Ever since I was a child, I had always wanted to see an Asian male lead as a superhero. Most major Hollywood productions of superhero films have us as the sidekick or villain. Hollywood usually puts Asians in roles with bad accents and racist stereotypes. In more recent times though, Jackie Chan and Jet Li have done well, as they have made it in Hollywood in years past to show that we Asians can be the action hero. Asians can be tough, we can fight, and we can kill 200 bad guys with just our fists!
Asians can be tough, we can fight, and we can kill 200 bad guys with just our fists!Wizzard on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Unfortunately, even though Jackie Chan and Jet Li have made it into Hollywood. We still constantly see white washing in Hollywood films. Disney and Marvel have also been guilty in the past of doing this, as characters that had been known to be Asian in comic books, would be cast with a white actor in the film adaptation (think as recent as 2016’s Doctor Strange, where they cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One).
I was at first hesitant when I heard they were going to make Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I feared the same white washing and use of racist Asian stereotypes. You can understand my delight when I first found out that Disney had greenlit Marvel Studios to make a film of Shang-Chi starring Simu Liu and also featured a cast that was almost entirely Asian. Sure, Shang-Chi is not as popular as Captain America or Iron Man, but who cares, we now have an Asian superhero that is in a major Hollywood production!
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features an Asian director Destin Daniel Cretton, and a predominately Asian cast starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Tony Leung, and Michelle Yeoh. Marvel Studios did well on casting well known Asian actors, some very popular among Western audiences, and some very popular among Eastern audiences. The film follows the story of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), whom is trained as an assassin by his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung). Xu Wenwu controls a mysterious power known as the Ten Rings.
The performances by the cast are stellar, with Meng’er Zhang and Simu Liu playing the very tough characters Xialing and Shang-Chi. Awkwafina as Katy does well as her normal comedic self, as there are a good amount of laughs in the film featuring her and Ronny Chieng, who shows up briefly in the film as well. The movie also of course features the legendary actor Tony Leung and legendary actress Michelle Yeoh. Both of them were excellent as usual, as they are both veterans of cinema. For those of us that are Asian-American, you will appreciate some of the comedic references that are made for some of us that were born in a Western country, vs those that were not.
A particular highlight is the acting from Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu, whom is Shang-Chi’s father and leader of the Ten Rings. I am glad that Marvel Studios decided to re-write the character of Shang-Chi’s father. The original character from Marvel Comics is known as Fu Manchu, which unfortunately is associated with many racial stereotypes of Asians. I am glad that Marvel used Tony Leung to as much of his potential as they could in this film, as Tony Leung is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors in Hong Kong Cinema history. Having won multiple awards under his belt in Asia, I am glad to see that he has finally made it into a major Hollywood production. If you haven’t seen his other films, you should, as almost all of them are worth a watch.
Now, can we talk about the fight sequences? The choreography of the fight scenes in this film are well done. If you have seen any action film starring Jackie Chan when he was in his prime, expect the same kind of fight sequences. I am glad to see this type of choreography again in film, as the younger generation can experience the same intense fight sequences I enjoyed in my youth when watching films with Jackie Chan. Simu Liu put on 10 lbs of muscle for this role and did his own stunts for this film. He had also learned and trained in several different forms of martial arts in preparation for this film. Some of the other fight sequences, feature references to old Wuxia films that most Asian audiences will be familiar with. These were also done well, as their use of Qi was not as over the top as I had seen in other films lately.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings also features many representations of Asian culture in it. Some of them are a bit more subtle, as a breakfast scene that was featured in Katy’s house reminded me a lot of my childhood. The film makes good use of Mandarin Chinese when needed to be used, and the Mandarin Chinese that is spoken is pretty clean. Marvel Studios had done well in making sure that a lot of representations of Asian culture in the film were as accurate as they could be. Sure, there are some mythical things and creatures in the film, but at least they were done well and were done accurately. I am glad that Marvel was able to introduce an even larger amount of Asian culture to Western audiences, some for the first time.
So would I recommend this film? That would be a yes. We finally have an Asian superhero that has been added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that features a stellar cast, excellent choreography, and good representation of Asian culture.
My recommendation: Watch this Film