Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

The Bride
Of Xu Wenwu

Shang-Chi And The
Legend Of The Ten Rings

USA/Australia 2021
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Marvel Studios

Warning: This has all the spoilers
so don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Okay... be patient and let me get this out of my system because this is nothing new for the way Marvel have been treating their rich source of characters in their film franchises. Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is, allegedly, based on the old Marvel Shang-Chi, Master Of Kung Fu comic books. Now, it was never a title I read back in the 1970s but I do at least remember the one, very important thing about the character and it is this... Shang-Chi’s father in the comics was none other than Sax Rohmer’s embodiment of the ‘yellow peril’, Dr. Fu Manchu. This is something Marvel retconned, for some reason, at some point in the 21st Century incarnation of the comics but, come on... Marvel movies are owned by Disney now. Surely they could have afforded to pay the copyright to retain the infamous master villain for their new movie (who, incidentally, also doesn’t share the name of his father from the rebooted version of the comics either... go figure). Honestly, I am sick to death of Marvel not treating their characters with the respect they deserve. Not having Fu Manchu in this movie is as much of a crime against filmanity as when they excluded Doc Savage and the Amazing Five from the movie ‘adaptation’ of The Rocketeer. I mean, what is going on here? What a travesty! And just to rub it in, they’ve got one of the most respected Asian actors of our time, Tony Leung, in the role of the father and have named the character... wait for it... Xu Wenwu. Presumably because it rhymes with Fu Manchu. I mean... come on!

And you know what... I am so tempted to just end my review right there before I even get started with the conclusion that, once again, Marvel have screwed their own characters and not done right by them, not to mention completely disrespecting the audience who pay money to go and see movies based on comic book characters they love... only to see them in homogenised and commercialised forms because they presumably think this will bring them more money in. Personally, I think money is a terrible thing to measure success by and use to grant access to the continued production of an art form but... that’s why they call it the movie business I guess.

However, since the film isn’t absolutely terrible, I’ll now give a brief review because, although it’s not the slice of comic book genius I’d been misled into thinking it would be (honestly, it’s not the worst but I would say it’s maybe somewhere within the bottom three or four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies), it does have some entertaining sequences midst other, more draggy and dull scenes, to be sure.

Okay, so the plot is really simple. Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi and Awkwafina plays his best friend Katy. When his 1000 year old conqueror father and master of the Ten Rings comes to retrieve the amulets belonging to Shang-Chi and his sister, to free someone who he thinks is his dead wife from a dark portal guarded in a hidden village... Shang-Chi, Katy and his sister team up with his auntie, played by acting legend Michelle Yeoh, to try to stop his father from unleashing an evil, soul sucking force into the world. And... I wish I could say the story was more complex than that or had more twists and turns (especially since the movie runs for over two hours)... but it doesn’t.

It does have a lot of nice action set pieces though... not as fast or furious as I would have expected from a film which is presumably trying to match some of the classic Asian Kung-Fu based movies but... although this stuff was like a dialled back version of it, well it wasn’t too shabby in places. The most interesting fight scenes took place on a bus and then on scaffolding outside a big tower block and they were pretty good. However, that being said, they both take place in the first half of the movie and so, yeah, as much as they do try and pack a lot of action in, the climax of the movie does feel like a bit of a damp squib, it has to be said.

But there is some nice humour and also various references to some of the previous MCU films and also a few characters turning up from earlier parts of the franchise. This is where it gets properly spoilery people... you were warned. So we have Benedict Wong returning as Doctor Strange’s sidekick Wong, in a few scenes and it was nice seeing him again. We also have Ben Kingsley returning as Trevor Slattery, the Liverpudlian actor who was hired to be the face of The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 and the spin off short from that, All Hail The King. He gets some good moments where he mostly manages to win back some dignity, although the conversation about Planet Of The Apes, which shows how stupid he is, has to be one of the highlights of the film. Plus there’s a Black Widow (not the famous one) and The Abomination (played by Tim Roth... reprising the role from The Incredible Hulk and tying this into his re-emergence in next year’s She-Hulk TV show). There are also a couple of important characters in one of the end credits scenes.

So, okay, there are two end credits scenes in this one... one mid-credits and another end credits. Now, I really didn’t understand what the heck the final post-credit scene was trying to say but the mid-credits scene, set soon after Shang-Chi and Katy go to Wong’s Greenwich Village headquarters, has a couple of big characters. One is Brie Larson reprising her role as Captain Marvel and the other is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner... which really had me baffled because... he is playing Bruce Banner, not the new hybrid version of the Hulk that he became in Avengers End Game. Now, we know this scene is post-End Game because, a) he is already friendly with Captain Marvel and b) he still has his arm in a sling from performing his Infinity Gauntlet snap in that movie. However, since we have not been given any insight that he can change back from the smarter Professor Hulk version of his character... and since we know from the trailers from the She-Hulk TV show that he very much is still the new version of his character... I have to ask what the heck is going on here? This makes no sense... and once again Marvel has lost my interest in the continuity stakes. I hope this gets addressed at some point but... what are the odds, right?

And that’s really all I have to say in this overly long review of an overly long movie. Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is not terrible but it’s not great either. All the actors hold up really well, a lot of the sets and lighting are colourful, there are dragons and cute creatures but, ultimately, in between the bursts of humour and action, it does get a bit dull and ploddy and could maybe have benefited from being around 45 minutes to an hour lighter, I thought. I guess I have to look forward to The Eternals next but... so far, in terms of reportage from my friends, I haven’t heard anything good about it.

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