Shang Chi – It’s All About Family (Sort of Review)

I was really excited to watch Shang Chi from the moment I saw the trailer! I will admit I did not know anything about the character before it was announced they would be making a movie on him.

I decided before watching the movie that I would remain clueless and just go in and enjoy the MCU rendering of Shang Chi. I’ve found when I know too much I am more likely to be disappointed (*ahem* XMen *ahem* aspects of End Game *ahem*) so I just wanted to experience a Marvel movie where I knew nothing.

I was also excited for the martial arts aspect of the movie. The fight choreography looked sick! Listen, I love martial arts and I love a good martial arts movie. This isn’t a martial arts movie but at the same time it is. It’s half and half (half superhero half martial arts movie).

So my review or thoughts are going to contain SPOILERS. If you have not watched the movie yet (if you’re late like me) then don’t read this but come back when you’ve watched the movie.

 

 

The biggest thing I loved about Shang Chi is the plot. It was a well structured story. That may sound bland but it’s honestly one of my biggest pros.

I love how the story starts from the mother’s perspective and then we jump to the present with Shang or rather Sean. I love how we’re not given all the information right away and I love how they show rather than tell key points.

Speaking of his mother, girl. Ying Li fell in love with Wen Wu after their little fight when he was trying to force his way into her kingdom. I did not feel it. That whole sequence I was like, “You’re not falling in love with him, are you?” “You are!”

I was shocked.

I was appalled.

Especially as this comes after we’re given a montage of how terrible he’s been using the ten rings for evil. Like…?

I felt like they brushed past that too quickly. Man has been influencing world history and had a massive shadow organisation… we’re not going to talk about that? You’re just going to fall in love and that’s it?

I was mad she gave up her land and powers for him because honestly in my head he wasn’t worth it. However, the fact that he too gave up his powers and his criminal organisation did soften me towards him.

Back to the plot. It had a good arc. We followed Katy, Xialing and Shang Chi as they grew as people and overcame their hurdles in life. Katy found purpose. Xialing finally got respect put on her name and Shang Chi learned how to stand up to his father and to stop running away.

It had me hooked from start to finish. I was anxious in the final battle. I thought I knew how things would go down but I didn’t. I did not expect the dragon to pop up like… that was a treat.

The second thing I liked about the film was the characters. They were complex, no character was two dimensional.

Wen Wu could have been a very typical villain but he wasn’t. He tried to go straight but his past caught up with him.

 

Side note: how stupid were they? Who challenges someone who has mystical weapons that make him immortal? I mean, sure he don’t wear them anymore but if you’re going to kill his wife and family make sure you steal the rings too so he can’t find you and kill you. Like… did they have a death wish?

 

He truly loved Ying Li. He was devoted to her and that’s the driving force of his storyline. It’s not his hunger for power but his desperate love for his wife. I liked that.

Shang Chi is also morally grey. When he said he didn’t kill his mother’s killer somehow I knew he was lying. But when it was confirmed it was still shocking.

When Xialing asked him earlier if he had gone soft I did wonder. Also, when he was fighting Death Dealer I did wonder if he would actually kill him. The answer was yes, he would.

At the moment I don’t think there is a Marvel hero like him. Perhaps the Dora Milaje but other than them… no.

It’s interesting. It’s good to have different characters, different types of heroes. (Like how in DC we have Superman and Batman but we also have Wonder Woman who will shank you.)

Shang has a duality in him. At times he is soft and adorable and sweet but there is a hardness to him hidden within. If I knew him in real life I would be suspicious. It’s always the cheerful/innocent ones.

Also, how can you be dedicated to the lazy lifestyle and yet you’re ripped to the nines?

It’s not the ordinary ripped either but I train religiously and seriously.

He never let himself go?

Anyway, I found it funny. Especially when Katy was talking about him bullied when they first met. It must have killed him! It must have killed him to hold back and not fight like he knew he could. Can you imagine?

Katy saved that bully.

I also loved Xialing and Ying Nan. I am a simp for female fighters, pure and simple.

Is Xialing not a genius? She learned how to fight merely by watching her father’s assassins train Shang Chi and she built her own underground fighting ring. She rocked Shang Chi’s jaw… she is awesome! I love her!

She’s also got that duality. She’s tough and she’s achieved a lot but she still craves the love and attention of her father. She’s angry that her brother left her as he was all she had in the world. She’s got heart even though she tries to hide it.

This is Meng’er Zhang’s first film role and she killed it! This is what I like to see in movies, more opportunities given to actors of colour and just actors other than the Hollywood favourites. There is so much talent out there, why are they fishing in the same old pond?

Michelle Yeoh… is there anything else to say? She’s amazing. She kills every role she’s in. Just, ugh!

Speaking of actors, I liked Tony Leung’s acting. The scene where Shang Chi points out the assailants to his father. He seamlessly goes from kind father to brutal attacker and back to kind father. It was amazing!

It was also horrifying in the context of the film. Shang Chi has seen so much horror and pain it’s a wonder he’s “ok”. He saw his mother murdered in front of him and Disney didn’t make it look as horrifying as it probably was, that was a lot of men versus one woman. Have they honour as fighters!

Shang Chi also witnessed his father murder.

He also committed murder.

I wonder why he ran? That wasn’t explained well or perhaps I’m not remembering what he said clearly.

