S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. I want to tell you right now, I see. Dryland training people.
S2: I am. What’s in the
S2: You know, you’re flying down here.
S1: Hello and welcome to Slate’s spoiler specials, I am Allegra Frank, senior editor at Slate, and today I’m joined by fellow senior editor at Slate Sam Adams. Hi Sam. Hello, Allegra. How’s it going? You just got back from Toronto literally yesterday. Did?
S3: Yeah. Yes. I flew in yesterday and boy, are my arms tired. But yes, we can Canada. And for COVID tests, I am feeling great.
S1: Oh my god. OK, well, I’m glad that you made it back safely. Had a lot of swabs up your nose and we’re all OK. And now you’re ready to chat with us about Shang-Chi, a movie you did not see in Toronto, but we both saw recently the new Marvel film. Before we get into it, we’re going to spoil it. But what did you think? Were you? Were you a fan of Shang-Chi? What’s your take? I don’t think we really talked about it.
S3: Yeah, we have not. It is fine. I guess it is, you know, probably, I guess, in the upper, like half of Marvel movies, the director, Destin Daniel Cretton, is definitely like trying to do some different things in this and more importantly, being allowed to which Marvel does not often let their directors do. And I think that works interestingly. But you know, it also has, you know, very many of the same sort of hallmarks and plot beats and familiar structures of, you know, the vast majority of Marvel movies. So it is hard to both to get excited about a lot of it and to sort of find a lot of daylight between it. And like, I think there’s, you know, a couple really great ones and then there’s a really large kind of middle and then there’s a couple of lousy ones. But, you know, if I were if I were doing a ranking of the 23 or 24 movies there are, there are probably like 15 that I would want to put at the same number in the middle somewhere. One of those,
S1: the fact that 15 could all be like number five on your list. It just tells me there’s so many frickin Marvel movies. I really enjoyed this movie. I mean, I agree, like upper echelon of the middle of the pack. But for me, it’s like right below the best ones, which I couldn’t even tell you what the best ones are anymore because I can’t remember. But I really enjoyed it. And I think part of why is because this is an origin story of a character we’re not so familiar with. You know, he’s not really in the same cultural zeitgeist as someone like Captain America has been. So it’s been it’s kind of cool to be introduced to someone new. And I think this movie does a pretty good job. So let’s let’s get into it of how Shang-Chi introduces us to Shang-Chi. So Sam, I’m going to punt it to you to start what happens in the beginning. Spoil it, spoil it for us, because something is interesting about the first 10 minutes of this movie.
S3: Yeah. Well, the first 10 minutes, for one thing, is not in English. There’s a prologue explaining the kind of origins of the character will come to know as Shang-Chi his father when woo hoo is, we’ll get to this later. But the character has sort of mythological been known as the Mandarin, although he does not like being called that himself. And so it is the story of how the Ten Rings, which is an organization in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but now is also literally the ten rings of power that he has. So sort of how he, you know, quite see how he acquired them, because that’s going to be a subject for probably a later Marvel movie. But somehow he gets these 10 mystical rings that grant him immortality and sort of nebulous magical powers and becomes sort of a warlord moving into, you know, slash kind of underworld gangster figure in the 20th 21st century. So this tells him tells us all about when we were about his connection to this mythical village of Talo where the movie is going to end up, how he, you know, fell in love with the women there and they were sort of kicked out of paradise. And, you know, he kind of had to, you know, carve out a life in this regular world. And then that eventually leads us to the introduction of the person who calls himself Sean
S1: Wright, which there’s a very funny joke insofar as any humor in Marvel is very funny that Awkwafina, who plays Sean or Shang-Chi, his best friend, says when he’s finally revealing to her about revealing his past to her. And she’s like, Really? You just took one letter off your name and now you’re Sean. Is that seriously the name you went with to hide from your father? Because, which is true because we meet Sean or Shang-Chi in San Francisco. He, you know, years later, he’s ditched his home life in China to pursue a more normal life in San Francisco. He has always been sort of a mysterious figure to his friends, but at the same time comes off as a pretty normal, charismatic, nice, fun dude. But then the facade is punctured one day when he first receives a letter from what he presumes to be his sister. But really, he ends up in a huge fight on a bus. He and his friend Katie Awkwafina character are on a bus to work. They work as valets and suddenly there is a dude with a knife for an arm trudging toward Sean on this bus and everyone’s like, WTF, why is a man with the knife arm on this bus? And why is he attacking you? So all of a sudden, there’s a pretty, I have to say, pretty dope fight. Like, this movie obviously is influenced by martial arts. That’s the fighting style that Shang-Chi uses predominantly. And so there’s this pretty cool, you know, parkour type the fight inside of this bus. The knife guy slashes the bus into, you know, it’s like it kind of reminds me of the the train scene in Spider-Man. You know, where it’s like we are hurtling toward disaster, but our superhero is going to save us in truly improbable ways. It’s the first real, modern day fight scene in the movie where we’re actually seeing Shang-Chi in action, and I think it was actually really cool to like, get the reveal of, OK, this is these are his powers and his powers are, you know, improbable for human beings to actually do because he’s just like this kick ass martial artist. But I liked that they were kind of more grounded, right? Like he doesn’t have any Thor or Doctor Strange like superpowers. What did you think of like this first big fight scene? The reveal of Oh, this is what Shang-Chi does, right?
