TONYLEUNG.INFO
Discuss Tony Leung with fellow fans!
 
Welcome to the Discussion Board

 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist    ProfileProfile    Log inLog in   RegisterRegister 
  Log in to check your private messages Log in to check your private messages   
Click here to go to Archival Tony Board (2003-2012)

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Reviews
Goto page Previous  1, 2
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    www.tonyleung.info Forum Index -> Tony Leung Articles
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings' Review: Tony Leung's Villain Eclipses The MCU's First Asian Superhero
By Hoai-Tran Bui/Aug. 23, 2021 9:00 am EST
https://www.slashfilm.com/583701/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review-tony-leungs-villain-eclipses-the-mcus-first-asian-superhero/

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a mouthful of a title, but with the amount of pressures riding on Marvel's first Asian-led film, perhaps it needs it. This isn't an instantly recognizable hero like Captain America, or one loaded with cultural pride like Black Panther. Shang-Chi's history is much knottier and more complicated. The character of Shang-Chi emerged out of the '70s Brucesploitation craze — the phenomenon that followed the death of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Comic book artist Paul Gulacy even took direct inspiration from Lee, drawing Shang-Chi to look like the martial arts star. But here's where the knotty part comes in: Shang-Chi was created as a counterpart to Sax Rohmer's pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu (yes, that Fu Manchu), enjoying his heyday as the star of '70s and '80s martial arts pulp stories before disappearing into the ether.

Shang-Chi was always a strange character to revive as Marvel Studio's first Asian superhero, but there is admittedly something intriguing about reclaiming a character created out of caricature and cultural stereotypes, and turning it into something empowering. But does Shang-Chi actually achieve this? Not really. But in the interim, it does turn out a mostly decent Marvel movie buoyed by crisp, kinetic action and the Marvel Cinematic Universe's best "villain" yet.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does the classic Marvel Studios thing and remixes the more troubling and wilder parts of the character's history into a palatable crowdpleaser — presenting our Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) as the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung), the leader of the ancient Ten Rings organization and the "real" Mandarin (a character with his own complicated cultural history) who has been leading his clandestine terrorist group from the shadows for centuries thanks to the mythical "Ten Rings" weapon he carries. Raised as an assassin from childhood, Shang-Chi ran away to the States, where he adopted a new name and life. That's how we first meet him: as Sean, a sweet San Francisco hotel valet working alongside his best friend Katy (a scene-stealing Awkwafina), happy in their arrested development, even as their friends scoff at their low ambitions. But that all changes when Shang-Chi is attacked on a bus by a group of assassins sent by his father, and he's forced to reveal his sick martial arts skills that he's had along — thus accepting his destiny as our Chosen One of the week.

As familiar of a superhero origin story as Shang-Chi is, the film blessedly feels like the least Marvel of the solo films we've had lately. This is thanks to director Destin Daniel Cretton's decision to drive the film by its strong character dynamics, both in the comedic double act that is Liu and Awkwafina's "two idiots" routine, and the complicated family relationship between Wenwu and his estranged children Shang-Chi and Xialing (Meng'er Zhang, an imposing physical presence in her first feature film role). Liu and Awkwafina, both coming from the comedy scene, thrive in the first half's "fish out of water" narrative, with Liu playing the bewildered everyman well to Awkwafina's overly enthusiastic tourist. Awkwafina, in particular, shows her skills by smoothly juggling the film's best comedy moments with a few scenes of real gravity. The cast manages to carry a strong sense of tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the film, with one later surprise character hailing straight from the Taika Waititi school of comedy.

But while Liu's stuntman chops are on display in the exhilarating fight scenes choreographed by the supervising stunt coordinator Brad Allan (an elite member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team who sadly passed shortly after making this film), the star's chance to prove his leading-man charisma is completely eclipsed by Leung, who effortlessly proves he's one of our greatest screen actors of the past 40 years with a simple roll-up of his shirtsleeves. Cretton seems to be keenly aware that he has an international superstar on his payroll and makes total use of it, treating us to many a close-up of Leung's face on the verge of tears, emotions roiling underneath the surface in that beautifully subtle, evocative way that the Hong Kong actor has perfected over the years.

It's to Shang-Chi's benefit that the film essentially has two leads, really. Leung's Wenwu is presented as more of a tragic antihero than as a full-fledged villain, with his doomed romance with Shang-Chi's mysterious mother Jiang Li (Fala Chen) and his subsequent near-redemption given as much screen time as Shang-Chi's journey of self-discovery. And Leung, one of our best cinematic romantic leads and devastatingly handsome to boot, manages to inject sex appeal into a Marvel film with merely a look. Liu might be accomplished at playing the comedic everyman, but is less gifted at carrying the film's dramatic scenes, struggling to match the talents of Leung, or even Awkwafina, and portrays most of Shang-Chi's internal struggles with the same pained look.

But as a hero whose superpowers are his badass martial arts skills, Liu more than excels at the job. Shang-Chi's fight scenes are breathtaking — whether in the bruising street-fighting scenes when Shang-Chi is dodging magical steel blades on (and outside of) a bus, or when the film goes full wuxia in scenes with Leung and Michelle Yeoh. But while Shang-Chi does manage to escape the shadow of Bruce Lee (mostly by shedding the '70s martial-arts exploitation genre entirely, which feels like a missed opportunity), it still only manages pale imitations of its influences: the wuxia-inspired sequences feeling more weightless than anything out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the Jackie Chan-inspired fight scenes feel more like the Hollywood takes on Chan's work — albeit one of the better Hollywood versions that actually lets the action play out onscreen instead of being edited to high hell. And Liu, as a skilled physical performer who trained hard for the role, has the physicality to pull it all off.

It almost feels cheap to criticize Shang-Chi for its dull visuals — we know at this point that the MCU "house style" flattens out even the most visually distinctive of directors, until all the films share the same muted gray color palette. Cretton has never been particularly renowned for his visual flair, coming from the character drama indie world, but manages to at least keep the film visually coherent (and in many of the wuxia-inspired moments, quite beautiful) even as it descends into CGI bombast. And though it falls victim to the dreaded Marvel third-act CGI muddle, Shang-Chi's is one of the more forgivable ones, if only because it verges on full fantasia.

As Marvel remixes go, Shang-Chi is one of the more successful ones. Maybe not as stylistically strong as Black Widow and certainly not as much of a watershed moment as Black Panther, it is elevated by the strength of its hard-hitting fight scenes and the supporting performers — especially the Tony Leung of it all.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2021 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eastern action meets Western superhero formula in Marvel's Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings
Simu Liu and Tony Leung headline an all-star cast in this first Asian-led blockbuster from Marvel Studios
By Katie Rife 8/23/21 11:00AM
https://www.avclub.com/eastern-action-meets-western-superhero-formula-in-marve-1847532986

Whether they come from a wuxia novel set in the distant past or a contemporary kung fu movie, Chinese martial-arts heroes—with their commitment to a moral code, not to mention their incredible abilities—offer a counterpart to Western superheroes. In 1973, Marvel Comics combined the two archetypes with the introduction of Shang-Chi, a character whose powers came from a lifetime of training in the fighting arts. Now the industry is poised for another convergence, as Marvel debuts its first Asian-led superhero movie, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, a project that blends Chinese and North American storytelling and star power.

The MCU is extraordinarily popular in China, which helps explain why so much of this new film takes place there. That said, at its core, Shang-Chi is an Asian American superhero story. Themes of homecoming, legacy, and balancing cultures and identities run throughout the movie. The soundtrack is multicultural, featuring both traditional Chinese music and southern hip-hop. The script, by director Destin Daniel Cretton and co-writers Andrew Lanham and Dave Callaham, retcons some of Marvel’s more insensitive depictions of Asian culture, while crafting an inspirational message about creating your own destiny and embracing the things that make you you.

