Sunday, November 21, 2021

Thoughts on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings got a lot of positive buzz so I watched it when it came out on Disney+.   As expected of a super hero movie in the MCU, it delivers its share of action and comedy.  It is notable that a movie centered around a hero of Asian decent with a story line that stays within an Asian sphere that it had a predominantly Asian cast.  The film aimed to respect the Chinese culture and avoided the use of outdated stereotypes.  Multiple articles have pointed out the cultural significance of this movie.

Shang-Chi will be most identifiable to Asian-Americans (or those of asian descent who grew up in western cultures) because the film is still looking at Asian culture through a Western perspective.  For example, although respectful in its view of the philosphy and people of a hidden village that is meant to represent traditional Chinese culture (even though technically the people are aliens), there are many manerisms that are clearly western (hugging as a greeting), but it is still reflective within the Asian-American experience so it's not something to criticize. 

While I enjoyed the movie for what it is, a superhero film, I also felt the movie was too rushed and wasn't able to imbue Shang-Chi with the inner qualities of a hero before the movie ended.  Instead, Shang-Chi is the superhero of the movie because he got super powers, used those powers and won a fight against the big baddie.

As a person, Shang-Chi never overcame blaming his father nor displayed the empathy and support that those around him showed him.  While angry at his father for making him train in the martial arts, the movie made it very clear that his father was not cruel and did raised him through fear as Thanos did with his own "children".  The movie also made made it clear that his father did made a concerted effort to atone for his past and that while that was recognized by Shang-Chi's mother, Shang-Chi does not attempt to consider it even though he is grown up and has had distance to reflect.  I'm not saying that the father is absolved of his wrong doings and he did fall back to his old ways, but this is a movie aboug Shang-Chi and not about his father.

Instead, Shang-Chi goes from saying how having to kill made him run away from his father to saying that he must kill his father in the same scene.  I found this lack of taking personal accountability and blaming others especially surprising as this difference is what was shown to separate  Captain America and the Patriot as shown in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Ultimately, this made me a little unsure about the character of Shang-Chi.  As a movie, I like the actors, the filmography, the respect it showed the Asian culture as well as the action and comedy that the MCU brings.  I do look forward to seeing more and hope that they will take more time in the next movie to develop the real "hero" aspects of Shang-Chi.

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