Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Well, I am back with another review of a film and the second in our Blockbuster series of 2021 in as many weeks.
What's going on you ask?
Yes after 18 months of no cinema or events I think I'm playing catch up.
Now Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an adaptation of a Marvel Character by Disney's Marvel studios and part of the next phase in the Marvel Universe.
So why am I reviewing this big American Disney-made Blockbuster on a site which focuses on Martial art and Oriental films?
The answer is simple, Shang Chi is an Oriental character and Marvel studios has put together a Stella cast for this film which includes Asian Screen Legends Tony Leung Chiu Wai ( The Grandmaster / Infernal Affairs) and the ever-delightful Michele Yeoh ( Police Assassins / Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon ) along with Martial Artist and Actor Simu Liu as Shang Chi, and an extended cast of Asian talent not seen in an American produced film ever.
In fact other than a couple of characters, one of whom is played by Screen Legend Ben Kingsley, all the other Caucasian actors are extra's.
I think this is a first for an American-produced film. And for that, the film deserves some attention.
Now from the trailers and sound bites on the radio advertising the film, you may think this is just another run-of-the-mill Marvel Universe film with crazy special effects and nothing else.
Like all Marvel Universe films, they offer a big spectacle with lots of special effects and big heroes against the almighty evil, and the hero always wins out in the end against all odds for the most part.
But like any of the Marvel films that introduce a character, they tend to offer a more personal view of that character as they are focusing on an individual's story. It's why the individual character-based Marvel films are so good overall, you attach yourself to the character whether it be The Hulk, Black Panther or Spiderman.
To be honest out of all the Marvel characters the one I most have a connection with is Spiderman, not because I was bitten by a spider or anything, but because as a kid I watched the Cartoon, read the comics, played the games, and still do, in fact, I still buy any new Spiderman video games when I can. Not that I'm any good at them, but just enjoy the character.
It's the same for the films I always make sure I see the Spiderman films, I find them the most fun and down-to-earth films compared to Iron Man or Thor and such.
Yes I know I am waffling here. But that is all about to change as I have just returned from the cinema and the screening of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Spiderman take the passenger seat! Shang Chi is in town.
I did not know what to expect from Shang Chi after the slight let down what was Snake Eyes which we reviewed a couple weeks back.
I did expect something better, mostly due to the higher budget, and because of the cast, Director and Action Choreographer, and 2nd unit Director, which I will go further into later on in this review.
**Skip the next section if you don't want to know the story and go straight to my sum up in section three of this review**
The story starts with the character of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) who finds the ancient Ten Rings. The rings bring him ultimate power and the gift of immortality, something we would all like I think.
But this power comes at a price, it consumes Xu, enough is never enough, and he conquers whole societies, for over a thousand years he brings grief and horror to all who dare go up against him.
In 1996 in a bid to find the lost city of Ta Lo in pursuit of even more power, a place of mythical beasts and an ancient people who live a simple life from a forgotten era he encounters a young woman Ying Li, his goal is narrow-minded, he wants access to the city to take over its power that it wields. But Ying Li is no ordinary Woman she is a keeper of the city and like her compatriots have vowed to protect it from outsiders.
In disbelief, Xu is beaten by the mesmerising Ying Li who captures his heart with her demeanor.
Frequent visits and a relationship builds, the two fall in love, the people of Ta Lo won't accept Xu because of his past and the couple leaves to set up home in the normal world.
Xu has given up his life of ransacking for power, the two have children Shang Chi and Xialing.
With the Ten Rings stored away the world is at peace from Xu's retirement.
Until a time when past enemies of Xu come to their home and kill Ying Li.
Returning home to find his dead wife Xu becomes despondent then outraged. He takes up the Ten Rings again seeking revenge, in the process everything else around him is collateral damage.
His son is abused by excessive training while his daughter is forgotten about.
Shang Chi runs away one night after being given a mission.
Springboarding us to present-day America where Sean and his friend Katy who are parking valets who like to party and generally live a carefree life not worrying about tomorrow.
But when Sean and Katy take the bus to work Sean is attacked for the pendant he wears around his neck. A battle ensues which sees Sean unleash his fury from his younger self and takes on a barrage of fighters aboard a bendy bus.
It's really here that the story kicks off and Sean has to come clean to his friend of who he really is. In a bid to save his sister who happens to wear a matching pendant, the thing is she lives in Macau, so the two take flight.
