In 2018, in its quest for diversity, MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) widened and wandered into fictional Wakanda to bring in a black super hero. But the untimely real-life death of Chadwick Boseman knocked the Black Panther from Marvel’s pantheon of super heroes. Three years later, a newly-minted super hero from the exotic east enters MCU with Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.
Falling into the MCU extravaganza space, yet standing apart in a Crouching Tiger kind of world, Shang-Chi’s absolute delights are the martial arts sequences choreographed like fluid ballet pieces. Despite the now-expected-and-accepted barrage of CG, the kicks and punches that begin in a runaway bus in San Francisco and move to a fictional, mystical, oriental Ta Lo, land with a rhythm of their own. Typical is the first meeting between Shang-Chi’s parents, action movements choregraphed like a graceful dance.
The nod to late fights choreographer Brad Allan in the end credits is therefore, befitting.
Welcome China-born Canadian actor-writer-stuntman Simu Liu, a charmer who looks good whether he’s Shaun, the westernised valet parking attendant in Frisco or Shang, trained as an assassin by his warrior-father Wenwu (superbly underplayed by Tony Leung). West, east or bare torso, Simu Liu is immensely watchable.
By the way, for those who’ve watched Netflix’s much-awarded Korean series Kim’s Convenience, Simu is the one who played young Jung, son of convenience store owner Kim.
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As always, Marvel attempts to blur the great divide between good and evil by giving its antagonist recognisable moments of mush. This time, the pot-pourri of emotions is invested in Wengwu who found or stole the magical ten rings that gave him invincibility and immortality. Wengwu who sought ruthless power with those ten rings until he fell in love and raised a family, and then turned mean again.
The inclusivity menu must feature gender equality which comes from Shang’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), aunt Nan (good old Michelle Yeoh) and ‘good friend’ Katy (Awkwafina), a speed maniac behind the wheel of any vehicle.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s $150 million “theatre experience” packed with fights, family tales, feminism and fun is so well sprinkled with humour that even Morris, a creature without a face, brings on a smile. Katy bursting into Hotel California, someone doing Gangnam Style on seeing a Chinese and being told off with, “I’m not Korean, you idiot,” and Ben Kingsley as failed Shakespearean actor Trevor keep it sparkling.
In place is the big Marvel tease as you impatiently wait for the endless names to roll on for the two post-credits scenes that give a peek into forthcoming sequels of this cinematic world.
But the big question: is the audience ready to battle the real scare of Covid and return to theatres for a glimpse of this fake but enchanting universe?