Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, a breath of fresh air from Asia

CRITICAL – The young director Destin Daniel Cretton immerses the initiatory story of a new Marvel hero in the ink of ancestral Chinese fantasy. A bit as if Tiger and dragon met the Avengers

Is Chinese fantasy soluble in the universe of Marvel superheroes? It really seems like yes. And we owe this small feat to the talent of young director Destin Daniel Cretton (The glass castle , in 2017) who succeeded in mixing these two universes, a priori quite distant from each other.

As in the days of Black panther, who would draw directly from the genre of the “blaxploitation” of the 70s, the new face of Marvel, Shang-Chi is a paper character born in 1973 in comic-books from the pen of Steve Englehart and the brush of Jim Starlin.

At the time, the super-hero Shang-Chi is moreover decked out with a Homeric epithet as clear as possible: “Master of Kung-Fu” (master of kung-fu), and this about a year before the creation. from another martial arts master, Iron Fist, which Netflix has taken on for a Bruce Lee-style action series.

In the comics, the character of Chang-Chi has always been more anchored in Asia and the legends of ancestral China. This is why screenwriter Dave Calaham and Destin Daniel Cretton (who participated in the screenplay) naturally turned to Chinese fantasy cinema, whether it be Tiger and dragon, The secret of the flying daggers, Chinese ghost stories or The monkey king. The Chinese bestiary (dragons, monsters and other ryuu), the subtle magic and this perfume of Asian enchantment bathe their film, without a doubt …

The story of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features a young man named Shaun (Simu Liu) who fled his father to take refuge in the United States, in San Francisco, where he became a hotel valet with his best friend Katy (played by the Chinese actress Awkwafina).

But you don’t always run away from a domineering father like Wenwu. Wong Kar Wai’s favorite actor Tony Leung (notably in In the mood for love) interprets with accuracy, force and a touch of melancholy this painful, inconsolable character, who never stops drowning in the anger of an impossible to heal mourning.

Head of the criminal organization The Ten Rings, this subtle villain ends up tracking down his son and sends a commando to retrieve him. Caught up in his past, Shang-Chi will have to face his destiny, and assume his inheritance while making an alliance with his sister and her friend Katy who, by her comic projections and her well-felt lines, bring the comic element or even the second a degree dear to Marvel.

While remaining a Disney blockbuster, this American blockbuster, which hunts in the lands of the Middle Kingdom, will drink from a source other than that of previous Marvel films. This is pleasing. This is what makes the difference. A great wind of freshness blows on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of course, the action sequences, the combats of Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai or Chinese kung fu offer pieces of bravery bursting with energy.

As for the mythology of the rings, in the memory of young Westerners, it resonates with another literary and cinematographic saga, that of Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, adapted for the big screen by Peter Jackson.

Nevertheless, by immersing the initiatory story of this new Marvel hero in the ink of ancestral Chinese fantasy, the director Destin Daniel Cretton renews the genre thanks to an unprecedented creative melting pot. The spectacle is often breathtaking.

There is even sometimes a certain poetry in the fights and the choreography of the final sequences … Tiger and dragon met the Avengers


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