EJ Paras’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Welcome to the circus.”
First, I must say: as an Asian-American, it was a real joy to see a blockbuster superhero film where most of the cast looked like me. I’m not Chinese, but still, it was nice to sit in a theater (with a mask) with mostly white people (just so happens where I’m from) watching a flick with a primarily Asian cast. And the fact that it’ll be the #1 movie in America this weekend is just icing on the cake. You knew I had to go opening weekend to catch this flick and support my Asian brethren.
And for the first ten or so minutes, Marvel and the creative team made a (somewhat) bold move of having the complete intro be entirely subtitled and in a different language — Mandarin. I figured there’d be a bit of non-English dialogue throughout, but considering this is still a Mouse-flick, I thought they’d be more, uh, conservative with the language shifts. There was a good amount of Mandarin throughout, and that was refreshing!
The action sequences, especially the hand-to-hand combat, was very refreshing for Marvel as it felt, in the non-VFX-heavy scenes… real! Simu Liu’s best contribution as Shang-Chi is his fighting skills; it felt like I was watching a young Jackie Chan during the bus fight and the skyscraper fight. Those two scenes were definitely my favorite, and I had a feeling that once the Marvel formula kicked in, that I’d be taken a bit out of the film.
And sadly, I was right.
But that’s okay. Convention has to come into play and Kevin Feige has to get what he wants to advance the story. I liked the characters anyway a lot, and hey, watching Tony Leung enchant millions around the world with his devastating charm & insatiable charisma is a real treat for audiences everywhere.
My favorite performance certainly was Meng’er Zhang as Xialing — she’s a badass with the fight choreography and is supremely committed to the role. I was instantly hooked after her character’s introduction in Macau. Very excited to see where they take her character after the events of this film. She needs her own movie.
As Simu Liu said, “We are not an experiment.” I hope Asians in Western/American film isn’t just a novelty and will continue on. Stories on film tell stories that can unite us all. I’m happy that Shang-Chi exists. Six-year-old EJ would’ve been so thrilled to watch this back in the day.