For Shang-Chi (Canadian television actor and stuntman Simu Liu) and his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), that’s a loaded proposition, considering that their father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), is a thousand-year-old supervillain who has used the mystical ten rings of the title to build his reputation as a fearsome underworld kingpin. After the death of family matriarch Jiang Li (Fala Chen), an accomplished martial artist from a secluded, fantastical village, Wenwu dedicated himself and his son to revenge, while neglecting his daughter. (Leung’s heavy is an original character, a composite of two problematic Marvel Comics adversaries—including one whose earlier, divisive appearance in the MCU is addressed via a revisionist callback and subplot.)

Ten years after a teenage Shang-Chi was sent abroad to hunt down his mother’s killer, he’s going by the name Sean and working as a valet in San Francisco alongside best friend Katy (Awkwafina). But as usually happens in these movies, fate has bigger plans. Driven mad by grief, Wenwu has retreated into a delusional quest to save his wife by destroying her sacred ancestral home, which will unleash unstoppable forces of darkness in the process. So Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy depart on a journey between realms, on a mission to save their family—and the world—with the help of their long-lost aunt, Jiang Nan (Michelle Yeoh), and a menagerie of magical beasts.

In some ways, Shang-Chi is a mixtape of martial-arts movie genres: An early scene pays tribute to the balletic, graceful films of Zhang Yimou, while a dramatic bus chase later on apes the derring-do of an early Jackie Chan vehicle. Shang-Chi’s reunion with his sister takes place at an underground fighting ring with a ’90s raver, Mortal Kombat type of vibe, and later on, father and son will walk into a grimy, fluorescent-lit gangster hangout straight out of an ’80s John Woo movie. But where those films (Mortal Kombat excepted, of course) emphasized practical effects and the amazing skills of highly trained stunt people, Shang-Chi insists on either interrupting or burying the stunt work—spearheaded by Chan protege Brad Allan, who tragically died earlier this month—with mountains of blatant CGI.

This isn’t always the case. Although Shang-Chi cuts away from a punch as often as it lands one, an extended fight sequence set in a half-built skyscraper observes Liu and Zhang from above in longer takes that allow for at least a few seconds of unbroken fight choreography. And while the climax of this film is as chaotic and unintelligible as any other MCU movie, at least Shang-Chi has benevolent dragons and brave lions instead of the ugly metal detritus of Black Widow. The first half of the movie is funnier and more down-to-earth than its second, which transitions from modern action to mythical fantasy with an emphasis on Chinese folklore—some actual, some imagined.



But while Shang-Chi ekes some awe—and some “awwws,” in the case of a winged, faceless, oddly cuddly critter named Morris—out of its fantasy elements, in the end its greatest assets are human. That refers to the stunts, yes, but more often to Tony Leung, who exudes the type of movie-star charisma critics sometimes complain is on the decline. Leung isn’t exactly being challenged here, but he brings soul to the scant emotional depth of his character, a classic Marvel villain in the sense that he’s sympathetic until he’s not. Among the younger actors, Awkwafina stands out thanks to her natural gift for comedy. Yeoh’s talents, on the other hand, are mostly wasted. Cretton, making his first blockbuster after a run of human-scaled dramas like Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle, knows to let the comedian be funny. So why hire a legendary action star, then dedicate most of her screen time to exposition?

Living up to the expectations of Asian American Marvel fans hungry for an MCU movie of their own must have weighed on Shang-Chi’s writers and director. This anxiety is reflected in the story itself: After being given extraordinary power, Shang-Chi’s first instinct is to run away from it. That moment of human vulnerability suggests that there’s a point of view somewhere inside this gigantic, sprawling, tightly controlled slab of blockbuster product. For every earnest emotion, however, there’s a concession to the formulaic demands of the genre and the studio. Shang-Chi’s hero is on a journey to become himself, but the movie is lost inside of the machine.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’: Film Review
Marvel's latest superhero origin story centers on a young man battling the legacy of his father, a legendary crime lord possessed of godlike strength and immortality.
By Angie Han August 23, 2021 9:00am
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-reviews/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review-1235000054/

There are two identity crises at the heart of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. One is written into the narrative: Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is the son of an immortal crime lord (Tony Leung), who’s rejected his father’s empire for a simpler and less murderous life parking cars for a ritzy San Francisco hotel. His journey will be toward making himself whole again, reconciling his dark past with his good heart to forge a new way forward.

The other lies with the film itself. Shang-Chi, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, attempts to shake up the Marvel formula by infusing it with martial-arts action and fairy-tale fantasy and grounding it in Chinese and Asian American culture. And while its disparate elements don’t meld together as smoothly as they should, they do, in the end, add up to a superhero movie fresh and fun enough to feel worth a spin.

It doesn’t take long for Shang-Chi to lay down its terms. The initial scenes of the film are set in China, with the opening narration and dialogue entirely in Mandarin (with subtitles). It’s not until the action moves to San Francisco, several minutes in, that we hear a single word of English. Even in 2021, when subtitles are hardly an exotic experience for most moviegoers, the choice to use them in the opening scenes of an American blockbuster sends a message. Shang-Chi may be Marvel’s first Asian lead character, 23 films into the franchise, but he and his family won’t be treated as novelties in their own movie.

From there, Shang-Chi quickly distinguishes itself with its action, which emphasizes precision and agility over brute-force strength or weightless CG trickery (though there’s plenty of those as well, thanks to the Ten Rings that grant its wearers godlike power). The film’s most thrilling set piece is essentially a hallway fight scene set on a speeding bus, and Liu looks the very picture of cool as he twists and swings and kicks his way through half a dozen henchmen, the camera breathlessly tracking his every move. But the characters’ martial arts training informs softer moments, too, like a wuxia-inspired meet-cute between Shang-Chi’s parents (Tony Leung and Fala Chen) that takes on the flirty symmetry of a dance.

In scenes like the latter, which is set in a magical forest outside a hidden kingdom and involves the use of mysterious ancient artifacts, Shang-Chi barely feels like a superhero movie at all. If anything, it veers closer to the wistful grandeur of Disney’s live-action fairy tale adaptations. Alas, not even a warrior as gifted as Shang-Chi is capable of breaking the Marvel mold completely. The franchise’s quippy, self-deprecating sense of humor, which does so much to bring its characters back down to earth no matter how extravagant their powers become, kicks in any time Shang-Chi threatens to feel too epic. The jokes keep Shang-Chi from tipping over into self-importance, but they also rob it of some of its wonder.

Elsewhere, the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes its presence even more pointedly known by way of cameos, references to the Blip (i.e., the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame) and an exhaustive explanation of what the Ten Rings of this title has to do with the Ten Rings from Iron Man 3. Then, of course, there’s the requisite third-act sky battle with shooting CG lights — predictably the least interesting part of nearly every Marvel movie, including this one. Oh, and don’t forget the two end-credits scenes, which offer a tease of just how Shang-Chi might fit into future MCU sequels.

Like the characters keep saying to one another, it’s a lot to take in. And that’s on top of an already overstuffed plot involving not just Shang-Chi’s complicated relationship with his father, which is detailed via extensive flashbacks, but also an elaborate mythology delivered through a breathless exposition dump late in the movie. There’s a low-simmer subplot about Shang-Chi’s possibly romantic interest in his free-spirited best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), and a slightly more high-simmer one about his sister (Meng’er Zhang), who’s sick of being sidelined — which itself keeps getting sidelined, since Shang-Chi additionally needs to make room for a slew of characters who don’t even show up till after the halfway mark.

Amid all this frantic plotting, Shang-Chi himself tends to get lost. As magnetic as Liu is in action, he struggles in quieter moments with a script (by Cretton, Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham) that gives the character more backstory than personality. But he has a lifesaver in Leung, whose character, Wenwu, is the rare supervillain with a soul. Leung’s sincerity lights up the love underlying Shang-Chi’s convoluted origins and helps to ground the film’s kookier flights of fancy — and he does all this without stealing the show from under Liu’s Shang-Chi.

