October 19, 2021

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There is nothing else I can say about Shang-Chi and the Legend

of the Ten Rings other than this film being the most appropriate presentation from Marvel in presenting a superhero story set in Asia, in the midst of this gloomy pandemic atmosphere.
Shang-Chi broke my skepticism about Marvel’s intention to raise a superhero story set in Asia in the midst of the trend of emancipation of non-white society in the United States.

Through Shang-Chi, Marvel not only delivers new story pieces in its complex universe, but also showcases the richness as well as beauty of Asian culture that apparently fits in with the Western-style narrative of chivalry.

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There are many things that can be reviewed from Shang-Chi. Starting in terms of story themes, characters, players, action action, CGI, cinematography, to a wide spectrum of emotions. All wrapped up sweetly for 132 minutes.

Although I am not part of the Marvel fandom, so I will not go into detail about how this film is related to other MCU films, I can say that some of the stories and characters in this film also refer to films that have been released previously.

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In terms of the theme of the story, Shang-Chi not only discusses how the history of a Marvel superhero was created with his prowess that seemed flawless and beyond ordinary human reason, but also had various vulnerabilities as an ordinary human figure.

Destin director and writer Daniel Cretton, assisted by writers Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, chose stories that are the daily consumption of Asian people as the core of Shang-Chi’s film story: family.

Cretton as a filmmaker of Asian descent certainly understands how a family-themed story will very easily enter the minds and souls of Asian audiences.

Even so, he and other writers do not choose warm family stories like most soap operas or other family dramas.

Instead, he chooses dysfunctional, messy family stories, father figures who are not close to their children, or parents’ great demands on children, as the burdens of Shang-Chi’s past.

Perhaps the decision could not be separated from the common experience as a child of Asian descent: you can never completely escape the shadows of your parents. It is common in various discussion forums, an Asian child will always be considered a child by their parents.

Parents in Asia are well known to often infiltrate their ambitions as ‘dreams’ of their children. This was done under the pretext of “for the good of the child” and “the love of parents for the child”.

Look at how many movie titles, dramas, or stories on the internet or gossip in cafes talk about this. Until then, the story of a child who ran away, separated from his parents, or lost his identity as an adult became a casual conversation for some young Asians.

The story was then taken and wrapped in a variety of fantasy and mythology from Asia, East Asia to be exact. Even so, it is not difficult for people from other parts of Asia to feel close to these various myths.

For example, about mythological creatures who are believed to be the guardians of humans from creatures of darkness, or a group of people who believe themselves to carry out “duties” that are supernatural. These various things can be found in every corner of the Asian continent and are not found in the place where Marvel originated: the United States.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings review continues next…

The creative team from Shang-Chi also deserves credit for creating such a balanced character. There are no characters who are completely villains, nor are there any characters who are completely flawless heroes.
As evil as Xu Wenwu was, he melted Ying Li’s kindness to the point where he could turn an ambitious ruler into a “family man” who only wanted to spend time with his family.

Or as strong as Shang-Chi, he has fear and chooses to run away instead of facing it. All the characters in this film also develop with their respective portions throughout the film.

Regarding the action, I have to applaud the Shang-Chi choreography team. Combining kung fu in the style of Jackie Chan’s films, traditional Chinese martial arts, and violent Western combat, in one film is definitely not an easy matter.

But all these aspects get their respective portions. So, a number of scenes in this film will feel like watching a Jackie Chan movie, then move like watching a slick Chinese silat film, then continue to fight ruthlessly on the streets.

For those who love action as well as action, Shang-Chi will definitely give its own satisfaction. As for those who are reluctant to see bloodshed, this film still provides a safe comfort despite the frenzy going back and forth on the screen.

Besides the two of them, Awkwafina is also a star in Shang-Chi. His role may have originally been just ‘team hurray’. However, the character development that occurs without having to change the initial task makes him a refresher in this film.

I actually feel different things for Simu Liu. It’s still too early to judge the character of Shang-Chi directly attached to him just from this one debut solo film. Unlike when Robert Downey Jr first appeared as Iron Man or when Chadwick Boseman presented himself as Black Panther.

Obviously, it will take time for Marvel Studios to polish Simu Liu so that the Chinese-Canadian actor can become a complete Shang-Chi icon, like other Marvel actors.

Even so, the variety of visual presentations with slick cinematography, smooth CGI in most scenes, to the various mixed emotions in Shang-Chi are presentations that make audiences feel at home for 135 minutes in the cinema.

Not to mention the inserts to satisfy the “Asian ego” audience from a number of countries, including Indonesia. Marvel clearly knows how to pamper audiences from the world’s big film market. Of course with the hope, these gimmicks can make the audience come back.

Basically, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is indeed a Marvel superhero story in general but with an Asian look. Even so, what should be appreciated is that Marvel not only made the ‘Asian thing’ just a display to attract the audience, but also made it the core of this film.