Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
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While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had the potential to be the Black Panther for Asian people, I do wish they hadn't so forcefully tried to turn it INTO Black Panther. The story's different, but giving the character an extended family and an "Asian Wakanda" was just a little too familiar (or perhaps I'm reacting to borrowed Iron Fist riffs). So everyone's been after me to judge the martial arts in the film so let's address it - they did a pretty good job of it. In fact, I rather like the first half more than the second where big CG nonsense takes over. It seemed clear to me that the film was paying tribute to Chinese action cinema by emulating various styles. There's a wuxia sequence that's beautifully balletic. There's the Jackie Chan-type bus fight that's a real pleasure. When we get to Macau, it feels like a Hong Kong crime thriller. Even that fantasy climax is a slicker version of something like Zu Warriors or Young Detective Dee. In other words, it morphs into a superhero epic, and a large part of me certainly resents the change. It's a martial arts movie, it should have ended in a big (human!) throwdown. That said, I'm never not gonna like Akwafina, here playing the action-comedy version of her character in The Farewell. Same goes for Michelle Yeoh and my favorite actor of all time Tony Leung - they do a lot with what little they're given, Leung more or less stealing every scene he's in and far more sympathetic than you'd expect from a Fu Manchu/Mandarin derivative. The MCU loves to cut the tension with comedy, and it's a mixed bag on that front. Simu Liu and Akwafina have good character moments, but Ben Kingsley, though he does have some amusing lines, tends to grind an already exposition-heavy movie to a halt with his shenanigans. Mid-credits sequence connects the movie to THE NEXT BIG THREAT(TM), with a meta-welcome to the MCU for the characters. None of these can stand alone, obviously. So not a favorite in the line, but then I've been spoiled by watching way to much Hong Kong cinema.
Absolutely loved it. IMO, it’s the best MCU movie and that’s saying a LOT, coming from me. It’s original, has a great story, good screenplay, excellent fight scenes WITH the actors (not stuntmen), the villain has a unique agenda (not just to kill the hero or take over the world), the origin story is told perfectly, the superpower (the rings) is really interesting, and the music is fantastic. It finally bumped Iron Man down to #2 on my MCU list.
As an person of Asian descent, never have I felt so 'seen' by a Hollywood movie as this one. Loved every minute of it.
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