So yeah Tony Leung is great at being menacing in a quiet way. He, as Wen Wu, doesn’t threaten people with violence but rather with his aura and words. He’s playing a character that has lived for thousands of years and knows he can take anyone. There’s an arrogance to him but also a quiet wisdom.

Also, apart from his family and even then it’s debatable, he doesn’t value human life. You can see this when his men died when they attempted to enter Ta Lo. He did not care. He barely batted an eyelid when they fell off the cliff.

We got to know Wen Wu at the end of his life and he’s such an interesting character with so much to tell. Tony Leung captured all that very well.

Simu Liu was good as Shang Chi. I have no complaints. I especially love how he carried the weight of Shang Chi. Sean really felt like a mask and when the mask fell we, the audience and Katy, could finally see just how much he had been carrying all those years.

He also pulled off awesome fight scenes.

Side note: there should be awards for stunt doubles because they did awesome work in this film too as they always do.

Awkwafina also played Katy well. I liked that her role in this film was both comedic and serious. It’s good to have both. It was serious when needed and comedic when needed. 

A third thing I liked was the incorporation of Chinese. Shang Chi is Chinese and he can speak Chinese and other languages. I like that they included that in the film without it being awkward. Sometimes when Hollywood, or just the West in general, makes a story about someone who is multilingual it’s awkward and overly explained why they can speak another language.

However, in this film it’s not overly explained and it’s natural. 

I love that the entirety of the beginning sequence is in Chinese and they have subtitles because why not? Why would Ying Li speak English in her home… in China.

On the flip side, I like how they incorporate them learning English. It’s to gain a skill and also to be international because of his criminal organisation. You can’t be travelling around hunting people and not know English.

And that’s just scratching the surface! Shang Chi can speak more languages! He has so many skills!

I honestly can’t want to see more.

I loved the special effects, I think they were done well.

I love how they incorporated Chinese mythology into the story. The land of Ta Lo was so beautiful and ethereal. So much so it hurt my soul every time cars came and trampled all over the lush grass.

As you can see I have nothing but positive things to say about the movie. However, I do have things I did not like.

For one, why did Katy follow Shang? I get it, she’s a good friend but sis how are you going to help? She ends up being a liability. That scaffolding scene almost gave me a heart attack! I really thought she was going to die.

It felt impractical to take her, especially when the foe is a criminal assassin organisation. I mean she was on the bus, was she not scared? Worried?

Two, I did think they skimmed over some things rather quickly. I’ve mentioned both instances already. Wen Wu’s past and Shang Chi’s past. I feel like Katy should have been more shocked by his admission.

Three, Death Dealer should not have been the first to die, it should have been Razor Fist. Death Dealer was a much cooler character. Razor Fist was honestly so boring. I hate characters that are all bulk and just swing it around when they fight. Death Dealer had a unique fighting style and a history with Shang Chi. I was just disappointed in that.

That’s it, those are my complaints.

 

Overall the theme of the movie is family. Shang Chi, Xialing and Wen Wu lost a light in their lives. Ever since then they’ve all been broken and this film is them finding healing and peace.

It is sad that Wen Wu had to die but at the same time it felt like time. He has lived for centuries after all and he did use the rings for evil. Perhaps, this was just all that catching up with him.

When he realised he was in the wrong and gave the rings to Shang Chi that was honestly so moving. The look in his eyes. The way it was a quiet moment amongst chaos. It moved me.

Even before that when Wen Wu saw Shang Chi take control of the rings using his mother’s fighting style…it was poetic. It was a mirror of his earlier scene with Ying Li.

I didn’t expect that to be the central line of the movie. I honestly thought Wen Wu was going to be a black and white villain from the trailers. I am glad that they didn’t give anything away in the trailers and that, that wasn’t the point of the movie.

I left the cinema contemplative. It got me thinking about family and how someone messed up can have redemption. It got me thinking about how actions speak louder than words and being there for someone is sometimes all they need (Xialing and Shang Chi).

And the way the film ended with Wong, it was perfect.

It is now one of my favourite Marvel movies along with the first two Captain America’s, Black Panther and Captain Marvel (because I simp for strong women).

 

 

Ps: So Katy and Shang Chi aren’t a thing, right? If they keep to that narrative that will be so cool. To have main characters be friends with no sexual undertone. It’s so refreshing.

However, Shang Chi better get a romance in the future.

I volunteer *steps forward* I will do.

7 thoughts on “Shang Chi – It’s All About Family (Sort of Review)

  1. Interesting review. It’s weird because I had never heard of that character before and I grew up with Marvel when I was young. Good to know there was positive Asian representation. However, I did shake my head about Awkwafina especially after finding out she did a “Black-cent” in the Oceans 11 remake. Good work in describing everything though.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not that familiar with her work to be honest with you. Sure, I know she’s the star of Nora from Queens and was the voice of that dragon from Raya and the Last Dragon, but I can’t say I’ve seen a full episode of that show or a whole movie of hers. It’s not surprising that she wouldn’t use it in Shang-Chi.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Honestly, I’m the same. The only other movie I’ve seen with her in is Crazy Rich Asians and she didn’t use it in that movie for the same reasons she probably didn’t in Shang Chi.

        Liked by 1 person

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