It’s in their scenes together that Shang-Chi‘s core ideas feel most fully realized. Strip away all that glossy superhero magic, and the film reveals itself to be the achingly familiar tale of a child figuring out how to bridge the gap between his parents’ values and expectations and his own — in the same way that Shang-Chi itself tries to remix old tropes with new perspectives. It doesn’t always succeed with flying colors. But as with a young hero still finding his footing, its valiant efforts feel worth cheering all the same.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Kicks Off Marvel’s Phase Four with Renewed Originality: Review
One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's strongest introductory films ever
Ben Kaye August 23, 2021 | 12:00pm ET
https://consequence.net/2021/08/shang-chi-review-marvel-movie/

The Pitch: Raised by a brutal father who leads the centuries-old Ten Rings criminal organization, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) escapes his home and takes refuge in San Francisco. He builds a life for himself with a steady if unglamorous job, friends (such as Awkwafina’s Katy), and relative peace. Ten years after running away, his father (Tony Leung’s Wenwu) sends his foot soldiers to return him home, drawing Shang-Chi back into a world he’d tried to leave behind — and reuniting him with his estranged sister (Meng’er Zhang).

Convinced there’s a way to bring his late wife (Fala Chen’s Jiang Li) back from the dead, Wenwu is prepared to stop at nothing to reunite his family. Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past and his heritage to prevent his father’s potentially world-ending plans.

MC-FU: Marking the 25th (!!) film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s impossible to take Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at face value. For context, there have only been two introductory solo stories in the MCU’s last five years: 2016’s Doctor Strange and 2019’s Captain Marvel. (Black Panther and Spider-Man were both well established in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War before their respective standalone pictures.) Shang-Chi, then, is arguably the best Marvel movie to welcome a purely new character into the universe since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

As is often the case with these heroes, a lot of that has to do with the stars who portray them. Simu Liu carries the charm and presence — with just enough troubled history under his soft countenance — to make us care about Shang-Chi almost immediately, despite the comparatively little time spent in his “normal” life before the plot takes over.

Leung’s Wenwu delivers a masterclass in relatable, motivated villainy, worthy of what could be the most screen time of any MCU antagonist besides Thanos. His love of his family, warped as it may be, triggers every plot detail of the film. Furthering that already compelling family drama are the parallel performances of Zhang as Xialing and Yeoh as Jiang Nan — one hardened by estrangement, the other strengthened by sacred duty, both utterly captivating and badass.

Much of these plot and character points are revealed in flashback, a technique director Destin Daniel Cretton uses judiciously and masterfully. Working from a script he co-wrote with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, Cretton patiently broadens the world of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings through constant trips to the past. Motivations are revealed well after actions are taken, and even Shang-Chi’s martial arts skills aren’t explained until we’ve already seen him literally tear apart a bus in an incredible close-quarters action piece.

Yet it’s never clunky, and seeing our hero’s abilities before learning how he acquired them allows us to readily accept them without a rushed training period (see: the indeterminate timeline for Doctor Strange’s rise to Sorcerer Supreme). Whether it’s an interpersonal relationship or a subtle hand movement, Cretton beautifully lays out the details of the story in ways that not only keep the plot moving, but elevate it. (The same could be said for how the larger MCU is inserted into Shang-Chi. We’re well past the point where we need to remind viewers what the MCU is, and can simply place references and characters as part of the story’s natural flow.)

A New Legend: Undoubtedly, Shang-Chi is going to make Liu a certified star, and Cretton’s Hollywood stature should rise right alongside him. Having established himself with a handful of well-received independent features, Cretton’s work on this superhero blockbuster should earn him plenty of big budget esteem. From the Jackie Chan and Dragon Ball Z-inspired fights (some of the best the genre has seen) to the wondrous mystic and naturalistic settings, the film’s visual language is gorgeous. There are sequences in the final act that are so absolutely outrageous they’d slip into parody with a less thoughtful director; aided by a stunning score from Joel P. West, these wild visuals end up some of the most powerful in MCU history.

And let’s be clear: There is some outrageous MCU stuff in the back half of Shang-Chi. The switch from grounded mysticism to straight up dragons is swift, and although it’s not the most evenly keeled jump, Cretton keeps it from going totally off the rails. (As does a shocking cameo that Marvel has done an impressive job of keeping under wraps.) Once the story lands in Ta-Lo, the mystical home of Shang-Chi’s mother, we meet some visually striking creatures that look like more realistic Pokémon (with one in particular a clear ploy to stock stuffed Disney toys). Whereas the War Rhinos in Black Panther felt like a stretch, these things at least feel like they belong.

Which, again, is thanks to Cretton. After building a largely physical superhero movie with the powerful Ten Rings as the only comic-y element, the third act dives into a supernatural world that makes Doctor Strange feel practical. To its credit, the movie doesn’t completely trip on the finale transition the way something like, say, Wonder Woman did, save for a few, quick sloppy beats.

Awkwardfina: Unfortunately, a lot of those less taut beats come from Awkwafina’s Katy. Leaving aside the (valid) controversy that popped up on Black and Asian Twitter ahead of the movie’s release, Awkwafina does a fine job as Katy. She’s funny, likable, and the brief look at her home situation provides a realistic view of Chinese-American family life. But the character also serves as the audience’s vantage point: the normal outsider dragged into the epic, magical story of her friend/loose-romantic-interest, Shang-Chi. At that, she at times feels incongruous, her comic relief as jarring as it is humorous, her amiable shock putting the breaks on the plot’s more serious trajectory. And then, of course, there’s her participation in the final battle, something that fits as character arc but feels cheap even by comic book movie standards.

Still, at least there’s a point to her being there; Wenwu has no reason for having two top assassins by his side. Andy Le’s character is mainly set dressing, a cool costume as a viable sparring partner for Shang-Chi, but the fact that we never learn his name is Death Dealer until the credits shows how valueless he is. Florian Munteanu’s Razor Fist is less compelling as a character, yet has far more to do. It would have been better to settle on one or the other, as the ancillary villains are disjointed from one another as well as Wenwu, leaving neither one feeling particularly necessary.

The Verdict: If Shang-Chi is the best MCU introduction since GotG, it’s also the best standalone adventure since Black Panther. There’s a storytelling maturity that demonstrates Marvel is still willing to go back to basics — even as it gets more fantastical. It’s also a visual feast, with some of the most outlandish SFX scenes in any MCU entry. And yet the third act works better than your standard superhero movie, holding up to its own story as well as the interconnected universe (keep an eye on the color choices of some of the powers… just saying). With abundant talent in front and behind the lens, it leaves doors wide open for a post-Infinity Saga Phase Four that — believe it or not — is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Where’s It Playing?: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings punches into theaters on September 3rd, landing on Disney+ after a 45-day release window on October 18th.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
https://www.larsenonfilm.com/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings

I’ve long bemoaned the prominence of the “punchplosion” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see Avengers: Age of Ultron for prime examples of flying fists that land with a massive thud). Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the 25th installment in the franchise and a thoughtful consideration of how to hold power, dares to question the potency of the punchplosion.

Simu Liu stars as the title character, an affable car valet in San Francisco who is hiding a complicated past from his coworker and best friend, Katy (a very funny Awkwafina). That past involves his estranged father Wenwu (the legendary Tony Leung). Wenwu presides over a nefarious, secret army of assassins by way of the titular rings—ornate bracelets that he wears on his arms and can manipulate energy in all sorts of powerful ways, including punchplosions. (I love the way they clink in the sound design, adding a tactile touch to the CGI wizardry.)

Shang-Chi’s past is revealed early on in one of the movie’s many thrilling and expertly staged fight sequences. (Brad Allen, who passed away just before the film’s release, served as supervising stunt coordinator and second unit director; the director is Dustin Daniel Cretton, who also wrote the screenplay with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham.) In this sequence, Shang-Chi and Katy are blithely riding a public bus when they’re suddenly surrounded by his father’s henchmen, who threaten them both with violence. Shang-Chi has no choice but to bust out the martial-arts moves that were cruelly indoctrinated into him as a child, before he ran away from his father’s home. The ensuing brawl (incorporating the bus’ seats, poles, and—in one ingenious bit of comic timing—the signal cord) has the complexity, energy, and inventiveness of the great Jackie Chan (Rumble in the Bronx, Police Story)—as well as a bit of Spider-Man flair in the way Shang-Chi protects the other passengers while fending off his assailants.