Studio: Marvel Studios
Language: English / Mandarin
Director:Destin Daniel Cretton
Fight Choreographer / 2nd Unit Director
The Late Bradley Allan
Starring : Simi Liu as Shang Chi
Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu aka The Mandarin
Michele Yeoh as Ying Nan
Awkwafina as Katy
Meng'er Zhang as Xialing
Fala Chen as Ying Li
Yuen Wah as Gong Bo
Florian Meenteanu as Razor-Fist
From the opening scene to the present-day scene introducing Sean and Katy you know you're in for a treat. Also, much of the beginning of the film is Chinese with English subtitles, giving the film authenticity and this does continue through the film quite a bit, Something I was surprised at.
From a spectacle point of view, Shang Chi is a wonderful-looking film with rich colours and each set piece reflects the time and regions it's set in. Xu's Ten Rings compound is dark and gritty and he rules it as a hard taskmaster, something Tony Leung pulls of brilliantly.
Some of the scenes here look straight out of a Mortal Kombat game, you really could be in Outworld here.
In contrast, the American city is just like any other Marvel Universe film, you half expect to see Spiderman coming to the rescue in some of the scenes.
The pairing of Simi Liu and Awkwafina is really good here, The rap star and actress is as comical as they come and she gets some stand out lines and gags which are truly funny, while Simi looks on in amazement, her lines are so well delivered, it's as if she was ad-libbing throughout.
When the two travel to Macau to meet his sister Xialing played by Meng'er Zhang in her first major role is another contrast with a more cyberpunk look going on. Here again, we are treated to more fight action. The independent Xialing appears to be cold at heart but you're warm to her quickly.
It's also in this cyberpunk world that you see a familiar character from the Marvel Universe and that of Wong from the Dr. Strange movie, played by British actor Benedict Wong.
The world of Ta Lo is one of a bygone age, a world of mythical beasts and a people who live a peaceful life but one with caution as they are the keepers of the Dragon Gate.
The Dragon Gate holds a dark secret of the past, an evil which the Ta Lo people protect. It's here your meet Ying Nan ( Michele Yeoh) a guardian of Ta Lo and Aunt to Shang Chi and Xialing.
Also, fans of Hong Kong cinema of the 70s and 80s will be pleased to see one of the Seven Little Fortunes, the legendary Yuen Wah ( Kung Fu Hustle / Iceman Cometh ) he turns up as the character Guang Bo an elder leader and weapons instructor.
I just love this guy he is so iconic in action cinema, and for those not in the know, he was Bruce Lee's stunt double as he shared a similar physique to Lee. And if you haven't seen his performance in films like Eastern Condors, Dragons Forever, and Bury Me High then you should.
Now the important thing is, what about the fight action?
Well, this is where Shang Chi exceeds expectations, no American film has come this close to the hyper-kinetic fight action of those Hong Kong films since say Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
The answer to this is one Bradley Allan, former head of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and independent fight choreographer and director. I say former as sadly on the 7th of August 2021 Bradley Allan passed away after a short illness which apparently brought on a heart attack.
Bradley was one of the best Martial artists the world had, he had trained in Wushu in Bejing as well as other arts over the years and earned a place in Jackie Chan's Stunt Team of which he became the head off.
What's sad is he was only 48 years old at his passing. If you want to see why this film has such great action scenes, watch any Jackie Chan film, but above all watch, Jackie Chan's ''Gorgeous'' where Jackie goes up against Bradley Allan is one of the best onscreen fights you will ever watch. Also, the same film features Tony Leung Chiu Wai as the antagonist.
Bradley Allan's choreography lets the cast shine, Tony Leung gets to bust some shapes and Michele Yeoh shows her true form here in the depiction of some classical Kung Fu. But credit, where credit is due Simi Liu, is blistering as Shang Chi, the action is shot wide and long showing the moves to their fullest. Fluidity and movement are captured epically while Shang Chi uses all manner of weapons from sticks to chairs and more, just like your find in a classic Jackie Chan movie.
It's this freedom of movement and grounding shown that makes Shang Chi a marvelous film showcasing Oriental arts at their fullest, with more style and form than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and the Director Destin Daniel Cretton should be commended for the portrayal and allowing Bradley Allan to just go with it.
All in all the many foot soldiers of the Ten Rings clan and the Ta Lo people were talented and got to shine in many ways. From Meng'er Zhang's Xialing character to the Ten Rings henchmen like Razor Fist played by Florian Munteanu.
Add in the special effects of ancient beasts, Dragons, which are a staple of oriental mythology, and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a must see not just for fans of the Marvel Universe, but fans of classic fight action as it has it in bucket loads.
If you could smell it would enlighten your nose with a fragrant scent of being reborn into a new world.
Of note, the Filmmakers and directors have dedicated the film to the memory of Bradley Allan.
The true unseen hero of this film.
Review Date: 06-09-2021
Review By: Sertes Nake