“Shang Chi” is worth the drive to your local theater

Film entertains along with showcasing Asian culture


Christian Lo, Film Critic

The decision to make “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was one of the more interesting choices made by Marvel following its steady run of box office hits since “Iron Man” released in 2008. Instead of focusing on a large name superhero that many are familiar with, Marvel opted to introduce moviegoers to a more unknown hero in Shang Chi.

The film is based largely on Asian and Asian American culture and features a predominantly Asian cast. Established Asian actors, such as Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina, are present, as well as new faces, the most notable one being Simu Liu, a rising movie star who was definitely not a household name before the movie was released.

The controversy surrounding the movie mainly has to do with the origins of the characters in “Shang Chi,” particularly the villain Fu Manchu, a comic book bad guy who emerged from racist and destructive stereotypes about Asians. Despite all of Marvel’s efforts to assure viewers that the movie has rid itself of the troubled past of its characters (I believe that it has), China has decided not to approve “Shang Chi” to release in its theaters, and has even threatened to ban the movie.

Nevertheless, the film excited moviegoers around the world, and represented an opportunity for Asian American culture to have the spotlight in pop culture.

After an insane amount of hype throughout the film community and an exorbitant amount of social media ads featuring rising star Simu Liu, “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” delivers as one of the strongest Marvel movies released since “Avengers: Infinity War” came out in 2018. The film features breathtaking fight choreography that takes inspiration from classic Chinese martial arts films such as “Ip Man” (2008) and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and succeeds in creating a refreshing new approach to how Marvel executes its action, with the super powered wuxia style of the action making for an exciting two hours in the theater.

Even more impressive is how relatable director Kevin Feige was able to make the characters in “Shang Chi.’ The hero of the film is introduced as a valet worker who lives in a modest apartment in San Francisco. He has problems that most people in their 20s have, and the exposition and his personality helps maintain his relatability throughout the film. The film delves into themes of family, loss of loved ones and acceptance, and interactions between characters are heartfelt and convincing.

It is easy for a film jam-packed with action to let go of crucial character development, but “Shang Chi” does a nice job of fleshing out characters’ backstories and relationships between one another without causing the movie to drag.

The comedy in “Shang Chi” also doesn’t disappoint, with standout performances from Awkwafina and Simu Liu filling the theater with laughter throughout the entire movie. Of course, the person to watch in this film is Tony Leung, who gives an outstanding performance as a tyrannical warlord who must come to terms with his own grief. The ’90s Hong Kong actor was an immaculate casting choice as the antagonist of the film, a heartthrob of Chinese moviegoers.

Although the movie gets most things right, there are definitely some aspects of the film that prevent it from reaching its full potential. The final fight scene of the film was a bit deflated in comparison to the rest of the spectacular action sequences, and there were some unnecessary throwaway characters who received a little too much screen time. However, these are minor nitpicks for a largely enjoyable film.

If you ever find yourself scrolling through Netflix with nothing to watch, I highly recommend driving to a theater to experience what is a unique and refreshing take on your typical superhero movie.