Other fight scenes have more elegance, recalling the wuxia tradition on display in the likes of Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Perhaps the most beautiful sequence in the film is an early flashback detailing the first encounter between Wenwu and Shang-Chi’s mother, Jian Li (Fala Chen): as opponents in a bout in a bamboo forest. Amidst the swaying grasses, their jousting transforms into wooing (like all good fight scenes, this one has a psychological component). Jian Li harnesses the wind at one point, and the camera begins to float about as if it’s riding the breeze—keeping its distance to allow us to appreciate the actors’ acrobatics, then moving in closer to observe their intricate footwork.

Throughout, there is also a focus on their hands. When Wenwu punches, Jian Li deftly cups his fists and manipulates them into open palms. Later, Shang-Chi (and I should note Liu is a triple threat in the lead role: athletic, funny, and dramatic) learns this technique from his aunt (another legend: Crouching Tiger’s Michelle Yeoh). And in the climactic sequence, Wenwu’s final gesture is yet another play on this clenched fist/open palm motif. The moment is made all the more affecting by Leung, who manages to bring layers of melancholy from his Wong collaborations—Happy Together, Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, the aforementioned Ashes of Time—to the MCU.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t perfect. There’s a bit too much exposition involving myths, history, and character backstory; that climax inevitably abandons the intimacy of the fight scenes for gargantuan CGI. Yet by that point the movie has earned too much goodwill to be affected much by such complaints. I’m sure there are plenty of punchplosions to come in the MCU, probably even delivered by Shang-Chi himself, but at least Ten Rings offers a momentary respite from the reverberations.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi’ May Be the Least Dangerous Martial Arts Movie Ever Made
Marvel's latest movie feels just as sanitized and safe as its other products, even with its killer cast and talented director Destin Daniel Cretton.
By Oliver Jones • 08/23/21 12:00pm
https://observer.com/2021/08/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review/

“You are a product of all those who came before you,” says Jiang Nan (Michelle Yoh) to her nephew, the hero Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), as she begins to train him to defend his late mother’s ancestral village from an invading army led by his father, the power hungry Wenwu, aka The Mandarin (Tony Leung).

Well, yeah — with special emphasis on “product.”

For his much-hyped Marvel Studios debut, the formerly independent film director Destin Daniel Cretton, known for social justice movies like 2013’s Short Term 12 (starring his regular collaborator Brie Larson, aka Captain Marvel) and 2019’s Just Mercy, has crafted a shiny, inoffensive commodity of a film.

Sanitized by copious computer-generated special effects and washed clean of blood, sweat or any of the other grimier byproducts of the candy-colored, kid-friendly violence at its center, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may take the title as the least dangerous martial arts movie ever made.

And yet, while the film’s overall sheen of corporate sterility may disappoint those whose love affair with Kung Fu flicks developed through midnight movies and UHF matinees, Cretton’s film still makes notable contributions to the genre.

The director wisely keeps his camera back from the action and uses longer takes, giving the fight scenes an elegant, dance-like quality, especially early on. Then there is his skilled, charming, almost all Asian cast — an ensemble that levels up from good to extraordinary thanks to the presence of Hong Kong legend Tony Leung as the movie’s chief antagonist.

Playing a thousand-year-old warrior both irredeemably corrupted and made all but immortal by his possession of ten rings of mysterious origin and unimaginable power, Leung is suave, restrained and powerful. He is able to convey centuries worth of rage and heartbreak with the slightest of glances.

The 59-year-old star of more than 85 films exudes a magisterial sexual charisma that is palpable to the point of distraction. Yes, it points to his singularity as one of the most magnetic presences in international cinema over the last four decades, but it also shows by comparison how chaste the rest of the film is.

Which is not to say the Chinese Canadian actor Simi Liu does not make a hunky and affable central presence as the hero of the title. It’s that even when he is dispatching a bus full of assassins employing a martial arts mastery which had laid dormant in the character for a decade or so, his energy is avuncular and demure to the point of being passionless and staid.

The Kim’s Convenience star does have a lively and free-flowing comic repartee with Awkwafina, who plays Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend and protector who joins him on a globe-hopping adventure as to confront his father and reunite with his estranged and aggrieved younger sister Xialing (the Chinese actor Meng’er Zhang, making her feature film debut). But even here you are confronted with what could be rather than what is; the two are never given free rein to truly break loose with their comedic riffs.

With its evocation of a magical city torn from the pages of Chinese folklore and filled with fantastic creatures and all sorts of magic, the film is reminiscent of Black Panther’s depiction of Wakanda. But where Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film was an act of defiant Afrofuturistic imagination against the imperialist forces that have stripped Africa of its sovereignty, Shang-Chi’s invocation of a culture protected from the outside world by a magical forest is comparatively regressive and pointedly apolitical.

Marvel studios majordomo Kevin Feige has said that, with Shang-Chi, “we swing for the fences as we always do.” In truth, the film seems so similar to the studio’s past products — including a momentum halting final act showdown so overrun with computer effects that you can almost hear the servers humming beneath Joel P. West’s score — that, its remarkable cast aside, the movie is closer to a bunt down the third base line.

Shang-Chi certainly deserves credit as a groundbreaking step of representation in mega-budget filmmaking. You just desperately wish that the terrain it treads upon didn’t feel so safe.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Review: Marvel Gives Lesser-Known Asian Hero the A-List Treatment
In its commitment to giving audiences more than just white men to root for, the comics studio adds Simu Liu to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
By Peter Debruge Aug 23, 2021 9:00am PT
https://variety.com/2021/film/reviews/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review-simu-liu-1235046718/

Shang-who? The most obscure Marvel Cinematic Universe character to get his own stand-alone movie to date, the comic book mega-company’s “Master of Kung Fu” may not be a household name (not yet, at least), but you wouldn’t know that from “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a flashy, Asian-led visual effects extravaganza that gives the second-tier hero the same over-the-top treatment that big-timers like Hulk and Thor typically get. The result broadens the brand’s spectrum of representation once again, offering audiences of Asian descent the kind of empowerment for which “Black Panther” paved the way a few years back.

Whether in print or on screen, Marvel has consistently been a step ahead of culture at large, ensuring that women, people of color and even queer characters feature prominently in its properties. As social pressures motivated Hollywood to diversify its roster, Marvel didn’t have to look far to produce superheroes that gave more than just little white boys a chance to see themselves on-screen. Even so, the nearly half-subtitled “Shang-Chi” marks a gamble of an entirely different order: With Henry Golding already committed to “Snake Eyes” and few other bankable early-30s English-speaking actors to consider, the company cast a lesser-known leading man in Simu Liu (of Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience”).

The real star here is Marvel, of course. Good on it for leveraging its popularity to help launch some fresh Asian talent (including indie director Destin Daniel Cretton). To mitigate the risk, Marvel tapped Asian action icons Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung to play Shang-Chi’s aunt and dad, respectively, and paired Liu with bigger name Awkwafina as wisecracking bestie Katy. If the film’s a hit, it’ll send an even louder message to Hollywood than the success of “Crazy Rich Asians” did. And if it flops … well, that would tell us almost nothing, since Disney is releasing the movie exclusively to theaters in the midst of a pandemic.

Stick around for the end credits, and cameos by a few of the Avengers hint at how Shang-Chi fits into the greater MCU. For the two hours prior, however, the movie may as well be spinning its own mythology, reaching back more than a thousand years to ancient China, where Wenwu (Leung) is already in possession of the 10 rings. These powerful, immortality-bestowing bracelets are the movie’s answer to “Star Wars” lightsabers: a new form of weapon that glows blue on Wenwu’s wrists and is controlled by his mind and sweeping arm gestures, resulting in all kinds of fancy tricks.

