Shang-Chi: Homage to Kung Fu or a Geek Flick?

While there are critics about the movie and some of the flaws that might be in it, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings is a very entertaining movie with good action and a solid standalone plot. 

Is Shang-Chi a Kung Fu Film?

In part. While the movie draws on the many themes and tropes that were very present with the martial arts movies of old, it is also a very modern movie in how it describes relationships and situations, as well as action scenes that show the fact that it is a Marvel movie.

Still, three points make this a kung fu movie:

  1. The Hero’s Journey
  2. Connection with the villain
  3. Skills are trained and not just given

And the last part is the most important. Those in the martial art community know that ‘’kung fu’’ isn’t a particular discipline, but rather simply means ‘’great skill’’. And while this can be considered mystical by some, it doesn’t actually need to be. It is the idea that with enough training anyone can be advanced to use these skills.

The only person who has magical powers in the movie is the villain, the titular hero’s father, known in the Marvel universe as The Mandarin.

Additionally, all of the characters are, at least in spirit, human. Shang-Chi’s sister owns an underground club where people bet on fights, which is, however, portrayed as a morally gray thing. Today all the fans know it is better to go to places like and find the best ways to spend your pastime.

Fights and Humor

This is a massive part of what makes this movie so entertaining and more than just quasi martial arts geek flick. The fighting, while often honoring the Chinese tradition of fluid movements and dance-like feel, is real.

Especially for our hero, the training and fighting are more akin to Jackie Chan, with situational awareness and flexibility giving way to brute force. Such a choice makes for more entertaining scenes where there are dozens of bad guys attacking our heroes.

Also, the titular character is defeated by him several times, showing the power dynamic in the movie. While he is very strong and capable compared to civilians, other trained fighters are still a visible threat, which gives the story some stakes.

The other part is the humor, brought in most part by Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina, that is not just a comic relief character but also brings her own skills to the table. She might not be a fighter, but she brings street smarts and real-world skills to the party. In the words of Tony Sloterman, PO at Casino Bonuses: “Every person betting on sports knows exactly where they stand. In the scene where Shaun fights, his sister Awlwafina bets against her friend and wins. That is exactly what I would do.’”

Flashback to the ’80s

For those who have enjoyed the old ’80s martial arts movies, there will be multiple homages that will be instantly recognizable.

For one, the training with the pole is portrayed in so many Western and Eastern movies that it is something everyone has seen. Joined with the courtyard training, they both look like they have come directly from a Jimmy Wang movie.

Additionally, there is a tragedy in the closed yard scene, which is reminiscent of the Tiger & Crane Fists and has some same motives.

All in all, this is both a modern and a retro movie, and it would be recommended for any action lover to see it.