S3: Well, I have, I mean, the Spider-Man to reference. Having just written a piece about that train fight at the end of that movie, I both sort of appreciate the image and feel like it, you know, sets the bar pretty high. But I mean, this is the rare maybe the only Marvel movie, I guess, with the exception of maybe one or two Captain America and Black Panther, where you can say, like the fight scenes are the best thing about it. They often tend to be kind of the weak part of the Marvel movie is it’s kind of widely assumed, although I think everyone is and the aid out of admitting this right that a lot of the action scenes in the movies are not actually even done by the directors because Marvel has a sort of standing second unit in digital effects division who handles a lot of that stuff. And because they hire a lot of kind of indie directors who are just starting out people like, you know, Destin Cretton, who has done, you know, short term 12 and Chloe Zhao, who is, you know, going from Nomadland to the Eternals people without, you know, any experience shooting kind of big action scenes. It’s widely assumed, and the movie’s often bear that there’s action scenes are not directed, you know, you’re primarily kind of conceived by the people who are directing them. But in this case, you know, at least many of the fight scenes until we get to the climax, I think actually do kind of look like something look like people fighting. There is a lot of surely, you know, wire work and stuff. And you know what looks more or less like practical hand-to-hand combat, seemingly as background. Before he was an actor, he was a stuntman. I think that’s really kind of his great contribution to this. This role is just his physicality. This, you know, especially early on, the fight scenes have that kind of sort of budget feeling you get from, you know, Chinese martial arts movies where, you know, combat kind of blurs into quasi magic without ever, you know, explicitly crossing the line. So once he gets the ten rings spoiler, you know, he acquires powers that are just more like fully magical where he’s just like, you know, throwing bolts of light at people and stuff like this. But at this point, he’s just got to have a really bad ass fighter. And that’s like, really fun to watch in a way that people kind of throwing magical balls of light across the sky at each other is not so much, right?
S1: Yeah, I totally agree. Like Marvel, fight scenes not only are particularly formulaic, but I always find them to be not, well, shocked. And I think part of what you’re saying of it’s usually not the director themselves filming them is part of that. Like Marvel. Often, you know, has this particular style at once to do. It has its in-house directors and whatnot, fight coordinators. And I just don’t think they’re good at filmmakers like they’re not filmmakers. So they. It’s just like all the scenes, it’s hard to see what’s actually happening in the regular Marvel fight scenes. So this one, I think because at least particularly in this first scene, this first fight scene, it’s much better at having a tighter focus because it’s a smaller stage for the fight. So it’s actually easier to keep track of what the heck is happening. And yeah, I really I enjoyed it. I thought it was definitely one of the better fight scenes in this Marvel Cinematic Universe. But we’ll get to way more fight scenes throughout the film because this is just the first and afterward, Katie is very much like what the heck just happened? Why? Why are you being attacked on a bus? And Shang-Chi has to reveal, OK, I got this letter from my sister. I have a sister. Her name is Sha Ling, and she lives somewhere in China. I am. She just told me where she is. I haven’t seen her in a decade and I have to go help her because what happened is they were hunting down my pendant. I have this pendant that my mother gave to me before she died when I was younger, and it is a very coveted pendant by my father, who, yes, I have a father. I escaped from him because he was pretty abusive and nutso and terrible, and he is hunting us down my sister and I. So I think this was a cry for help for my sister, and I need to go help her. I need to go out to Macao and make sure she doesn’t get attacked by a scary knife man, too, and have her pendant stolen. And Katy, very bold of her, is like, Yo, all come. I want to go to China. This is dope. Even though, you know, Shang-Chi Sean is like, I mean, I’m going begrudgingly and I probably will die. But that’s fine. OK.
