I have two things of note this morning. The first and most basic is that, for the first time since Spring, I’m wearing a lousy sweatshirt out in the workshop where I do my writing. This is not good news. This means that my old friend Summer is fading, and that cold, damp cretin Fall is coming around for another run at my defenses.
Let’s just say I’m not a fan. I hate clothes… for the most part, anyway. Give me shorts and flip-flops with 70 to 95 degree weather–any humidity–and I’m happy as a pig in… well, you get the idea.
More importantly, not that I’ve got my first post-summer cry out of my system, I wanted to talk about Shang-Chi.
The movie, not the comic or the Contest of Champions character.
Vicki and I went to see Shang-Chi on Wednesday night–on the IMAX screen–and I gotta say that Marvel knocked another one out of the park. It was all the Marvel I’d missed on the big screen since the Blip brought everyone back and Thanos was sent into oblivion.
Shang-Chi, in many respects, felt like Iron Man all over again… or maybe the first Captain America movie. The story was both light-weight and engaging all at once. It did a great job providing origination-tale data (with the requisite flash-back data dumps), while being hugely entertaining… and I mean from start to finish. The characters and performers portraying them were all believable, amusing, three-dimensional (for the most part), and everything I expect from a solid Marvel installment kicking off a new phase.
That’s another noteworthy thing about this film. Falling after both the WandiVision series and the triumph of Loki, it’s instantly clear by the end of the movie that they’re setting us up for another wild ride. Where the first Marvel “meta-arc” dealt with tech and militant objectives, Marvel is pretty clearly setting up a much more super-natural, dare I say “mystical” meta story that promises to be as bizarre and amazingly entertaining as most of us have come to expect.
I think wat I enjoyed most about Shang-Chi was the exposure to Chinese mysticism and mythology. As a westerner, our story-telling is rooted firmly in histories stemming from the Greeks, through the Romans, and then derivative of all things “western Europe.”
Shang-Chi provided a marvelous vision of a rich mythological history that truly came to life on the big screen. I found myself feeling some of the same wonder as when we first saw dinosaurs in the film Jurassic Park. I remember being stupefied then… like an eight-year-old delighting in his first trip to the zoo. Shang-Chi provided this same feeling, and it all starts with our first view of what one of the characters describes as a pig-dog–with wings, I might add. From there, we see Chinese guardian lions come to life, beautifully scaled dragon horses, a troop of Huli jing (the nine-tailed spirit foxes), and, finally, the most amazing depiction of a Chinese dragon that I’ve ever seen.
Finally, the cameos are a real hoot. Both Trevor and Wong literally steal the show in pretty much every scene they’re in. The writers did a fantastic job tying this beginning of a new meta story back to the foundations of the previous meta story, and did so without being ham-fisted about it.
Oh, and the martial arts scenes–the fighting–was everything I’d hoped for. I’m a martial arts fan, and the choreography in Shang-Chi did not disappoint.
For my own fan-theory, I’m speculating that Shang-Chi will be the new Captain America equivalent. I suspect he’ll become that moral anchor as Marvel (and Feige) start bringing the disparate storylines together.
So, five stars and a ten out of ten for Marvel’s first installment of the new meta arc. They didn’t disappoint.