Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Diversity is a good thing, right? As Marvel wave goodbye to one set of superheroes to start focusing on a new bunch, they are clearly not above appropriating the most entertaining of other cultures. They did this in Black Panther and now turn to the East with Shang-Chi and his Dad's Chunky Arm Bling. Three cheers for Marvel then, for highlighting an avenue that was already doing perfectly well on its own, thankyou very much. Or, is this just an ugly and cynical attempt to take the best of everything and claim it as their own?
Having bled dry the characters that came before, it is inarguably past the point that new stories and new adventures from new characters were due and this is Marvel's finger-crossing attempt to start that, with admittedly occasional nods to the canon that came before it.
And if they wanted a banker, then where better to start. Marvel's respect to the African communities in Black Panther worked a treat. Their nod to #metoo in The Avengers also massaged sensibilities from women everywhere. Why not then pay due respect to a couple of other billions souls who may feel that they have not been adequately represented by them thus far?
Marvel are at the same quite precarious position that Pixar found themselves in a decade ago, being too fragile and yet too huge and successful to fail. This makes any studio both wary and cautious, no matter what greatness they have achieved already. This caution can bleed into the projects that they produce and offer to their already expectant audiences.
Safe becomes more important than ground-breaking and we are beginning to see the evidence of this here and in their other recent offering 'Eternals'. When someone whips away your comfort blanket, then that is the time to show what you're really capable of and this is where we find ourselves. No security, so you do what you think is right, just to ensure you don't make a monumental mess of all that has been created and the legacy thereof. Playing safe. Not really the philosophy from Marvel that we have come to expect.
And this is fairly formulaic stuff. An unlikely hero with greatness thrust upon him and an emotional reason to become what he must in order for him, and us, all to sleep soundly in our beds. This inevitably involves trials, a voyage of discovery, learning the value of family and friendship, fighting for what you believe and ultimate redemption. What could go wrong? They've done it often enough before.
Predictable, thrilling and insanely beautiful, but lacks originality. Marvel diehards will love it, I expect.