S3: That’s one of those things that, like the movie, doesn’t really sell in in plot terms particularly well. But it’s just like because we like we’d like to see more of Awkwafina in the movie. It’s just like, like, we don’t really care what the reason is. It’s because you don’t leave her in San Francisco, like Bulgaria, she’s coming. Just bring her. So it’s sort of stuff more and like in those terms that in terms of, you know, why when you know you’re going into this hugely dangerous situation, would you take like your valet parking buddy with you, right?
S1: Yeah, I mean. And Wolf, definitely by the end of this movie, it’s like even more blatant because it’s like, OK, you really don’t want to lose Awkwafina because she is arguably the biggest name mainstream name in this movie. Like, you know, see, Lu was on Kim’s convenience, which is popular on Netflix, but, you know, isn’t the most well known. Tony Liang was in several, you know, was in in the mood for love. So if you’re a film buff, you know him. But Awkwafina is a Comedy Central show. Awkwafina was in Crazy Rich Asians. Like, you’re not going to underutilized Awkwafina in your movie.
S3: I mean, I think she’s definitely like the biggest English language star in the movie, like Tony Long and Michelle Yeoh are both, like, huge all across Asia. But, you know, Awkwafina is like, you know, for the whatever the American under 30s, she’s kind of really going to kind of bring in that demographic who Marvel obviously wants to service.
S1: Yeah, absolutely. It’s it’s definitely like, OK, this is a Disney movie. Let us not forget this is still a Disney movie. So, yeah, Katy and Sean Shang-Chi show up in Macao and turns out Shah Ling, his sister, has this fight club that she kind of co-owns and is, you know, having these fights that people are betting on and watching. And it’s very packed and popular. And Shang-Chi is thrown into a fight because, you know, he is known to be a good fighter. Also, he looks like a good fighter
S3: and we want fights. We want
S1: fights. I mean,
S3: it’s another reason to take his shirt off. Exact reason to get him into a fight.
S1: Even Katie’s like Sam. I’ve never seen you. You got a frickin 10 pack. So he ends up fighting chilling. And again, I think this is a pretty good fight scene because it’s in one contained area. They’re in the fighting ring, just beating each other up, and I kind of love seeing that. Do I love seeing a man beat up a woman? No. But I love seeing a woman beat up a man in a film where it is controlled and no one is actually getting hurt. I don’t love it in any other context. To be clear, just to be clear, yes, yes. And also, this is one of the times where as as we talked about, like every character in this is new. Like all the main characters are new to the Marvel Universe, and they are not as familiar to the audience as other characters were initially. You know, like Iron Man is pretty well known, like outside of the movies, he was well known enough. But. Shang-Chi just does not have that same traction. So we start to see little Marvel references and they compound throughout the movie, so there is a little Marvel reference in this fight scene. Did you did you catch it? The one Marvel character, I can’t.
S3: I caught half of it. I mean, I noticed, you know, Benedict Wong, who is, you know, Master Wong from the Doctor Strange movies is one of the people in the ring, the fight club. I did not because this is like practically an Easter egg at this point. The movie’s been so long, and it’s the one, I think basically by common consent, like either the worst or the second worst Marvel movie going back to the Incredible Hulk, right? But yeah, but apparently Tim Roth’s abomination is the person fighting him in the ring, and I guess they actually got Tim Roth to come in and growl or whatever because he didn’t even I don’t think he even actually has any lines. But yeah, so that is that’s a little. Just in case you thought you walked into the wrong theater or wondering when the MCU, as we know it is going to show up at this point, right? Yes, your little nod to that. Yes. It’s like having, you know, Martin Freeman turn up in Black Panther. Like, just OK, you somebody, you know? Yeah.
