The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has made strides to become more diverse and introduce central characters everyone can identify with, Black Panther a prime example
Featuring a character only comic book nerds may have heard of, “Shang-Chi” (Simu Liu) aka “Shaun”, is the first Asian character to hold centre stage within the superhero MCU stable.
When we first meet Shaun, he is going nowhere fast, acting as a valet parking rich peoples cars, assisted by his good friend “Katy” (Awkwafina). When the friends are confronted on a San Francisco bus by a giant with a pulsating machete, instead of an arm, Katy rightly realises this is not the usual kind of day
Quickly realising her mild mannered best buddy, has some serious fighting skills. This leads to a bravura CGI enhanced real fight scene, both on, off and around a speeding city bus with multiple assailants and ingenious fight choreography.
Understandably this highly unusual commute demands some explanation. Shaun changed his name from Shang, as he is actually the son of Xu Wen Wu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), owner of the fabled Ten Rings, granting his father eternal life and superpowers.
However, his father initially gave up his powers when he fell in love with Shaun’s mother Li (Fala Chen), only reacquiring them after an event he is keen to redress by searching for the mythical city of Ta Lo.
Adding to the mix is the re-discovery of Shaun’s sister “Xialing” (Meng’er Zhang), currently running an extreme fight club in Macau, where MCU favourite “Wong” (Benedict Wong) also pops up, to help proceedings along.
The story is largely incidental, go here to get this, find that and so on but all done with some style with echoes of “Crouching Tiger” style fight scenes, which remain great fun to watch.
Liu is impressive in his first major role, wholly believable as both Clark Kent style character and every-man super hero the next. Awkwafina continues to be the audience’s view into this world and adds just the right amount of snark when required, puncturing some of the pent up pomposity.
Leung brings years of acting experience to the enterprise and coupled with Michelle Yeoh, ensuring the movie does not fall entirely on Liu’s young shoulders.
The film does introduce a dubious character from Iron Man 3 which does threaten to derail the story, however this allows the MCU to tidy up the tonal mess from the earlier film. From this point on the film does falter, entering a “Cuddly Ewok” style section which does detract from what came before, which is a pity.
The film ends with the usual smorgasbord of CGI effects, which lessens the carefully laid framework that came before but this is a superhero movie, so a formula has been established and yes, “there be dragons”.
Overall a better than average MCU Superhero entry in the ever expanding canon of films and well worth a watch, we can expect to see more of these characters.
A positive and long overdue diversification of who can be a superhero and hopefully sometime soon, it will be not worthy of comment.