It Only Took 13 Years: A Review of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has an Asian superhero, how did they do with the movie?

A. Guo, Editor-in-Chief

Tears welled in my eyes as Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) sang in the spinning space of a Karaoke room; as smooth Mandarin flowed out of the speakers of a movie theater in North Carolina; as the tai chi I had so long watched my Asian elderlies practice flow as power and strength; as Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) called herself Xiao Yi instead of aunt.

And while my heart glowed throughout the newly released Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I also wondered why did it take over a decade to represent a demographic that is almost 60% of the world’s population? Why was this the first time the west was being introduced to the legendary Tony Leung? How was this the first time I saw Chinese parents characterized with warmth in mainstream media?

It has been a long time coming -13 years, 25 superheroes, with white washing in between it all-, and of course it is imperfect, but the new and first Asian Marvel superhero made me feel seen. Like when Shang-Chi corrects Katy on how to say his Chinese name, “Shang not Shan”, it reminds me of correcting English speakers who demand they know how to say my last name, “Guo not Goo”. Or when Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is able to carry herself to new heights with no connections, it reminds me of my single immigrant mother who raised me in strength. And the scenes in San Francisco Chinatown, with 88Rising soundtracking the fight, reminding me of the perseverance of Asian Americans in our history. 

Though, it is also worth noting the limits of this movie. The original comics of the story provided lots of space for blatantly racist stereotypes, Shang-Chi’s father was characterized by the author as a “yellow peril incarnate”. This film is still just the first representation of a diverse and limitless community of people, one of lighter skinned East Asians. And while the film shows strong Asian women (who know how to drive), there is yet to be a film of any true superwoman of color (though there is hope). This is mainly just to say that Marvel still needs to be held accountable for its long history of white supremacy.

Nonetheless, I absolutely loved the movie for its inclusion of Chinese folklore, traditions, cultural beliefs, history, and multi-faceted characters. I loved that there was not only a stunning full Asian cast, but also Asian and Asian Americans behind the scenes as directors and screenwriters. Though the financial earnings do not make the movie more or less worthy, I am so happy for its box office success after hearing that no one would want to watch Asian superheroes for so long. 

So come on, if you haven’t already watched Shang-Chi, what are you waiting for?