S1: Oh, did you do you think anyone like, as you said, it’s an Easter egg? Do you think anyone honestly watching this movie was like, Oh, I recognize that that’s Tim Roth’s character from The Incredible Hulk. Like, literally, I cannot imagine more than two percent of viewers noticing that
S3: I’m sure someone watched the entire MCU in lockdown and was like, Oh, look, it’s the abomination. Yeah, but I have not seen it since, you know, 20 and whatever. So it not that is.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I’ve never seen it. So I was just like a big monster. OK, I don’t care. Moving on. So moving on from Big Monster, we have the fight
S3: and this is the this is the big sort of more Marvel Eve fight where, you know, Shang-Chi and the sister are attacked by the ten rings and it goes sort of down the outside of a building in Macao, this giant skyscraper. And there’s all this kind of, you know, people flying around and shattered glass and scaffolding and stuff like this. And it starts to this is the point where you’re just like, I can’t tell like where that fist came from or where that person was from, like one one shot to the next. Yeah. So this is the part where it starts to, you know, unravel a little bit, I think. But yes, Shang-Chi and and his sister and Katie Tilly sent the combat here. They lose and they are captured by the ten rings where we are reintroduced to turning the woman who looks being a mortal. Pretty much just as he did in the prologue, right?
S1: Yes, it’s not a shocking twist that they lose because like, obviously it’s at this point forty minutes into the movie or something, and we need something to happen. And Shang-Chi is not about to defeat his sister 40 minutes in since they lose and they end up going with their dad when Wu to his very fancy compound where they grew up. Because, you know, there was a reason he wanted those pendants and he takes them back to give them that reason. And again, this is like another funny moment where it’s like, Let’s give Awkwafina something to do. So people are hooked and they all are like sitting at dinner. And of course, like he brings Awkwafina with them, and he’s like asking her questions, asking her her Chinese name, like getting to know her. And it’s kind of like, Oh, is this a dad meeting thinking he’s meeting his son’s girlfriend? Like, It’s just kind of a weird it’s kind of a sweet scene, but also tonally strange. Like, why is why are we sitting down to a normal ish dinner right now?
S3: OK, so so to two important things happened in the scene. One is that when you kind of lays out the plot of the rest of the movie, which is that he is, I mentioned the sort of, you know, mythical village Telo that his wife, who was assassinated by his rivals came from and he was not allowed to enter, and he tells them that he has heard his dead wife’s voice, or maybe not dead wife’s voice calling to him from Talo. And now he has to find his way to this village, which is, I think, sort of loosely explained to be in another dimension as opposed to just just magic. But yeah, there’s a kind of secret way to get there. If you don’t take the right way, you will be kind of, you know, crushed by sentient trees. And he needs there to pendants to activate the map to this place. So that’s one thing. The second thing that happens, I wrote a piece about this for Slate.com is that he starts to talk about the Mandarin, not the mythical character that sort of he is known as in the comics, but the MCU’s version of the Mandarin, which if you remember all the way back to Iron Man three eight years ago, and they did kind of a switcheroo on that where the Mandarin in the comics historically is this very sort of, you know, Orientalist Fu Manchu caricature of a sort of scheming Asian villain compete with. You know, like the long beard and the droopy mustache and everything. And so they obviously did not use that in the Iron Man movie that came out eight years ago, and they first they converted the character into this sort of, you know, quasi, you know, Islamic jihadist played by Ben Kingsley, who also has a strong American accent. So it’s this weird, just kind of concatenation of like xenophobic tropes. And just like whatever it is, we’re scared of like, just put it all into this one character. And then you find out midway through that movie that Ben Kingsley is not, in fact, the Mandarin, but he’s a British actor named Trevor Slattery, who has been hired by the movie’s real villain, who’s like an arms contractor to play this character and kind of extend and exacerbate the war on terror so that the movie’s real villain can just keep making money off it. So he we find out in Shang-Chi that when Rue is not very happy about this British actor kind of taking up his historical mantle, using the racist term to refer to it. And so as a result, he has, you know, basically imprisoned him in his dungeon for the last, you know, six or seven years. And this character who was never it was always a sort of kind of shaky, you know, ketamine addled version of like Hugh Grant character in Paddington two. It’s only gotten more so. So they get thrown into the dungeon. And there is Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, basically out of his mind, but in an extremely enjoyable way. What do you think of? Did you remember all that backstory? What do you think of him turning up here?
