Canada’s Simu Liu Rises to Superhero Status in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings
With Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Tony Leung, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Wah, Ronny Chieng, Zach Cherry and Dallas Liu. Written by Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Opening in theaters on September 3. 132 minutes. PG
The father-son friction in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” must be second nature to its featured title, played by Simu Liu. Fans of the recently concluded CBC-TV comedy series “Kim’s Convenience” will recognize Liu, who was born in China and raised in Mississauga, as Jung, the estranged and rebellious son of trader Appa.
The stakes are, of course, considerably higher in the film, a superhero saga that is the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have an Asian lead and a predominantly Asian cast. There’s the fate of the world to be reckoned with, by the MCU standard, though – similar to “Black Widow” from earlier this summer – it seems less important than patching up relationships in a severely dysfunctional family. It also makes for a better story.
Shang-Chi’s father is global crime boss Wenwu (Tony Leung), a deceptively calm man who rules a villainous empire called the Ten Rings, named after the almighty arm jewelry Wenwu wields to further his evil ambitions. . He can change the course of history, and has done so for centuries, thanks to the immortality of the rings and the intense blasts of energy they deliver.
Wenwu trained Shang-Chi and his daughter, Xialing (impressive newcomer Meng’er Zhang), to become martial arts masters and assassins like him, learning “every possible way to kill a man.” Wenwu expects his two children to join his Ten Rings team, although you can tell from the title of the film that Xialing doesn’t have as much screen time as Shang-Chi.
This is how Wenwu keeps Shang-Chi and Xialing close to him to deal with the grief of the tragic death of his beloved wife, Jiang Li (Fala Chen). She was herself a martial arts master who once lived in a remote paradise called Ta Lo, a place that is growing in importance as the film unfolds. Wenwu does not want to accept that Jiang Li is gone forever and he is convinced that he can bring her back somehow.
Watch the all-new trailer for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” from Marvel Studios and only experience it in theaters on September 3rd.
Shang-Chi hates violence and doesn’t want anything to do with his father or sister. He took off for San Francisco ten years ago, changed his name to Shaun, and happily settled into a stress-free life working as a car jockey with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), and singing karaoke. in clubs with her at night.
Shaun doesn’t tell anyone, not even Katy, about his past. Imagine his surprise when they board a bus together and murderous thugs – including an aptly named Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) – come after him. They were sent by Wenwu.
Shaun responds with heroic moves that are a combination of Bruce Lee’s ferocity and Jackie Chan comedy. This is the best part of the film, choreographed by the recently deceased stunt ace Brad Allan, to whom the film is dedicated. It’s also one of the best action scenes in recent memory, being matched only by Bob Odenkirk’s transit fight in “Nobody”.
“Who are you? ”Katy marvels as she gazes at her relaxed friend with new eyes. It’s time for Shaun to confess that he’s Shang-Chi, but he still has to answer Katy’s question: who exactly is he?
This is where the story of “Shang-Chi” lies, at least the first half. Director / Co-Writer Destin Daniel Cretton (“Just Mercy”, “Short Term 12”) does his best on a smaller canvas. He’s great with the cast, orchestrating the jokes and connections between Shang-Chi and Katy, and delivering a much more interesting superhero origin story than the usual fare.
For a while, the movie feels like “The Bourne Identity,” with Shang-Chi mimicking the character of Matt Damon as he displays hidden skills. You’d hardly know you were watching an MCU movie, except for a wall poster referencing “post-Blip anxiety” (hello, Avengers!) And an appearance by a certain character played by Benedict Wong.
There is also a comic-relief interaction with another tangential Marvel figure. The latter should remain anonymous to avoid a spoiler, even if the character in question could be cut from the film and no one would be wiser.
This player to be named later marks a sharp change of tone and venue for the second half of the film, when Shang-Chi is forced to fully embrace his superhero status – this follows a side trip jam-packed with action in Macau – and confront the dangerous delusions of his father.
Shang-Chi prefers to travel with the crazy Katy by his side, as she becomes more of his superhero sidekick than his semi-romantic girlfriend. Awkwafina brings more than her usual hyper shtick to the proceedings as she promises to do what she can to help her friend. ” Do not die ! a worried elder told him.
We also meet Shang-Chi’s warrior aunt, Jiang Nan (Michelle Yeoh), who brings back memories of her exciting work on the wire in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
At this point in “Shang-Chi,” someone might as well have been shouting, “Free the dragons! Fearsome CGI creatures join the fray and a pitched battle ensues, offering much to admire, but also Marvel’s usual endgame attack.
The second half in numbers luckily doesn’t dampen the brilliance of the film’s first half, nor Simu Liu’s obvious aptness as Shang-Chi.
Liu, a former stuntman, has an easy way of it, as the quick-footed slacker Shaun and Shang-Chi. He looks like the kind of guy who could wrestle with super villains and compete with dragons. This bodes well for other Marvel adventures hinted at in the mandatory end-of-credit teasing.