It will come as no surprise that I, as a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was eagerly looking forward to Shang-Chi. Although I haven’t seen Kim’s Convenience, I was familiar with some earlier works of Simu Liu through Wong Fu Productions.
I booked tickets to see it at the Light, which is a smaller cinema chain with slightly more expensive tickets for the benefit of soft reclining, sofa-like seats. Another perk was a free poster with every ticket which is duly cashed in on (perhaps too enthusiastically)
And so, if you’re looking for a review that attempts to be as spoiler free as possible, read on below. You have been warned!
From the beginning, the cinematography was outstanding. I loved the use of colour and some of the many wuxia/Xianxia elements. As a fan of Chinese dramas, it was interesting to see how many of the fight scenes were a careful fusion of tropes familiar to typical martial arts films, with a classic Marvel twist. Kudos must go out to the incredible amount of effort Simu Liu, Meng’er Zhang etc must have undertook to bring us the magic.
I also loved the music as I felt it definitely helped to shape the movie. That being said, a tiny criticism would probably have been to add some music familiar to the Mainland of China, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwanese artists. In some ways, I felt that this film still hasn’t managed to bridge the gap between those of Asian heritage still living in China, Taiwan etc and those of the diaspora. For example, I’d have loved to have seen some favourites such as Tong Hua sung at KTV, despite the fact that I felt the ***** California (spoiler alert, not me censoring bad language. Parents, rest assured) running joke was well executed.
Another slight problem for me was the reinforcing of the stereotype of Asian families being less supportive as the West. We already have the stereotype of the hardship to make parents proud, the inability to speak about emotions, not to mention a sibling/cousin being better than you. If I wanted that, I’d have simply scrolled through a few posts on the Facebook group ‘Subtle AsianTraits’. Not to mention, I definitely felt that Meng’er Zhang’s character felt sidelined in favour of Simu’s. Don’t get me wrong; I love Simu. But as a woman, I wanted to see more of her character’s development and story. Particularly as her character was sidelined in favour of her brother, being male. I feel that for adoptees too, this desire to prove ourselves is prominent.
Furthermore, although I love Awkwafina, her character has the very definition of ‘plot armour’ or ‘main character’ armour. She added a great bit of comedy, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t have noticed if she were absent during the heavy hitting scenes. Maybe I’m just being cynical.
But let’s get back to the good points. The filming locations looked amazing and I approved of showing Macau. I do feel that Macau is in some ways, a dark horse and is not known. It was a pleasant surprise to find that MCU had passed up on the opportunity to film in Hong Kong, which many would have felt may have presented a more obvious choice. I did have a question considering the date in which this was set though; are the CCP around?! Alas, this was probably not shared by other viewers who simply wanted to wanted to watch.
As an animal lover, I instantly fell in love with the Chinese animals shown; the Qilin, nine-tailed fox (not to be confused with the Pokémon Nine-Tails), as well as the Fu Dogs (I promise it’s not because of my name) Unpopular opinion but I’d prefer a Fu Dog plush over a Morris plush (which I can confirm has been listed on the Marvel shop website in USA)
One slight comparison I couldn’t help make was with Kung Fu Panda and Avatar. One thing about me is I am completely obsessed with Kung Fu Panda and frequently quote from the series. Although it was refreshing to see the Eastern Dragon in its rightful place as a force for good, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve slightly overdone this theme? ** ** (Again, conscious of spoilers) also resembled the secret panda village. Not to mention, their martial arts style could have easily slotted in neatly with the airbenders.
Lastly, I was interested to see how the big bad of this film would actually link in with the other films planned by MCU for this phase. In my opinion, seeds have clearly been sown for the Eternals (out 5th of November) if the climax of the film is anything to go by. An ideal moment would be Gemma Chan and Simu Liu collaborating through their characters as Sersi and Shang-Chi respectively, but a girl can only dream…
And so, my rating? 10 rings of out 10.