S1: This is where I admit that I have never seen Iron Man three, Iron Man two or Iron Man one. I’ve never seen any Iron Man movie. I have not like I am in a Marvel fan in that I am a Spider-Man fan and I am a fan of popular culture. So I after The Avengers, I was like, I’m I’m on this. I think Chris Hemsworth is cute and I’ll watch these movies didn’t ever see Thor One Earth or two, but there are so many Marvel movies I have not seen and have no interest in watching. And I know Iron Man one is supposed to be pretty good, but I just don’t care enough. So I had no idea what was going on, and I feel like there’s probably people like me who also were like, Who? Why is Ben Kingsley here? I don’t know who this is. Thankfully, the person who I saw the movie with was like, Oh, that’s he was in Iron Man three. And he also asked me, as you did, do you remember this? And I was like, I’ve never seen that movie. You know that? And he was like, I don’t understand why you watch Marvel movies. And I was like, Because I have to be part of the zeitgeist. So I do not know who this person is. I am so glad you wrote about him, but I was I was fascinated by, you know, the reintroduction once I actually found out what was happening. Please don’t judge me, Sam.
S3: Yeah, I did not get that. I really, you know anybody who has not spent, you know, whatever, 50 hours, 50, 60 hours of their lives watching almost every second that Marvel has put out in the last 13 years. I salute you. I hope you made yourself a nice lunch or something with that, but that time. But I do think I mean, there is I mean, I think some of the marvel of the recent Marvel projects like especially the TV shows which were tied to, you know, WandaVision was tied to the Age of Ultron and Loki was tied to Thor The Dark World. And it feels like something slightly sadistic about the way that Marvel is kind of like encouraging people to go back and watch some of their worst movies. Like you throw in a reference to The Incredible Hulk in this one before Mark Ruffalo was even playing the character with Edward Norton, and you’re going to send people back to watch that. That’s just unfair. But I think this is one of one of the more like sort of interesting retcons. I guess it’s they had to do something similar in Black Widow kind of dealing with that character. But this is, you know, really kind of interesting reflection when I, you know, I think was in sort of an interesting twist in Iron Man three to begin with. But there were, you know, people who were fans of the character, the Mandarin, who were definitely not happy that the Marvel Cinematic Universe basically defined him out of existence and said, OK, not only is this character like not an Asian character, but also he’s not Asian and oh, by the way, he doesn’t exist. And they, you know, there are more recent versions of the character that are not offensive caricatures, and people were like, Why you know what happened to that guy? Like, how come we can’t get that? You know, the Mandarin from, you know, 21st century Iron Man instead of Ben Kingsley doing a work? And it kind of shows you also like how much you know how much farther Marvel sort of as an entity have has come in eight years. Other priorities have shifted because. Really tells you that, I mean, in 2013, they were not thinking about like, OK, eventually we’re going to make a movie with an Asian lead and that lead is going to be Shang-Chi and then we’re probably going to need the Mandarin. So maybe we shouldn’t just like cleverly write him out of existence in Iron Man. It shows you that, you know, obviously it’s still evolving, which is fine, but it also shows how their their imagination has really kind of opened up in a lot of ways, which is sort of cool. And it also puts Ben Kingsley, who is, I think, I think, basically the only significant non-Asian character in the movie in this sort of, you know, bumbling comic sidekick role. I don’t know if he’s officially on drugs in this movie. He certainly acts like he is the whole way. Either that or his brain is just completely shot. And he has a minor plot role because he can somehow communicate with this weird, like magical creature that has symbol somehow, like stumbled over from Talos. Or he’s the one who can kind of show them the way to get there, but he’s just purely there for comic relief, and it’s on one level. It’s just like fun to see Ben Kingsley get to do that because it’s not what people call it to do it very much. But it’s also sort of neat to see that character who was, you know, made such a sort of menacing villain in Iron Man three and then just being kind of like stoned goofball in this movie.