From the outset, Cretton embraces the artificiality of CGI, establishing an aesthetic in which spectacle trumps plausibility. (These are comic book movies, after all.) Wenwu parts an army as Moses did the Red Sea in DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” using his magic jewelry to easily breach a walled city. Centuries pass, and the shadow villain expands his reach around the world until, 30 years ago, with “nothing left on Earth to conquer,” he goes looking for a land called Ta Lo, meeting his match in its guardian, Li (Fala Chen), whom he marries.

In the comics, Shang-Chi’s father was none other than the notorious Fu Manchu, and though that connection has been scrubbed here, the script (for which Cretton shares writing credit with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham) maintains the idea that Shang-Chi was raised by a dastardly figure he must eventually confront: ancient-Greek dramatic tropes imposed upon the Asian martial arts genre. “From sun up to sun down,” we learn, this powermonger-turned-family man taught his son “every possible way to kill a man.” That means of all the Marvel heroes, Shang-Chi has perhaps the most dysfunctional upbringing yet.

Small wonder then that Shang-Chi ran away to San Francisco, changed his name (but barely, as Awkwafina hilariously points out) and tried to forget it all with a dead-end job as a parking valet — which is how we meet him immediately following the movie’s overlong but action-packed Wenwu prologue. Although ultra-likable Liu appears shirtless and handsome in his first scene, Shang-Chi is all but neutered compared with other studly Marvel heroes (who all get girlfriends). That could be the movie’s progressive, “Frozen”-like way of saying superheroes don’t need love interests, but it plays into a troubling Hollywood tradition of denying Asians their sex appeal — one that Marvel could remedy by making a Namor/Sub-Mariner movie.

Cretton and his co-creators are smart enough to recognize the minefield of stereotypes the movie must navigate, finding clever and amusing tactics to deal with missteps in Marvel’s pulp past (spoiler alert: the company even brings back Ben Kingsley for some self-ribbing comic relief, addressing unresolved problems with the Mandarin character in the process). But in distancing itself from the Fu Manchu trap, the film unwittingly squanders Leung’s involvement. Here, he’s an incredibly evil world terrorist turned softie, who loses his way again after his wife’s death.

Now, beckoned by what he believes to be her voice, Wenwu arranges to steal the amulets that Li had given their two kids, Shang-Chi and his far more successful sister, Xialing (musical theater actor Meng’er Zhang, making her screen debut). After fending off Dad’s goons in a thrilling donnybrook aboard an out-of-control city bus, Shang-Chi drags Katy to Macao, where he finds Xialing running an “underground” fight club a hundred or so stories above street level in a half-constructed skyscraper.

The early action scenes are the best, as Cretton and his second-unit/VFX teams collaborate to make cartoonishly extreme choreography seem acceptable within the movie’s elastic alternate reality. Whereas “Black Panther” invented the Afrofuturist kingdom of Wakanda as a fantasy answer to the Western world’s visions of its own superiority, “Shang-Chi” acknowledges China as the global superpower that it is and merely has to find a way to get its characters back to the mainland. (Marvel has been courting Sino audiences since at least “Iron Man 3,” which added China-set scenes for its Asian release.)

That works just fine for the Macao sequences, although the movie veers in a different direction — trying to incorporate familiar wushu and anime elements — when Wenwu uses the amulets to access Ta Lo, a vaguely Lost World-like parallel dimension inhabited by fantastical creatures. There, an elite brigade of trained fighters (led by Yeoh and backed by a benevolent CG dragon) defend unsuspecting humans from a hellacious soul-sucking beast. Like virtually every stand-alone MCU movie to come before, “Shang-Chi” does a fine job of presenting its hero as a relatable everyman during the first half before spiraling off into bombastic, brain-numbing supernatural mayhem for the final act.

Here, the movie has the added burden of trying to give Awkwafina something to do while giant creatures battle it out in the skies. It’s great to see her in action, but confusing that we’re being asked to view this goofball as Shang-Chi’s equal, rather than a sidekick. More confusing still is why Wenwu’s slacker son, using rings for the first time, should turn out to be more skilled than his father.

In its efforts to be inclusive, Marvel has all but obscured just how powerful its various characters are supposed to be relative to one another. Not that audiences seem to mind. Now that the Avengers’ Infinity War has played out, Marvel must figure out where this lucrative enterprise will go next. By expanding its idea of who can be a hero, the franchise appears egalitarian while bringing all new demographics under its control.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' Bland Origin Story Must Jump through Too Many Hoops
By Jacob Oller | August 23, 2021 | 12:00pm
https://www.pastemagazine.com/movies/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review/



It’s been two and a half years since a Marvel film devoted itself to a new superhero’s origins. Captain Marvel’s place as a pre-Endgame piece of stage-setting eclipsed its abilities and ambitions as a standalone story; nearly everything in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings overshadows its post-Endgame newcomer. Delayed by and filmed throughout the pandemic, filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton’s sprawling and intangible martial arts journey wears its rich influences openly, treats its supporting cast reverently and dilutes it all predictably. Despite hints of the interpersonal nuance Cretton brought to his indie work (best seen in 2013’s Short Term 12) lurking in a bulky script, recognizable elements of Asian action cinema struggling for breath under countless layers of digital sediment and one of our greatest living actors working wonders as its villain, Shang-Chi is as bland and busy as its title.

Poor Simu Liu never had a chance. Every character is more interesting than the actor’s Shang-Chi, who’s a straight man foil to the world around him. He is the sweet-faced stoic to Awkwafina’s Katy (his rambling, riffing, spotlight-stealing comic relief pal) and—as is implied through countless flashbacks and, naturally, a long opening Legend—the allegedly brooding center of the film’s themes of identity and inheritance. But the San Franciscan valet with the heart of gold, single-digit body fat, and secret, mythical family history has a personality akin to circling a lot looking for parking. He is a vehicle for plot to drive around, picking up more interesting characters (Ben Kingsley’s faux Mandarin; Benedict Wong’s Wong) along its extended roadtrip.

That’s because, really, this isn’t Shang-Chi’s movie at all. It’s the movie of his father, Tony Leung’s Wenwu AKA The Mandarin. Not only is his character arc the only compelling one of the film and not only is Leung an ultra-charismatic master at handsome mystique, but he’s the essential force of the unwieldy story. A warlord kept immortal by magical rings that blast as bracelet lasers, bounce off skulls or simply empower his blows, Wenwu changed his ways after striking up a romance with Jiang Li (Fala Chen)—who seems to have had an especially ambitious case of “I can fix him”—and the subsequent births of Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang, striking in her first film performance). Jiang Li’s death really screwed Wenwu up, which in turn screwed up the kids he then roped into the family business of assassination. This emotional baggage drives the details of the film’s globe-and-realmtrotting mystery plot, which are withheld for far too long while Shang-Chi battles blade-handed henchman and clunky exposition on his vague quest to deal with the past that’s now caught up with him.

If you’re thinking “Wait, I don’t care about this, get back to that handsome warlord dad,” you’re not alone. Leung’s tense body projects melancholy and menace during his comicky baddie’s significant screentime while his deep eyes set his tried-and-true romantic yen at a constant simmer. He’s the most affecting villain the MCU’s had since Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger and whenever we inevitably return to the milquetoast lead, your heart breaks a little. Obviously, if you’re going to cast the legendary likes of Leung and Michelle Yeoh (who plays Shang-Chi’s aunt) in your silly superhero movie, they’re going to outshine whatever flashy neon fight club backgrounds or magical ring routines your VFX conjure. But the gap in quality between simply seeing Leung or Yeoh’s face betray a shade of feeling—a curve of a lip or a luxurious, polished-leather stare—when talking about amulets or ancient soul-suckers and the rest of the acting is just one of many jarring discrepancies between Shang-Chi’s flashes of ability and its otherwise dull sheen.

