In the 1970s, it was fairly common (at least where I lived) for the parents to let their kids sit at the magazine rack in the grocery store and look at comics. This allowed the parents to shop in peace with their hyperactive child (that is me) scanned the comics. My family didn’t have much money but they usually would spring for a comic book for me if I was good and didn’t cause trouble (I mean I did get a comic sometimes so I couldn’t have been that bad… right?). I learned that my job at the grocery store was to look at as many comics as I could and pick the one I wanted to get since I knew I could only get one.
This was a difficult job. There were so many KOOL comics in the 70s. I wanted to take them all home with me but I couldn’t. I could only pick one. Most of the time, that one comic was a Spider-Man comic since he is by far my favorite.
I was always tempted to take the Hands of Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu comics. These were different than other comics. I had already fell in love with Martial Arts and these comics were KOOL. I would often say, “next time I will get the Kung Fu comic” but I never did. But I certainly did love reading them in the grocery store.
My love for Martial Arts grew as I aged. My cousins (when they were being nice and that wasn’t often) would let me stay up late with them occasionally and watch “Black Belt Theatre”. The stylized and magical elements of these movies had me doing pretend martial arts in my room. Later as a teen, I took some martial arts lessons and absolutely loved it. I am a Kung Fu (or any martial arts) movie junkie.
Because of my love for the Kung Fu genre and for enjoying (but never buying) the Shang Chi comics, how would this live adaption work for me? Let me tell you what I think.
(There will be major spoilers– be warned)
A thousand years ago or more, Xu Wenwu discovered the ten rings. These are powerful arm band rings that gives the wearer long life and a variety of powers. Wenwu used the rings to gain power, create the Ten Rings crime organization, conquer kingdoms and governments over a millennium.
In the mid nineties, Wenwu began searching for the mythical Ta Lo. He found a forest of bamboo that moves. The forest pushed Wenwu’s group and car off of a cliff but he survived. This lead him to find Ying Li, who protects the entrance. They battle in a beautiful martial arts fight scene where Ying Li wins out with her elegant style rather than the aggressive style of Wenwu. Ying Li shows him there is more life and they fall in love. This lead Ying Li to leave with Wenwu and get married. Wenwu changes his life and become a family man.
Wenwu’s enemies come looking for him at their home. Ying Li is home alone with her two young children She fights the bad guys but eventually dies with young Shang Chi watching.
Wenwu converts back to run the Ten Rings. He raises Shang Chi to become a killer but his sister Xialing isn’t allowed to train so she trains on her own. At 16, Shang Chi is sent to kill the man who killed his mom. Shang Chi runs away and taken on a new life in San Francisco as Shaun.
Shaun and his best friend Katy are attacked by a group from the Ten Rings. In the awesome battle on the bus, Shang Chi loses his emerald eye of the dragon necklace his mother had given him. He knew that they would be after the other one necklace his sister has.
Shang Chi reveals the truth to his bestie. They jump on a flight to Macau to find his sister and warn her that the Ten Rings is after her necklace. He ends up in a fight club and ends up fighting and losing to his sister. The Ten Rings shows up and has another amazing martial arts battle until their father Wenwu shows up and shuts it down. He takes both kids and Katy back to fortress. This leads to the emerald eyes opening a magical map to Ta Lo. Wenwu is planning on invading Ta Lo because a voice that sounds like his wife is telling him that she is captured behind a wall in Ta Lo. The kids reject the idea and are place in prison where they meet Tevor Slatter (Ben Kinsley), who had pretended to the Wenwu as the Mandarin back in Iron Man 3. Slatter is an actor and is the comic relief of the film along with the mystical creature Morris, a DiJiang.
They escape and make their way to Ta Lo to warn them about the Ten Rings coming. They are greeted by their aunt, Ying Nan (the amazing Michelle Yeoh). They are all trained by the people of Ta Lo in preparation. They must keep the door shut on the soul consuming “Dweller in Darkness”, a tenticled Kiju that such the life out of people. If this monster gets loose, he could destroy not only Ta Lo but also the Earth.
The battle happens with the people of Ta Lo and the Ten Rings. Shang Chi faces off against his father and ends up losing and being sent to the bottom of the lake. Wenwu is convinced his wife is a prisoner behind the wall and used the Ten Rings to weaken it and lets out mini soul suckers. The people of Ta Lo and the Ten Rings team up to survive the mini soul suckers. Shang Chi finds himself at the bottom of the lake and awakens the might dragon, The Protector. Shang Chi and the Protector help turn the tides but Shang Chi has to confront is father. This time the epic battle goes to Shang Chi and he gains control of the Ten Rings. But it is too late, the Dweller in Darkness is freed and started to suck the life out of everyone. Shang Chi, his sister Xialing, and the Protector fight the Dweller of Darkness but are badly losing until Shang Chi’s bestie, Katy, fires an arrow that pierces the throat of the Dweller. It is just enough for the group to turn the tied and for Shang Chi to use the rings to banish the Dweller.
Check out the movie for all of the details.
What I liked: (More Spoilers)
This movie had everything you want in a beautiful Martial arts movie. It had amazing fights that reminded you of many of Jackie Chan fights. It had classic leaps and movement similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was one of the best martial arts movies I have seen in the last decade.
Shang Chi is a very likable and relatable character. He is living in a room in San Fran. He works as a hotel valet with Katy in the beginning. He takes on responsibility to do what is needed even though he tried to escape that life previously. His motivations to save his sister and also help redeem is father. He is a type of the reluctant hero with a similar personality to Peter Parker.
The bad guy, Wenwu, is a very compelling character. You understand why he has recently made the choices he has. You can see his motivated out of reconnecting with the love of his life. He believes that he is righting a wrong and will be the hero to his kids and the world … eventually.
The return of Ben Kinsley as Tevor Slatter is amazing. Kinsley plays the role of the court jester very well. He friend Morris is not only adorable but also their interaction is perfect. Kinsely brought the comic relief that was needed at the right level and points in the movie. Such a funny scene when Slatter is pretending to be dead so he won’t get attacked and tells Morris was perfect.
Speaking of humor, this movie uses it well. It isn’t over done but spread out through the movie to give us a breath before we go back into a fight. Katy is aos used at moments for comedy and plays it well with Shang Chi.
The use of Dr. Strange’s friend, Wong, is a wonderful link to the MCU. We see him at the fight club going up against the Abomination (Incredible Hulk Fame). He is used at the end to bring Shang Chi into the heroes of the MCU.
This movie is beautiful, full of action and martial arts, and even connected to the MCU. What is not to like?
What I Did Not Like: (Spoilers)
There is nothing that comes to mind that I didn’t like about this film.
I loved it. I think it takes the character from the comics that I often read in the grocery store and brings into the MCU properly. It was a joy to watch this film.
My Grade: A
IMDB: 8.0 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: Audience:98%
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics: 92%
Common Sense: 4 out of 5