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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 1, 2021



CURRENTLY SHOWING IN local theaters is one of the biggest worldwide hits of 2021, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. 

Based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi, it’s one of the two big Hollywood action flicks with an Asian cast shown this year. 

The other one was “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins”, starring Harry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians”, shot mostly in Japan. Too bad it’s a flop. 

On the other hand, “Shang-Chi”, the first Marvel movie with a Chinese-American superhero, has made $430 million worldwide so far. 

We didn’t expect anything when we watched it because, frankly, we’re tired of superhero flicks, a genre so saturated now with it proliferating even on TV series. 

The last decade was dominated by such movies, notably “The Avengers” franchise, and we felt like it’s already coming out of our ears. 

But our son and apo enjoyed it, so we also watched it. And boy, would we have regretted it if we snubbed the movie. 

The 25th film in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Shang-Chi is the eldest of two kids of Wenwu (Tony Leung, Chinese films royalty), who owns the mystical ten rings that give him super powers. 

He also owns the Ten Rings organization that is so powerful it can topple governments. 

While looking for the mythical village called Ta Lo (no one wins there, lahat ta lo), he meets the fairy in a magical forest, Ying Li (Fala Chen), who falls in love with him and chooses to leave their village to live with him. 

They have a son, Shang-Chi, and a daughter, Xialing. Wenwu chooses to live in peace but his foes, the Iron Gang, murder his wife and he is forced to fight the gang members. 

He trains Shang-Chi in the martial arts then sends a teenage Shang-Chi to kill the leader of the Iron Gang. The boy runs away to San Francisco and assumes a new name, Shaun. 

We meet him again as a young man (Simu Liu, a Chinese Canadian actor and stuntman born in China but grew up in Ontario ) working as a hotel parking valet with his friend Katy (Awkwafina, “Ocean’s 8”, “Crazy Rich Asians”), who has no inkling who he really is. 

While inside a bus, goons attack Shaun and Katy is surprised to see him being such an adept and fierce fighter. The thugs get from him a pendant he inherited from his mother. 

He then flies to Macau to look for his sister Xialing (Menger Zhang) who’s wearing the other half of the pendant. At first, Xialing is hostile to him for running away and leaving her alone with their dad. 

But soon, their dad Wenwu arrives and takes them all to his lair. They learn that their pendants show a map going to Ta Lo where Wenwu believes their mom is held captive as he can hear her voice calling him. 

As may be expected, the film’s climax happens in Ta Lo that exists in another dimension with its own unique and peculiar animals and mythical creatures. 

Shang-Chi meets his aunt, Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh), sister of their mom who tells him that his dad wants to free an evil dragon and its cohorts that all consume souls of people. 

It is this evil dragon who makes it appear to Wenwu that his wife is still alive, so he would open the gates that has sealed in the dragon for thousands of years. 

Wenwu attacks Shang-Chi and company using the power of the ten rings. This becomes a showdown between father and son. 

The evil dragon is freed but a huge snake called the Great Protector helps Shang-Chi and company. 

The CGI work in this climactic scene are really a flashy extravaganza of visual effects that should be seen on a big theatre screen. 

A bit over the top but you will still be awed by all the spectacle and root for Shang-Chi and his allies.

 Looks like they already have an inkling that the film will be a hit as they have shot two end credit scene previews. 

First, Shang-Chi and Katy meet Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who tell them the ten rings have other uses. 

In the second preview scene, we see Xialing training new men and women who look like they’ll be the next villains in a sequel of “Shang Chi”, which means it will be brother vs. sister. 

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, a young man seeking his own place in the sun while trying to elude his past controlled by his dad, makes a strong debut for a new hero. 

He’s not the traditional Hollywood handsome actor but he’s reeking with charisma and agility in the awesomely choreographed fight scenes (inside the bus and on stilts/scaffolding on the side of a building in Macau) with vividly fluid camera work.

The seemingly effortless stunt and action choreography are done by Australian martial arts expert, Brad Allan, a protege of Jackie Chan. 

He died at the young age of 48 of an unspecified illness just last August before the movie was released and you’d see in the credits that the film is dedicated to him. He has another completed film, “The King’s Men” which is coming soon.

Acclaimed Chinese icon Tony Leung (we will always remember him in Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”) is just perfect as Wenwu, quietly exuding the menacing malevolence he gets from the powerful ten rings. 

We’re surprised at the importance given to Awkwafina as Katy, the friend of Shang-Chi (no romantic feelings between them) who is thrust into a world totally different from what she grew up in San Francisco. 

She not only provides comic relief but figures in many important scenes and even gets to shoot the dragon in its most vulnerable part, its throat.

 Another surprise in the movie is “Gandhi” Oscar best actor Ben Kingsley in a supporting role as an actor who played the Mandarin and is abducted by the Ten Rings to be their court jester. He has a cute mythical pet, an animal with no face. 

This is surely one of the best superhero origin movies ever. “Black Panther” broadened Marvel’s roster of superheroes with an all African-American cast. “Shang-Chi” does it this time for Asians. 

What makes it different is the family dynamics involving parents and children and the element of going back to one’s roots to understand who you really are. 

And thanks to co-writer and director Daniel Cretton (who’s Hawaiian, “Just Mercy”), the film also junks the stereotype representation of Asians in Hollywood movies speaking comically with pronounced accents and successfully mixes classic Chinese martial arts movies with blockbuster superhero-action flicks. 

And now, you can wait for more MCU movies: “Spider Man 3” this month, “Doctor Strange 2” in March, “Thor 4’’ in May, “Black Panther 2” in July and “Captain Marvel 2” in November.