Take, for instance, its combat. Whether high-flying wuxia or the romantic fight-dance of The Grandmaster (honestly, it’s no wonder Jiang Li fell for this over-accessorized Genghis Khan), you’re trying to enjoy these familiar techniques from behind the gauzy, distancing unreality often conjured by blockbusters—especially obvious when action’s physical substance tries to operate within overbearingly insubstantial environments. Stunt performers move like clockwork, aping some of the best in the game, but float in space, distractingly disconnected from the rest of the film’s aesthetic framework. Is it particularly egregious compared to other MCU entries, or is it that the glimmer of real-world ability is stronger than its peers and thus bright enough to highlight the uncanniness? Either way, as far as applying that well-rehearsed physicality into actual scenes, there’s really only one that works and it involves a rampaging, brakeless, downhill bus. Utilizing the setting’s environmental details and the chaos of its instigating place in the story (like many of the movie’s sequences, when it kicks off, we don’t really know what in the world is going on), the scene is a thrill that gives the best example of Liu’s body control and action charisma. It helps that it’s also the only fight scene with a sense of humor.

Shang-Chi can’t even keep its fights free from the MCU’s encroaching house style. Its final battle falls prey to the same collision between ambition and tradition that drags its narrative down. While Shang-Chi strives for unique, expressive, even impressively grotesque design for its creatures, critters, armor and weapons, it’s all blurred in a digital slurry under assault from the same kind of ill-defined flying critters that seem to plague every film in the MCU. Gotta have some non-human fodder to blast out of the sky with PG-13 abandon. Rather than an Iron Man or a Hulk, the realms of this universe seem to need anti-aircraft guns—or at least big bug zappers. Not only does this climax not make much visual sense, filling the frame with swirling nonsense that probably looked great as concept art, it’s as frustratingly generic as its trained killer hero.

That frustration especially chafes because of how clearly Shang-Chi desires to inject a cultural and personal uniqueness into its fantasy template. The idea that someone must wrestle with familial expectations, the desire to be one’s own person and the inherent influence upon that person by those that came before them is a compelling inner struggle—one that could have special resonance for Asian Americans. But with only the vaguest of gestures towards this deeper emotional conflict—not helped by a main character who’s only got that title because his name is in the movie’s—it’s drowned in an overload of particle effects and Easter eggs.

Shang-Chi’s a long and often sidetracked movie so, if you’re inclined, there’s plenty of time to find these threads and pull them, hoping not to unravel anything but to find something meaningful at their ends. That the threads exist at all hints that Cretton or one of his two co-writers attempted this specificity—in addition to their casting choices, karaoke scenes and nods to understanding (but not really speaking) a parent’s language—but that their ambitions were either incompatible with or swallowed up by the needs of a wide-ranging origin story with its eyes squarely on a boardroom flowchart’s future. This too is part and parcel of Marvel movies. The silver lining for Liu (not so much for us watching this movie) is that he’ll get a fairer shot in later films. Unless follow-ups are equally uninterested in his character, shedding the burden of a superhero introduction might actually let him act. I hope it does. But the main attractions for Marvel’s Ten Ring circus are better when freed from the MCU’s captivity.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings’ Is Flawed But Has A Winning Spirit [Review]
Rodrigo Perez August 23, 2021 12:04 pm
https://theplaylist.net/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-marvel-review-20210823/

In many ways, “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings” is a remix of previous Marvel Studios films that’s a little more pronounced than most films that play with superhero archetypes. You have the hero who is haunted by his dark past (See “Black Widow” for a recent example), the hero who has to reckon and wrestle with the ugly legacy of his malevolent father (“Iron Man,” “Black Panther”), a secret, magical land most people on Earth don’t know about (shades of Wakanda), and many other recognizable superhero standards, including the hero who has abandoned his birthright for anonymity. And still, for all the familiar elements, including its core story about an estranged family and magical qualities that remind a little bit of the milieu of “Doctor Strange,” the real feat of the movie is overcoming its shortcomings and well-known tropes. Marvel manages to carve out a niche and a world that feels comparatively different. A fantasy world of Asian mysticism, with dragons, demons, and creatures—think Asian Wuxia movies like “House of Flying Daggers” meets “Raya The Last Dragon”—that feels unique to what we’ve already seen in the mystic side of the MCU. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12”), “Shang Chi” is a fairly uneven movie with many little clunky elements. Still, it has spirit, and the finished film ends up relatively triumphant and mostly enjoyable, nonetheless.

Narratively, “Shang Chi” (pronounced shong shi) resembles “Black Panther” the most and has a lot of similarities, including a cool, hip-hop flecked soundtrack felt seemingly cut from the same flavored musical cues. It begins with a similar opening prologue that explicates the backstory behind the legend in the title. In short, thousands of years ago, Wenwu (Tony Leung) harnesses the power of the Ten Rings that grants him immortality. He becomes a despotic tyrant over the years (sometimes known as The Mandarin) and forms the Ten Rings crime organization, secretly behind the toppling of many empires over the centuries (reminiscent of the League Of Shadows story from the Christopher Nolan ‘Dark Knight‘ trilogy). But Wenwu’s dark heart is lightened by love when he marries Jiang Li (Fala Chen), in her own right, a master martial artist with mystical powers that come from an ancient land called Tal-Lo. Wenwu renounces his tyrannical ways but is still regarded as unworthy, forbidden from entering Tal-Lo. Regardless, they start a family, but these golden years are heartbreakingly cut short by violence and vengeance.

Fast forward years later, and Shaun (aka Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu) lives in San Francisco as a valet, parking cars with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), unaware of Shaun’s past or his real name. Soon, the Ten Rings organization comes looking for him, and all hell breaks loose, including Shang-Chi having to confess who he truly is to Katy: a former trained assassin who left his father and Ten Rings crime family as a teenager when his mother was tragically killed by those seeking revenge against Wenwu and his formerly malicious ways. Shang-Chi’s capture at the hands of the Ten Rings and a reunion with a father he wants nothing to do with sets in motion a lot of plot— too much to explain here— but essentially, Wenwu trying to resurrect his wife by utilizing the enchanted sorcery and supernatural possibilities he believes are found in Tal-Lo. Oh, there’s also Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who has started her own fight club in Hong Kong and is still embittered with her older brother abandoned her. The family drama and its ideas of dutiful Asian fealty to honoring kin are off the charts, but that’s also the movie’s best element that gives it a soul.

“Shang-Chi” is about a broken family and a young man having to reconcile his troubling past. Yet, it’s also very much the story of a father, Wenwu, a tragic figure who is so desperate to reclaim his love, he is driven to madness and back to the world of immoral transgressions he had forsaken in favor of a family. As many of these stories obviously go, Shang-Chi must confront his father, leading to a grand climax in the pocket dimension of Tal-Lo.

Water is a running theme in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings,” fitting since dragons are a water symbol in Chinese culture, not fire as most Americans assume. There’s mystical, magical water that leads a path to Tal-Lo, many tributaries of narrative, and for better or worse, a wet, soggy hurricane of a third act. It’s a noisy, bombastic, and VFX mess that looks like it was shot inside a car within a dimly lit car wash (obviously a problem with many superhero films). “Shang-Chi” is flawed in ways that don’t require a lot of close scrutinies. Broadly, the second act’s momentum grinds to a halt by reintroducing a new/old character that doesn’t really belong in the film. Katy transitions to a hero role that doesn’t feel convincing, and this new character (think “Iron Man 3” and not much of a spoiler cause it’s all out there already publicly) takes over as the comedic foil. Even when that third act works, it almost feels like an entirely different movie, a fantastical fantasy one at that, though the comforting presence of Michelle Yeoh is definitely welcome.

The jury is out on Simu Liu, too, the lead star who isn’t as charismatic as he appears on talk shows, social media, and public appearances. There’s also so much plot backstory; it’s hard to get a true sense of who Shang-Chi is: happy-go-lucky, as he is in the first act? Or brooding when he’s forced to contend with who he really is and all the dark sins he’s inherited? Perhaps that’s resolved in the next chapter, as it is in so many Marvel movies. Speaking of Marvel moments, all the MCU connectivity feels forced and unnecessary—like the superfluous character from the second act, most of it is grating outside of the final tag.

