Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Tony Leung Chiu-wai is magnificent. He is also the star of the show for me.

Marvel might have finally cracked the kung fu formula with this. Firstly, I would like to thank Daniel Destin Cretton for being audacious enough to ask for Leung Chiu-wai, and for the legend himself to agree. This might be the first but hopefully not last time a famous South East Asian actor breaks into the MCU.

A lot of Hollywood movies that try to incorporate Chinese culture inside often fail. It's either too hamfisted or just a lip service at best. Marvel could have very well screwed it up by overplaying to stereotypes, but in this it actually feels balanced. I don't think it's surprising that this was meant to draw a certain market back into the fold, but through that we actually get something that feels distinct. Without even touching on the oriental design of the set pieces and costumes, the Mandarin dialogue feels authentic, even going as far as throwing in a joke or two that the subtitles don't catch.

The kung fu and philosophy behind it is also surprisingly authentic, bearing this is a Marvel movie with a shit ton of green/blue/yellow screen and repolished in post. I'm sure Simu Liu was doubled a lot for the stunts, but many shots show him actually throwing the punches. For once, there was actually decently choreographed fight scenes that are variations on kung fu styles. The softer Tai Chi inspired fist against Tony Leung's rings which are modelled after Hung Gar Kuen (and Kung Fu Hustle of course). There are other styles that seem scattered around the various fight scenes, but Simu wielding the pole was as eight diagram as it got.

There's just a lot of subtle things in this, which despite being Marvel through and through with the one liners and CG, is an example of how a character that has strong Chinese roots is built upon for both an eastern and western audience. Even though this was an obvious attempt to recapture the Chinese market, I accept it wholeheartedly because I enjoyed it that much.

Tony Leung Chiu-wai is magnificent.


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