REVIEW / FILM OPINION – With “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Marvel stars its first superhero of Asian origin in a spectacular production that is, in part, faithful to those of Chinese cinema.
Shang-Chi, the in-between movie
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Perhaps coming at the worst of times for him within the lineup of the Marvel Cinematic Universal. After Black widow (released on July 7, 2021), rather successful and carried by a strong symbolism (the farewell to Scarlett Johansson after more than ten years of good and loyal service), and before the highly anticipated The Eternals (November 3, 2021). Between the two, there is therefore Shang-Chi. A new character unknown to the general public. But for the sake of representation of minorities, Disney wanted to give it a chance to make it the first superhero of Asian origin to lead a Marvel production. The most cynical will see it above all as a way to earn more and more money thanks to the Chinese market.
But never mind after all business is business, and here we are having to re-judge a origin story. That of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the son of the terrible Mandarin (Tony Leung Chiu-wai). To escape the cruelty of his father, the boy decided to take refuge in the United States. But after years of being discreet, his father sends his assassins to him for a mysterious reason. It is the beginning of Shang-Chi’s adventure who will then leave, with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), in the direction of Macao to find his sister, also targeted by their father.
Family is sacred
Shang-Chi is therefore above all a family story. But contrary to what our quick plot summary might suggest, the characterization of the characters is a bit more complex. Because the Mandarin is not completely bad at bottom. He has been, in the past, but he tried to settle down after meeting his wife (Fala Chen). And his new motivations are understandable. On the side of Shang-Chi, his departure was logically badly experienced by his sister, totally abandoned and left to her own devices. There is therefore a real problem in the relationship between a father and his son, and a brother and his sister. Intimate elements that can be closer to the cinema of Destiny Daniel Cretton (States of Grace and The Glass Castle) and which are ultimately much more interesting than the general adventure that is emerging.
In addition, we find a breakthrough in history already seen. The expected twists and turns, revelations that struggle to excite and endless flashbacks that lengthen a film that is far too long. Everything is sprinkled with humorous passages typical of Marvel movies. If this lightness is appreciable most of the time, it disappoints when it appears for to pass scriptwriting gaps (classic at Marvel). This is the case before the last act when our heroes have the chance to find themselves locked up with a creature who, precisely, knows the path to take for the rest of their quest. Disconcertingly easy, but they pass us by using this adorable plush that we can expect to find in Disney stores soon.
Chinese cinema as a benchmark
We nevertheless feel in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings the desire to best represent Chinese culture. By making the characters speak, in large part, in Chinese, or by evoking discrimination against Asians. But the most interesting remains the way in which the film evokes former major Chinese cinema productions. From the start, when Shang-Chi’s parents meet, a certain nostalgia takes hold of us. The presence of Tony Leung Chiu-wai (always so charismatic) has a lot to do with it. He who was Ip Man in The Grandmaster (2013) by Wong Kar-wai and was notably in the cast ofHero (2003) by Zhang Yimou.
Facing him, Fala Chen, whose first appearance in the Marvel film is reminiscent of Zhang Ziyi in the middle of the bamboo forest of the same Zhang Yimou in The Secret of the Flying Daggers (2004). A nicely choreographed fight follows, although marred by an overflow of visual effects.
Other action sequences, for once quite visible, make it possible to energize the film. This is the case of a scene with a bamboo scaffolding on which Jackie Chan could have had fun in the past. And for his final which definitely switches to the fantastic with giant dragons, and involves Michelle Yeoh (hello Tiger and …