Author: Ankit Bandyopadhyay
Marvel Studios wants the voices of underrepresented communities to be depicted on screen.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” does that in a spectacular fashion for the Asian American community. I can go further and say that this movie is exactly what this country needs right now.
The movie follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a Chinese American man living in San Francisco. His life is interrupted when a group of assassins from the organization Ten Rings finds him. Forced to face his past, Shang-Chi must enlist the help of his estranged sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) to confront the leader of the Ten Rings: their father Wenwu (Tony Leung).
With COVID-19 originating from China, there has been a national distrust and hatred towards the Chinese American community. Insults and physical attacks have increasingly been made towards them and other Asians that have called this country home such as the incident in Atlanta where six Asians were killed in three different spas. We, as a nation, have forgotten the many contributions that they have made to the culture of the United States, one of them being martial arts.
Usually when you tell someone about martial arts, their first thought is “The Karate Kid”. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a classic. However, there’s more to martial arts than simply putting a jacket on a coat hanger and taking it off repeatedly. This is what “Shang-Chi” excels in.
In “Shang-Chi,” it’s clear that one must understand the overarching spirituality of the art. Shang-Chi learns that he must be a graceful nature with the style of wuxia instead of being aggressive. The surroundings of the village Ta Lo consist largely of a mythical realm filled with ancient creatures, including a powerful dragon. Shang-Chi uses this ancestral environment to his advantage as he trains to face Wenwu.
The movie is not entirely composed of action sequences. Instead, there is also an overaching focus on the family drama aspect. The movie does a great job of showing the emotions of a broken family and the protagonist’s unstable relationship with his father. This troubled on-screen relationship is driven in by the remarkable performances of Liu and Leung.
In a self-deprecating way, the movie often makes fun of the way Asian Americans are depicted in the MCU. Simple issues like the mispronunciation of the protagonist’s name show how much work still needs to be done in terms of Hollywood representation.
This realism depicted on-screen alongside its handling of martial arts is ultimately what makes “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” shine amongst other MCU movies.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is currently playing in theaters. UAB students can buy discounted tickets from the One Stop.