Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ★★★½

"The light and the dark. To know yourself, you must face both."

Shang-Chi is steeped into its Chinese culture, folklore, and more specifically that of the dichotomy between traditional views and the more modern and liberal perspective and experience of the 2nd-3rd generation children. A Yinyang effect, if you'll have it. The stringent expectations placed upon us by our parents amplified by the fact they left the home they grew up in to provide us a better life and chance for success in a more prosperous country. Their sacrifices piled on you since childhood, and constantly reminded and retold to you on a daily-weekly basis in hopes that you will take everything they respectively infused within you, to create and live a better life than them and provide for the fam in the elder years. Like Michelle Yeoh's badass Nan states, "You are a product of all who came before you." That same pressure that both encourages you to thrive, and that runs down your fuse to the point of burning out in your 20s. Shang-Chi as both the character and film demonstrates that effectively in its more downtime moments, dispersed amidst the various very well choreographed fighting set-pieces. Those small-scale moments (that make the plot a little more personal just as the two Ant-Mans being in their own world apart from big MCU scales for the most part) of Shang sitting down for breakfast with Katy's family (establishing the two won't be forced into a romance as a bonus), or the dinner scene with Tony Leung, all build the core of the film and its primary theme of taking what your family has given you and using it to carve your own path. I could go on, as all my big family gatherings when we meet in Brasil, Perú, or Italy generate more than enough content to make a variety of Oscar bait or Indie dramas; but I think I have gone on enough to make my point. Having Latino and Asian cultural heritage, family and tradition is pretty much in our core since conception. So yeah, Shang-Chi plays to a lot of my personal biases.

Bumped it up half a star because it does hold up on rewatch. Both my parents loved it: my mother loved the cultural aspect—leaning over to whisper things like "see," "uh huh," "just like us," "like your grandparents," "that's right," etc.—while my father was all about the Wuxia fighting and that welcome bona fide dadcore needledrop. Both reactions being expected from both of them down to an exact syllable. And that's what I think I really connected to the most with Shang-Chi, [Dom voice: Family]. I know a lot of what I felt and am going to say might not apply to others' viewing experiences and ratings—and might be why I didn't fully dislike the slower third act leading up to the generic big CG battle. It's not to the artistic level and emotional resonance of The Farewell or elements of Crazy Rich Asians, but it's a very welcome character introspective beat for the MCU.

PS: Hat off to Cretton balancing the languages very well, as the film felt like it was equal in English and Mandarin. Might be one of the reasons both of my screenings weren't even at half capacity unfortunately.

PPS: Anyone else see that quick cut of Tony Leung watching a young Tony Stark being held hostage under the potato sack mask, with a Ten Rings banner in the background, from Iron Man 1. Also the banners around San Fran about "Post-Blip Anxiety," are a nice easy touch to the environment of the non-supes daily lives.


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