And yet, not all is a total wash in “Shang-Chi,” and as suggested, there’s charming heart and humor throughout. Additionally, there is some exciting wuxia-style choreography, street fight action, and a very excellent Tony Leung as the credible main antagonist and that strong story about the perils of family and the misguided desperation found in grief. It’s also an admirably patient film, especially in its first act, never feeling hurried and seemingly taking all the time in the world to get you emotionally invested in its story of a family; never a bad thing.

“Shang-Chi” might get bogged down in the weight of water carrying plot, legend, plenty of backstories, MCU connectivity, and the obligations of climatic superhero action that gets unwieldy, but in the end, it’s a winning film that’s likable and that quality goes a long way. [B-]
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

‘Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings’: Review
By Tim Grierson, Senior US Critic23 August 2021
https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-review/5162473.article

Marvel’s new clan of warrior legends takes an energetic bow

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s telling that the film works best when that fact is not so apparent. Starting strongly with a series of excellent action sequences and some delightful comedic banter, the franchise’s 25th instalment is an uneven but entertaining mixture of fresh and familiar, chronicling a seemingly ordinary young man who embraces his destiny to become a martial-arts master. Simu Liu gives a charismatic, nicely understated performance, which helps mitigate the muddled storytelling — particularly when director Destin Daniel Cretton begins straining to deliver the sort of blowout extravaganza MCU fans expect.

Opening in the UK and US on September 3, this Disney release may face commercial obstacles since Shang-Chi isn’t as ubiquitous a pop-culture fixture as Iron Man or Captain America. (Plus, the character hasn’t appeared in previous Marvel films.) But rising star Liu is joined by a cast that includes Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung, helping to raise visibility for the first MCU film to feature an Asian main character.

Shaun (Liu) is a humble San Francisco valet working alongside best friend Katy (Awkwafina) when, one day, he is attacked on the bus by assassins. Much to Katy’s shock, he’s able to dispatch them with incredible fighting skills. Afterwards, Shaun confesses that he has been hiding a secret: his name is actually Shang-Chi and he ran away from China as a teenager because his father Wenwu (Leung), a ruthless thousand-year-old warrior, had trained him to be a killer.

The bulk of Shang-Chi is devoted to Shang-Chi, with Katy in tow, returning to China so that he can reunite with his equally adept younger sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), who has never forgiven him for abandoning her, and confront Wenwu, who sent the assassins to San Francisco. But Wenwu tells his son that Shang-Chi’s dead mother Li (Fala Chen) has been contacting him from the great beyond, insisting that she’s merely trapped in a magic realm — and that he needs Shang-Chi’s help to free her.

Early on, the film is a fleet-footed action-comedy, with Cretton (Just Mercy) nicely balancing Shang-Chi and Katy’s smart-aleck rapport with some electric hand-to-hand fight scenes. Cinematographer William Pope gives the images the peppy, glossy sheen common to MCU pictures, but outside of a throwaway reference to the events of Avengers: Endgame, there isn’t much initially that connects Shang-Chi to the overall franchise. Eventually, though, a few MCU characters will emerge — including Doctor Strange’s loyal sidekick Wong (Benedict Wong), and a surprise peripheral figure whose reappearance is cleverly handled but also somewhat overstays its welcome.

To a degree, Shang-Chi is closest in temperament to the Ant-Man standalone adventures in that the stakes aren’t too immense and the irreverent humour is prominent. As played by the sweetly low-key Liu, Shang-Chi is such a modest individual that the proceedings feel agreeably small-scale. And, frankly, it’s a relief to watch a Marvel film that isn’t encumbered by the maniacal need to tie up loose ends from other sequels.

But after those early reels winningly establish Shang-Chi and Katy’s friendship — with just a hint of a romantic spark thrown in — Cretton gets a bit bogged down in Wenwu’s plan to save his wife. This requires seeking out Shang-Chi’s noble warrior aunt Nan (Yeoh), who is convinced that it is not Li who is contacting Wenwu but an evil force hoping to be unleashed. Those interpersonal conflicts create an emotional through-line — Wenwu is so blinded by grief that he doesn’t realise his grave mistake — and Leung does a fine job making this ostensible villain mournful and sympathetic. And yet, Shang-Chi’s fraught relationship with his distant father — and his reluctance to take on the mantle of hero — can’t help but feel like common dramatic tropes.

As the action sequences grow more elaborate, Shang-Chi loses a little of its personality, succumbing to de rigueur effects-driven spectacle. Granted, some of these scenes can be stunning, but the visual pizzazz means less than Liu’s graceful navigation of this tale of a man who long ago fled his father and must finally face him. It’s these intimate character moments that help distinguish Shang-Chi from other MCU pictures. Unsurprisingly, the story ends with the possibility that he’ll join the Avengers — ironically, the more his film tries going its own way, the more of a kick it is.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Shang-Chi' masters the art of the Marvel origin story
Review by Brian Lowry, CNN Updated 12:02 PM ET, Mon August 23, 2021
https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/23/entertainment/shang-chi-review/index.html

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" conjures a slick addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one that owes less to the comics than most of its predecessors. The movie not only strikes a welcome blow for inclusion with its predominantly Asian cast, but deftly juggles epic world building with lighter comedy in a way that should appeal to audiences, depending on how many can be lured back to theaters at this moment.
That asterisk doesn't detract from the film itself, but it does underscore the weight "Shang-Chi" carries, both as an original (that is, non-sequel) title and a movie released exclusively into theaters without the at-home option that's been offered to fuel subscriptions to Disney+.

Fortunately, the film comes armed for battle with an extremely appealing lead in Simu Liu, nicely abetted by Awkwafina as his best pal and plucky comic relief.

Shang-Chi and Awkwafina's Katy are rather aimlessly meandering through life in San Francisco when destiny knocks, and she's understandably gob-smacked when he gets attacked on a bus by muscled henchmen, exhibiting stunning martial-arts skills in the movie's first and best action sequence.

As it turns out, her friend since high school has hidden a secret, having fled his upbringing as a trained assassin under his father (Tony Leung), the possessor of the mystical Ten Rings, a source of enormous power. The sudden intrusion means not only that dad has found him, but that Shang-Chi must seek out his sister (Meng'er Zhang), launching the Bay Area buddies into a world of magic and mystery.

Having made their debut in the 1970s, the Shang-Chi comics always possessed problematic underpinnings, rooted as they were in the literary character of master villain Fu Manchu, who was Shang-Chi's father.

Under director Destin Daniel Cretton -- stepping up in scope after the drama "Just Mercy," and collaborating on the script with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham -- the story essentially (and wisely) uses the comics as a rough outline. While there are echoes of "Black Panther" in the character's super-heroic destiny, the tone more closely resembles "Doctor Strange" as Marvel origin stories go.

The movie also cleverly weaves in characters from the larger MCU, adding playfulness to a mythical narrative filled with complicated family history and the near-Shakespearean relationship between father and son.

Marvel Comics was seldom bashful about borrowing from pop culture, and the comics -- titled "Master of Kung Fu" -- drew on the popularity of the TV show and Bruce Lee movies in the '70s. One surprise, given that, is just how superhero-like "Shang-Chi" feels, including the seemingly inevitable barrage of computer-generated mayhem before it's over.

While visually impressive, those sequences actually deliver less excitement than Shang-Chi's close encounters of a more earthbound kind, which showcase dazzling stunt work and kinetic action. It's perhaps cliched to say less is more, but in this context it's indeed the case that the more magic the story employs, the less magical the action becomes.

Quibbles aside, "Shang-Chi" is another smartly calibrated extension of the Marvel stable amid its endeavors to become more diverse. Preceding an onslaught of sequels in the studio's carefully plotted next phase, this movie and the upcoming "Eternals" also reflect perhaps its biggest gambles on lesser-known titles since "Guardians of the Galaxy," which obviously paid off handsomely.

Marvel's might has only grown since then, and practically speaking it's hard not to admire the meticulous way the company weaves something like "Shang-Chi" into a cinematic roster whose possibilities have further expanded with Disney+.

