Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

Took me a while to get around to "Shang Chi". I'm a huge fan of martial arts and wuxia movies, but I wasn't particularly hyped for a Marvel take on the genre. The resulting film is expectedly a mixed bag.

The underlying story of family drama and parents-children relationships is actually very well done. Especially when there are actors like Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh involved. The emotional beats were well-handled, even if nothing out of the ordinary. It won't surprise anyone even slightly familiar with HK fantasy films "Shang Chi" is clearly inspired by. These are well-worn tropes, but they're quality tropes nevertheless. Now the Simu Liu and Awkwafina duo I was much less enthusiastic for. The former seems very forced in his role, like a hand-picked placeholder, buff, but dorky hero character fitting a generic Asian stereotype. Awkwafina is just too much of an obvious low-hanging fruit choice for the role of a comedic sidekick in an Asian-themed Hollywood blockbuster these days. Zzzzzz....

Now as for the action. I loved the choreography and the setups for the martial arts setpieces. But I just couldn't stomach the green screen fakeness of it all. This is "Black Panther" all over again. I don't know if it's just me, but I just don't buy the physicality of these fights. If they were going for a martial arts/wuxia tribute they should've gone actual stunts and fights, not some green screen CGI cartoon. The Thai film "Chocolate" did the scaffolding fight SO much better way back in 2008. The motorcycle action was a lot more visceral in John Wick 3. And the finale is any given fantasy Chinese blockbuster of the last 15 years. I'm inclined to blame it on set safety and unwillingness to risk the stuntmen lives in favor of real world stunts, but it certainly takes a toll on believability.

Still, "Shang Chi" fits nicely in the ever-expanding MCU adding the pre-requisite Asian angle. Is it all calculated and focus marketed? Of course it is. But I honestly believe noone should be coming into Marvel films expecting some genuine creativity or imaginative spark. Just come for a good time to relax your brain and stimulate your synapses and you'll be satisfied.

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