MARVEL and DISNEY fail SHANG CHI
Cult classic character is sacrificed in the fires of social change and agenda. And it's ugly.
I am not going to lie. I had a dog in this race. I have been a long time SHANG CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU fan. I was born in 1967 so I was exposed to Bruce Lee and the martial arts invasion that occurred in the early seventies. I was introduced to Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee around the same time I was becoming a major Marvel Zombie and thrilling to all of their major superhero titles. Bruce Lee is culturally central to my childhood due to Western civilization’s blooming fascination with martial arts and the fact that every black kid at the time wanted to learn karate. The KUNG FU craze was kicking into full gear by 1973 and two classic Marvel Comics contributors, Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, created what would become Marvel’s version of Bruce Lee, SHANG CHI, THE MASTER OF KUNG FU.
This Shang Chi comic co-existed with many other copy cat books…most notably IRON FIST which was another Marvel Comic Book trying to cash in on the Kung Fu boom. I loved both characters but as I grew older, I had a deeper affinity for Shang Chi. Whereas Iron Fist was a far flung fantasy epic about a Bruce Wayne style adventurer and his misadventures in an interdimensional city populated by martial arts masters…Shang Chi was the story of a martial arts master, the perfect fighting machine, on the run from a dark organization created by his father, a known archvillain named Fu Manchu. Imagine a James Bond style espionage thriller combined with secretive John Wick like organizations interacting in a realistic world setting that could give way at any moment to a carefully guarded mystical underworld. Sound cool? Yeah, I know.
I don’t really do reviews. I’d much rather give you my opinion on my trip to the movies and let you decide for yourself. The acting is par for the Marvel course; Marvel quips…action and world building can be found around every corner and not necessarily in that order. If you never were exposed to the comic book, I guess this movie can be charming at times…the fight choreography is splendid, the soundtrack is engaging and the special effects are competent. But for me it made a mockery of the more mature comic book source material. It’s as if Kevin Feige and company decided they would incorporate every known example they could find of Asian cinema in this one flick and in doing so cover their asses in the realm of cultural authenticity. The resulting concoction is a new Marvel character who is worthy of global attention but buried under the revisionist ideas of folks who think they can do it better than the original writers. I don’t know how many times I have to say this but there is a reason why this property has a fan following. Because people liked how it was written over the years. There is something to be said for trying to update a franchise or “modernize” a property that’s unproven in the marketplace like SHANG CHI, but the core reason why everyone likes Marvel movies is because they are based on the comic books. TRUST YOUR SOURCE MATERIAL MARVEL.
I really love the character of Shang Chi, and even though I absolutely disliked the movie…go see it, because I want the character to live on and perhaps be the subject of another movie where maybe the producer and the director have a better grip on the actual story of the Master of Kung Fu… Please read the SHANG CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU Omnibuses and experience this awesome character. Beneath all of the sizzle and flash of this new faux movie that’s been released, are the bones of a really awesome character.