Despite the headwinds movie-going faces, "Shang-Chi" should thus benefit from the fact that presented an exciting new character, the Marvel faithful won't want to risk missing the bus. And in this particular case, you really don't want to miss the bus.
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Nick Allen September 03, 2021
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/shang-chi-and-the-legend-of-the-ten-rings-movie-review-2021

It’s telling when the Marvel Cinematic Universe uses its immense power to operate an assembly line. But it’s just as telling when there’s a deeply human spark to one of their projects, allowing franchise values like great spectacle, striking performances, and intricate depictions of family to prevail. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the latest addition to the latter category, taking after previous Marvel movies that introduced a vision and became benchmarks: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Black Panther,” and “Thor: Ragnarok” come to mind. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, this film fits into Marvel packaging in its own way, but it has an immense soulfulness that other MCU movies, superhero movies, and action movies in general should take notes from.

Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi, a key piece to a broken family that has a history of infighting. The dysfunctional family dynamics are even more important than the ten rings that grant such immense power to Shang Chi’s power-hungry father Wenwu, who has lived for 1,000 years and created a society called the Ten Rings that has destroyed kingdoms and swayed the events all over the world. When Wenwu found love with Jiang Li (Fala Chen), there was peace. They married and started a family. But after Shang-Chi’s mother died, a newly monstrous Wenwu tried to mature his son by making him a killer, causing the young boy to leave behind his sister Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) and Wenwu. Cretton, who previously directed “Short Term 12,” an Avengers-like showcase of indie rising talent (Brie Larson, LaKeith Stanfield, Rami Malek, etc.) keeps those visceral, personal stakes in this script (by himself, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham), so that the superhero context is a bonus to the drama. The film is a mega-budget ballet, one that glides and floats over an abyss of grief.

This backstory comes for Shang-Chi, known as an American adult as Shaun, when he rides the bus with his friend Katy (Awkwafina) up and down the hills of San Francisco. A group of henchmen attack Shang-Chi for a green pendant he wears around his neck, and in a beat that’s prefaced like a power-up (to Katy's funny surprise), Shaun’s immense courage suddenly comes to light. So too do his fighting skills, which help make for an incredible melee scene of hand-to-hand combat that has the camera gazing for long shots and freely going in and out of the moving bus, just like its impromptu hero. The scene lacks for its yowch-factor—especially compared to how “Nobody” did the same thing with appropriate blood earlier this year—but it side-steps that element by being fast-paced, even longer than you think it’ll be, and very funny. It’s the birth of an action star in Liu, and an amazing debut for a character who will find himself in fight scenes here of escalating intensity.

The power for this film, however, comes through in the eyes of his father, Wenwu. One of the movie’s most brilliant choices is casting Tony Leung so that can repeat the same magic he’s had from countless romances and dramas in Hong Kong. Leung rules this movie. With the same silent passion and stillness that made “In the Mood for Love” one of the greatest romances of all time, Leung destroys armies, raises a family, and struggles to resist destructive grief; his presence is made all the more powerful by the ten blue rings that help him slingshot around and destroy whatever is in his path. When he hears the voice of what could be his wife from behind a cave of rock, Wenwu becomes a Darth Vader-like tyrant, driving a campaign to rampage through the mother’s magical home known as Ta Lo, in order to get to a cave that everyone else knows (including his son and daughter) has an apocalyptic, soul-sucking dragon inside. It’s the best performance from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because the passion and grief it expresses is appropriately Leung-sized.

Cretton is able to take this enthralling movie from one scene to the next with this vivid sense of a brother and sister trying to stop their father from destroying everything because he can’t move on. It’s a more devastating threat than the usual world domination thing, and it parallels how the script builds out the painful backstory of Shang-Chi and his similarly skilled and aggrieved sister, Xialing. With a few strong twists along the way, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” turns into an adventure and a homecoming to a peaceful realm from a whole different time, which brings in a sweet, magnetic performance from Michelle Yeoh. These passages, as balletic as the entire movie, detail how Shang-Chi learned two different fighting approaches—life philosophies, really—from his mother and father.

It doesn't seem like a coincidence that a massive Hollywood tentpole sincerely based on character-based kung fu has inspired such rich fight scenes, and it makes the film even more of a refreshing blast. Cretton and his team constantly play with height, light, reflections, and staging when it comes to orchestrating a fight set-piece that surprises the audience (like a jaw-dropping, way-up-high nighttime battle royale on some scaffolding in Macao), and then foregrounds the choreography as the main spectacle; it’s not just about who is throwing the punches and kicks. I should admit that numerous beats in these sharply edited sequences blew me back in my chair,, an involuntary filmmaking nerd response I’ve had to similar movies that inspired this one: “Skyfall,” “The Grandmaster,” for starters.

“Shang-Chi"'s thrilling’s embrace of clarity, of nudging your imagination instead of doing all the work for you, spreads the inspired special effects that enhance the magic of this story and the world of its characters. There’s an evocative use of water—it bursts from walls, floats in the air, and makes a map of icicles—a striking way of depicting a moment that usually would just get a hologram. The movie even throws in a charming animated cute sidekick that cleverly subverts the expectations of cute faces on plush-looking sidekicks. The dominating usage of CGI—the kind that requires dark clouds, as we saw in the grand battle of “Avengers: Endgame”—is saved for the last massive sequence, which is such an over-the-top, giddy, rollercoaster ride that you can’t help but root for it.

The Avengers, the new roster at least, lurk on the periphery of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” but Cretton’s film benefits from establishing its deeper family and friend relationships. Liu and Awkwafina have adorable, platonic chemistry as two valet workers who are thrust into another adventure, this one more intense than their karaoke nights; Awkwafina in particular becomes a vital source of levity for the script, and a welcoming audience surrogate as the film ramps up to a large battle. She helps the humor pop even more compared to the story’s darker themes, making numerous passages of the movie not only thrilling but charming and funny.

As for Shang-Chi himself, well: take away the comic relief that lovingly dunks on him, or the battling schools of fighting from his parents that swirl within him, and there’s not too much personality to the character. It’s a distinct void when one reflects on the performance, given that Liu is so watchable in how he combines a striking, bulky presence with endearing innocence, a la Channing Tatum’s own box office dominating days. It becomes telling of the imperfect balancing act of this script that its main character needs a little emphasis in his sequel; the same could be said for other intriguing characters like Xialing, a vengeful bad-ass in her own right not given enough screen time or depth, especially considering where she ends up.

Without spoiling, the movie does make some efforts to address Marvel’s previously problematic presentations of Asian characters, and while the moments are used for some self-deprecating comic relief, they remind me of two things: how it’s impossible for these Marvel films to exist in a vacuum, and how much more work needs to be done. Even the people who helped make this movie stumble through talking about it, like when Disney CEO Bob Chapek insensitively said this was an “interesting experiment,” a phrase that indicates a secondary status, something unofficial. The statement is ignorant in many ways, but especially after one witnesses the many triumphs of “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” It embraces fruitful ideas, big and small, whether in cohesive action scenes, embracing platonic friendships in a mega-budget movie, or introducing a new exciting hero who also has to instruct his friend (and the audience) on how to properly say his name. This movie is not an experiment for Marvel and Disney. It is a promising template for how they can get it right again.

Exclusively in theaters on September 3rd.
Back to top
View user's profile
Safran



Joined: 22 Mar 2006
Posts: 2587
Location: Austria

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2022 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow ....you found A LOT of reviews, dear yitian ! thumbleft
Many many thanks for posting ! flower
Back to top
View user's profile
yitian



Joined: 06 Jul 2011
Posts: 2130
Location: United States

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2022 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Safran wrote:
Wow ....you found A LOT of reviews….

These are only part of reviews from “authoritative” sources. Some are amusing to read Very Happy .
I think it’s nice to have many of them grouped at one place - I will keep posting when I get a chance… at least it gives me a chance to read them again Very Happy Very Happy .
Back to top
View user's profile
Safran



Joined: 22 Mar 2006
Posts: 2587
Location: Austria

PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2022 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thumbleft Giving a kiss
Back to top
View user's profile
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    www.tonyleung.info Forum Index -> Tony Leung Articles All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Goto page Previous  1, 2
Page 2 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group