S1: Right? I thank you for the clarification. I do agree. I think like, you know, having the back story now of, OK, this is the correction for the Mandarin and how that was sort of an offensive, you know, usage of that of that title and how that whole character was kind of warped. I did appreciate like how they reclaim that for when we were in this film. Once I got that context, I was like, Oh, that’s cool. That’s good. I’m happy about this. So, yeah, once we have Trevor introduce, that’s sort of when things get, I mean, yes, that he’s the comic relief. But also he’s inexplicably, he has like the key to helping out with getting the dad to chill. Basically, when we will not chill because he thinks that his wife is calling out to him from her home village of Talo, which is where they met in the beginning of the film, that’s where they were having their fight, and he basically is like, she’s not dead, after all, because, you know, when Shang-Chi and joggling were children, they saw her get killed while his dad was away. And he says, Well, actually, he she’s not dead. I keep hearing her voice, and these pendants will tell me how to get back to the mythical tahalo. And Trevor Slattery is actually able to direct them there. Shang-Chi, Katie and joggling secretly without their father because his new animal bestie Morris. Somehow it came from tahalo and now is best friends with Trevor and is able to be their guide so they all drive. I saw people compare this movie to like Hayao Miyazaki, which I thought was a really, really lame comparison because it’s like you’re just thinking of Asian directors right now. I see what you’re doing. But this part did remind me of Spirited Away because they’re driving through a forest that’s leading them to a mysterious, magical place. So it does sort of have spirited away vibes.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I think that the Talos stuff is, you know, I mentioned that the movie gets to do kind of some some different things visually and that the Talos stuff, the sort of the Mandarin prologue and the stuff where they go to Talo is, you know, among that there’s a sort of grove that serves as the meeting place between when Wu and his wife at the beginning of the movie. That’s very much sort of, you know, House of Flying Daggers era. Zhang Yimou. Some stuff that kind of looks like he’s the Great Wall at the end, too, and that is really kind of beautiful in a way that this movie is very rarely are. So, yeah, I mean, I think some of the reference points that people have cited are a little bit off, but it is, you know, as the movie kind of moves into this mythological past, I think it’s at the very least drawing on movies outside of the sort of standard Marvel book, which is just a nice thing to see.
S1: I agree, like, it’s definitely that’s part of what I like about this movie is the uniqueness and diversity of settings and inspirations. I don’t know if Daniel Destin Cretton did credit Miyazaki at all, but I agree, like it does get to do as you said, many different things, which keeps it engaging throughout keeps it a lot more interesting than the average Marvel origin story is to me. Because, yeah, once again tahalo it. Is this really beautiful? Pastoral, lush setting, where all these mythical creatures are walking free and they have these really unique, beautiful designs, some of them are very cute. I enjoyed how cute they were and these sickly when they get there. At first, the citizens of Talo are like, why the Fricker random people here? We don’t want you in our village GTFO. But then Shang-Chi Song Ji and Zhao Ling are like Na dudes. Our mom is from here and that’s our aunt. They meet their aunt. And also, guess what? Ten rings the ten rings, which is did we even explain with the ten rings are it’s when Woo’s like little pal he is. He wears ten rings on his arms. It’s kind of vague to me, like it’s called this, but I honestly could never remember how many rings there are. I just call this movie Shang-Chi. The rings are, like, relevant to a point, but when Wu is coming, basically he’s coming for Thulo.
