Americans in San Francisco, but the attack on the bus, which occurred at about the fifteenth minute of the picture, clearly demonstrated the quality and level of martial arts staging – this it was very, very cool. (Of course, a fight on the bus from Ilya Naishuller’s film “Nobody” immediately came to mind, but in this picture the level of fights as such is an order of magnitude cooler, and, accordingly, the fact that this all happens on a bus with failing brakes, driving at full speed – it looked incredibly spectacular.)
Well, then everything was very diverse. The same air style of wushu in the epic battle of Xu Wenwu with the village guard Yin Li (Chen Fala) – among other things, it was amazingly beautiful. The fight club in Macau, the fight there and the incredibly impressively staged battles on the scaffolding next to the high-rise building – I could barely watch it with my fear of heights.
The water map showing the entrance to the village, the village itself with its beautifully crafted unique animals, it was really well done. We also note the main animal of the film – Hundun, with whom Ben Kingsley’s character became friends. Hundun is a mythological Chinese creature from which the Universe originated, here it looks like a kind of ass with wings, but, by the way, a really charming ass with wings.
Here is the finale with the Chief Chukalov and the battle with the minions of the Dweller of Darkness, as well as the Dweller of Darkness himself – it was already such a typical Hollywood somewhat cartoonish CGI, and I didn’t particularly like it. However, I read the reviews of viewers who said that it makes sense to watch the film only for the sake of this ending.
The protagonist, played by Sim Liu, is criticized for his “lack of charisma.” However, I liked this character. Initially, he played such an inconspicuous guy who, having received a good education, is content with the work of a parking attendant, drinking after work and karaoke. However, in the process, it is explained why this suited him after his childhood injuries and conflict with his father, and after the main movement began, Simu Liu, in my opinion, looked quite worthy. He also showed excellent physical shape and looked great in a variety of martial arts, which is filled with this film.
Awkwafina, an American actress and singer of Chinese-Korean origin, is also scolded for her style of acting, calling it antics. Well, yes, she plays a very specific type of a kind of frivolous Asian-American woman who does not take anything seriously and makes fun of everything in the world. Moreover, this actress had a similar type in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”. But here, firstly, let’s say thank you for the fact that the main character’s girlfriend was not some kind of puppet beauty, and, secondly, until the end of the film it was stated that she and the main character were just friends, and there was no final kiss in in the end, it didn’t follow that we can only welcome, because, to be honest, we got these final kisses.
If we talk about charisma, then, of course, the magnificent Tony Leung Chu Wei and Michelle Yeoh, who played Xu Wenwu and Yin Li’s sister, Shang Chi’s aunt and his sister Yin Nan, were responsible for charisma.
Xu Wenwu is certainly a villain, but he is a multifaceted villain with a controversial background. Yes, he was obsessed with power, he created a criminal organization, and, to be honest, with the help of magic rings, he has been living on this Earth for about a thousand years. (Cat Bublik delicately did not ask how Xu Wenwu, with his abilities and for so long, did not seize power around the world, because it would be discourteous.) He met Yin Nan, fell in love with her, they lived happily together and gave birth to two children, moreover Xu Wenwu even gave up using the Ten Rings for the sake of his family.
But then a tragedy occurred, Yin Nan died, Xu Wenwu became obsessed with a thirst for revenge and the desire to resurrect his wife, because various, albeit false, signs point to such a possibility.
Of course, he is shown as an unconditional villain, but at the same time he is a really tragic figure. And the way Tony Leung Chu Wei (he played one of the main roles in Zhang Yimou’s excellent film “Hero”) plays this character – it’s something masterpiece: to be able to convey such a complex, amazingly charismatic and interesting character. Brilliant role, just great. And – yes, I remember that it’s just a comic book movie.
Michelle Yeoh (by the way, this beautiful actress played one of the main roles in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Crazy Rich Asians”) appears here only during the visit of the main characters to the village of Ta Lo (this is somewhere at the one and a half hour mark) , but she immediately, as they say, steals the show from other characters: Michelle Yeoh is impressive and, as always, plays her role perfectly.
Certain connectors with other films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are, of course, present here: this picture is the starting point for introducing the character of Shang-Chi to other projects of the Marvel studio. However, I must note that, apart from a few deliberate allusions, this picture is the least connected with the Marvel movie epic. Those Marvel connectors and splash screens aside, this is a cool Asian-style sci-fi action movie that, generally speaking, bears very little resemblance to Marvel comics. What, in my opinion, this film is also valuable.
I really liked it. I watched it with great pleasure. In my opinion, everything is well balanced here, there are bright characters and extremely charismatic characters, the main characters did not spoil the picture in any way, and the staging of martial arts battles evoked the best films of the genre. Add to that good humor, great staging and decent acting – in my opinion, this is a really cool comic book movie that definitely deserves to be watched, which, to be honest, I did not even expect at first. I watched from the series “Because you need to familiarize yourself”, but I really liked it extremely. Yes, and we remember that this is just a comic book movie. But it’s a great comic book movie, and it’s clearly something new for Marvel Studios.
PS There will be two important scenes after the credits. After the regular credits and after the end credits. Do not miss.
PPS Interestingly, in China itself, the picture, apparently, will not be rolled. Firstly, China has introduced strict quotas for foreign films, and this film was not included in the list of allowed films. So far, unofficially (the list of those admitted was published by the state television channel GGTV6, and not by the State Film Administration of China), but nevertheless. Secondly, in China, the film adaptation of this particular comic book was very negatively perceived: the fact is that according to the comic book, Shang-Chi is the son of the villain of Chinese origin Fu Manchu, and this image in China is considered frankly xenophobic. In the film adaptation, Fu Manchu is not mentioned at all, but this did not calm the Chinese. As a result, Tony Leung, who played Xu Wenwu, got nuts from users in China (we remember, users wrote that he was Fu Manchu anyway), well, Liu Simu also fell under the distribution, who, firstly, grew up and lives in Canada, and, secondly, in some interview he rather harshly criticized the order in the PRC. (Chloe Zhao, a Chinese-American director, did the same thing, which is why her film “Nomad Land” and “The Eternals” – a Marvel movie directed by Chloe – will not be screened in China.)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton Cast: Simu Liu, Tony Leung Chu Wei, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Men’er, Chen Fala, Ronnie Chien, Florian Muntianu, Ben Kingsley, Yuen Wah, Benedict Wong
Budget: $150 million, Global gross: $430 million
Fantasy Action, USA-Australia-132 min, 2021, 132 min