The Message Behind Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to the movies and see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This movie marks a new arch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as we hadn’t been introduced to Shang-Chi before (at least in the MCU). Everyone needs to see this movie and I’m not even joking! I will give you the reasons why. I promise to be as spoiler-free as possible!

As a summary, Shang-Chi is the son of the renowned villain The Mandarin, who is the owner of the Ten Rings. The movie explains in details how the villain got the Rings and how he met his wife, Jiang Li. In short, he was on the lookout for more power, trying to reach the land of Ta Lo and Jiang Li was the protector. Xu Wenwu (the Mandarin’s real name) wasn’t welcomed in Ta Lo because the people knew how dangerous and controversial he was, but because Jiang Li was in love with him, she escaped with him. Xu Wenwu abandoned his life as the owner of the Ten Rings to live a happy life with his family, but as always, the past came back to haunt him; he lost his wife and his kids were left to their fate without a mother. Wenwu trained his son to revenge the death of his mother, but he didn’t understand, he didn’t want to kill anyone, so he escaped from the grasp of his father, leaving his sister behind.

Shang-Chi starts a new life in America, away from his roots and living his best life as Shaun along with his friend Katy. He had no purpose in life, other than working in a valet parking, that’s until some bad guys confront him and his friend, and he’s forced to tell the truth of who he is. He then heads off to Macau to look for his sister, because she’s in danger too, but it was all a trap. His father wanted to go back to conquer Ta Lo, threatening to burn the village with all its people. Will Shang-Chi and his sister protect their mother’s culture, or will they side with their father’s catastrophic schemes?

I am in love with this movie! It’s perfect! I haven’t seen a movie this good in so long and I’m glad that Marvel decided to premiere it now because it’s exactly what everyone needed in the middle of this mess around the world.

As an Asian movie, I love the fact that the cast is composed of Asians and they didn’t decide to change the nationalities. The cast is perfect, we get to see new faces and known faces, a perfect indicator of a new era in the MCU. Shang-Chi is played by the handsome Simu Liu and he did an amazing job. Meng’er Zhang started her career as an actress as Xialing, Shang Chi’s sister. The rapper Awkwafina plays Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend. And Wenwu is no other than Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

I was amazed when the movie started and the first words I heard were in mandarin. I looked over my friends shocked and excited (is a languages student thing) because they actually kept the original language. I went with the expectations of finding a westernized Asian movie, but I was surprised and I’m so glad.

As I watched the movie, I kept analyzing how there are parts that represent the westernization of Asian culture these days and how Asians try to keep their culture alive, even in those that are born outside of their country. I’ve shared with many Asians and I love how they take their time to teach their kids their culture and their language, and how they should be proud of it. I saw the same dedication in this movie, when Shang-Chi and Xialing visit their mother’s town, Ta Lo, to try and save them from their father. They reconnect with their culture, with their traditions, with their language and even learn things they didn’t know about. They find themselves there in Ta Lo. Even Katy, who I dare to say was the most westernized, to the point where she didn’t say her Asian name, when arriving to Ta Lo she found a purpose in life and started practicing it too. Shang-Chi’s aunt taught him the greatest lesson: in order to be powerful, you must know yourself first, you must be in contact with who you truly are, that’s when you’ll be the best of you.

The movie is full of traditional East Asian music, elements such as dragons, martial arts, and traditional clothes can be appreciated throughout the movie. Also, the combination of the past with the future can be seen in the clothing, which is genius because the designs seem traditional, but textures are modern or the other way around.

There was a scene in particular that moved me a lot, where the villagers of Ta Lo perform the tradition of the Chinese Lamps in respect of their ancestors. I almost cried, it was so beautiful and it felt so real! This is what I mean when I say that the movie is carefully thought and planned. It is so well done!

This film is what I call the actual representation of Asian culture. With the Asian-hate crimes increasing due to the pandemic, I feared that it would backlash, but all I’ve seen around are great reviews, which means that this is an opportunity for people to start treating Asians as normal human beings and to respect them as equals. This movie is free of stereotypes to tell the world that Asians are people just like you and me. Another wonderful thing about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is that we finally get a wide representation of Asians in the MCU. Before, there were only a few but with the premiere of this movie and the promise of a comeback on the future, I’d say we’ll get to see them for a while now. As Simu Liu said on a tweet the movie is “a celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year.”

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to do so. You will not be disappointed, I promise.