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Thoughts on Shang-Chi from a Viewer Who Knows Chinese Culture

  • September 9, 2021

    Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is fun. It deserves all the raves and box office it gets. You should see it, but only if it's safe since no movie is worth catching a deadly virus for. This is not a review; we already have one here and here. These are some thoughts from a viewer who knows Chinese culture as they watched it.To get more art in the news 2021, you can visit shine news official website.

    Bamboo forest scenes are referenced from Zhang Yimou's HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS. Kung fu duels where the fighters fall in love – as indicated when they cut to the fighters staring into each other's eyes in swooning slow motion – is a trope established by directors like Tsui Hark in 80s and 90s martial arts movies and continues today in Chinese movies and TV shows. Directors like Wong Kar-Wai did that with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhang Ziyi in The Grandmaster.

    Xu Wenwu's (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) fight style seems to be adapted from Chinese boxing, which is a martial art, all brutal strength, and punches. Shang-Chi's mother (Fala Chen) and aunt (Michelle Yeoh) fight using a form of Tai Chi. You see old Chinese people practising a non-combat version of those moves in the morning in Chinatown parks.

    Tony Leung spoke Mandarin with a Cantonese accent because he's not a Mandarin speaker. He probably had to use a Mandarin dialect coach.

    It's a relief they cast Simu Liu. The list of actors in North America who can speak Mandarin or Cantonese natively is depressingly short.They've chosen the Chinese word for the "chi" in Shang-Chi's name to mean "breath", "gas" or "energy". That's apt for him becoming a kung fu master.

    Nice to see Tsai Chin in a cameo as Katy's (Awkwafina) grandmother. Cute joke about paper replica offerings to deceased relatives in the afterlife.

    Michelle Yeoh and Ronnie Cheng both spoke Mandarin with a Malaysian accent. She's not a native Mandarin speaker either. Ronnie Cheng would have learned Mandarin back in school.The Protector is referred to in Mandarin as "The Dragon God". Wonder why they don't call it that in English. To avoid offending American Bible-thumpers?

    Plot is a decent pastiche of the 80s and 90s Hong Kong kung fu movies. Lots of Tsui Hark influences. It's really an Asian-American pastiche and homage to 70s Shaw Brothers movies and 80s Hong Kong martial arts movies. Marvel really does absorb all genres for itself.
    The bus fight and scaffolding fight are influenced by Jackie Chan movies. Brad Allen, the fight choreographer and 2nd Unit Director, trained under Jackie Chan in the 90s.

    Lots of other little details that go uncommented on: Katy lives with her parents. "Shaun" lives in a dinghy basement studio, probably off-the-books where he pays his landlords in cash because he's in hiding. Neither of them could afford an apartment in San Francisco, though it's implied that as a trained assassin, he would have money hidden away for emergencies. Hence able to afford a plane ticket to Macau. Also means he probably has a fake passport.
    We wondered how Shang-Chi and his sister would speak English with American accents, but that can be explained: their English tutor must have been an American recruit to the 10 Rings. But Xialing's child actress spoke with a stronger American accent than the grown-up Meng'er Zhang, who's not American-born. That can be explained: when she ran away from home and went to Macao, she would lose the American accent in the next 10 years.

    Questioning of Confucian values, especially its patriarchal sexism through daddy issues. This is actually a common theme in Jin Yong's wuxia novels, which are finally getting translated into English. Daddy issues are already a very American thing, so it suits Marvel to a 'T'.