S3: Yeah. And we should mention here to this village scene, I realize, you know, some people have sort of wrestled a little bit of this movie being compared to squarely to Black Panther, and there’s a lot of differences between them. But there is the village of Talo does have a sort of, you know, sort of similar make up to the kind of Afro futurist land of Black Panther. And that is, you know, it is a very much kind of a mythical setting and other, you know, traditional decoders and things like that. But also, you know, the characters have these sort of weapons and powers which seem more like something out of science fiction than out of myth. But there’s a whole, you know, they’re preparing for battles. Of course, you have to have a training montage. And actually, I mean, I think my favorite sequence in the whole movie I mentioned, you know, how much I like the kind of physical fighting aspects of it. And there’s a bit where Shang-Chi has to kind of learn how to fight his father because he was kind of trained up to a point. But he does not know how to fight someone who has the power of the ten rings. And Michelle Yeoh is kind of her sister was the only person ever actually able to fight him, so she’s kind of passing on her technique to him. And there’s, you know, it’s very kind of, you know, classical martial arts movie set up when they’re in this kind of bamboo grove, you know, standing across from each other, she is doing movements and he’s following them and you’re actually just seeing them do these movements by themselves. They’re not like, you know, CG doubles or whatever. He’s a stunt person. Michelle Yeoh has done this kind of stuff for a living for a long time. And it’s just, you know, it’s like watching Fred and Ginger dance or something like that. It’s just really pleasurable, bull just to be able to like watch people move and shots that last longer than a second. Especially in this and especially in this context, but, you know, just in general. So that’s really just the simplicity of it. The fact that the movie kind of stops for a minute just lets them do that and kind of exchange these things that really actually relate to watching that.
S1: Oh, I love a Fred and ginger comparison. That is, it is sweet. It does, like, have this really well fitting choreography in terms of like the actors fitting together almost, you know, like as we said, the fight scenes in Marvel are often not the best parts of the movie, but I think the choreographic elements here really work. And as you said, like the actors, it’s not Ma marred by CGI. Of course, the CGI, there is a lot of it. Of course, like there is a dragon that shows up in the big fight and all those creatures. And where are they on location? I don’t know. They never are any more. But like the actual actors are pulling off these moves themselves, and there’s something really special about watching that together. So we’re watching these fights, we’re watching people beat each other up. It’s kind of cool. Katie has again proven her value to being here. She picks up archery because she wants to be useful, and she is, of course, a very good archer all of a sudden. So good for Katie, like a day in like a day because literally they’re like the ten rings are coming soon clock’s ticking and Katie’s like, I got to figure out how to be useful. So I will be the best archer now, which comes in handy quite soon. But yeah, the ten rings show up. And when Wu continues to be convinced that his wife is beyond this dark gate that is sealed off because there’s something called the dweller in darkness that is locked behind there, he is known to eat souls. And this caused a lot of havoc in tahalo once upon a time. And they’re very afraid that when Wu is going to try and bust the gate open because he is under the spell, the dweller in darkness has convinced him that his wife is back there in the hopes of getting Wen Woo to open the gate. And then this is where this fight scene is, the big climactic one, and I will say it is probably my least favorite because it is the most marvel. It does have the CGI. There’s rain going on. There’s a lot of moving parts. You know, we’re cutting between the land portion, which is the villagers of Talo and Kati and Shallying. Shallying also ends up in the dragon part, but they’re all beating up everyone in the ten rings and then over on the mountain cliff where the dweller is, you know, there’s a dragon that comes in and Shang-Chi is beating up his dad. It kind of moves back and forth in a way where I’m like, This feels very long and this feels very drawn out. But there is the cool part where the members of the ten rings kind of betray when woo because even they think he’s nuts and they join forces with the villagers to attack the little minion creatures that dweller unleashes. So that’s a little fun.
S3: Yeah, I mean, that is, you know, I sort of enjoy. We have sort of two things going on here, which is the sort of mystical battle between, you know, primarily between Shang-Chi and when Wu and then eventually between. They’re sort of basically the bad dragon who’s the dweller in darkness and the good dragon called the great protector who has sort of been mentioned, I think, but never seen in the movie up to that point. And then sort of, you know, leaps out of the adjoining lake at the climactic, you know, moment of decision. So you have that going on and then you have the sort of more, you know, traditional military combat going on on the ground. And you know, I find the latter part a lot more interesting, but it is building towards this very sort of, you know, mythical blurry, you know, iridescent dragons kind of swooping at each other inside a computer somewhere. And that just like, you know, at that point, it’s just like where it just becomes kind of like hard for me to watch. I have to say in this, you know, may just be my whatever my test, my orientation or whatever. But I, you know, I find that when you get to that, get to that part of the movie, it just feels really kind of, you know, weightless and inconsequential right at the moment that the stakes are supposed to be because, you know, naturally, you know, the whole world is at stake because the whole world always has to be at stake. You know, the dweller in darkness is unleashed. It’s going to, you know, consume everybody’s souls. And presumably things will, you know, be bad at that point. And it just, you know, for me, it really let the air out of the movie at that point.
S1: I mean, also, this movie is long, too. So the length of this for me was just like, OK. Again, like I, we can wrap it up here. I agree the part on land worked better for me too, and was easier to follow. It’s just once you get dragons and everything involved, it’s like, Come on, just let’s chill everyone. But the good news is Shang-Chi. Well, actually, it’s bad news when Wu dies. It’s kind of sad. Actually, we would think it’s a good thing, but it’s actually sad because at this point when Wu and his son have made amends for, you know, when we were being abusive, all the challenges childhood. Yes, you know, but it’s like, kind of OK now.
S3: And it’s like, Sorry, sorry, I was a shitty dad and also unleashed a soul eating demon.
S1: Yeah, sorry. I, you know, killed your many people from your mother’s homeland after abusing you and betraying you your whole life. But Shang-Chi is almost killed by the dweller in darkness. And then when we saved him, which is nice, and he gives his son the ten rings and then he is killed. So now the legend of the ten rings is that Shang-Chi has them, which is great. And he goes, Yay! He goes from being like a cool, badass martial artist to being a cool, magical guy, which is also not as fun because the ten rings. I couldn’t really explain to you what they do, but they make him strong and super powered, and this is why he gets me a superhero now. He gets to use magical ring power, and that’s how he defeats. Right?
S3: I mean, this is this is sort of technically the second movie in this phase four of the MCU. But you know, Black Widow, which is the first one, is like a, you know, is a flashback movie. And it really only exists because Scarlett Johansson had it in her contract that they had to make a movie starring her killed her character. So this is really this is really like the first, you know, proper movie in the plot of it. And you know, this is going to be the phase that it’s all about. I mean, the next movie is Eternals are going to have a Doctor Strange movie about the multiverse. I mean, the MCU is really like going cosmic at this point. So his Shang-Chi powers. But I mean, I could. Tell you what the ten rings do at the end of the movie, but it’s it’s maybe anything like, you know, one point he’s like flying up in the air and, you know, at the dweller in darkness, like swallows the ten rings and then he kind of makes them swirl around inside its belly and blow them up from the inside. So they’re just kind of magical things that, as far as I can tell, do whatever it is the plot calls for.
S1: Yeah, which is like kind of I mean, I don’t want to say it’s lazy. It’s just kind of vague. And but you know, I can I can live with that. It makes sense. Yeah, it’s just weird. It’s just they’re they’re just accessories that help out at times. And the predominantly we do get to see Shang-Chi do some actual fighting moves, so it’s ultimately fine. It’s just it. More works is like a symbolic gesture of dad and son will remain united, even in death or whatever. So, yeah, we kind of hit the end of the movie because when we was dead, mom is still dead. A lot of other people are dead dweller and darkness is dead. But Shang-Chi calling Katie, they’re all OK. And Shang-Chi says goodbye to his sister, who wants to go back to the ten rings compound and dismantle it now that they are essentially done when she was no longer here to lead his army, so they all disperse. But then Shang-Chi and Katie go back to their normal lives in San Francisco after all of this drama. It’s interesting because usually a superhero is called on to like, Save the World, and Shang-Chi sort of is because his dad is very powerful, but it’s more like a family battle. It’s like a family issue. He had to go settle like it. Theoretically, Shang-Chi could just never be a superhero again because he is just like, I killed dad. I saved my home town. Now, back to karaoke in SF, it’s kind of nice. Did you think that was weird? I kind of liked that.
S3: I mean, it’s you mentioned the first Ironman, and for me, I mean, I think I would imagine this is entirely conscious on Kevin Vegas part and everyone else. But for me, you know, they have retroactively branded the first three phases of the MCU as the Infinity Saga, you know, which is ending with, you know, Avengers Infinity War. It’s also the one where most of the stars contract ran out. So we say goodbye to Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, and this felt very much like, you know, the restart of something like the first Iron Man. This is very much kind of a focus on a single character. I think unfortunately, as an actor, Emilia is no Robert Downey Jr. I found his character like a little inert, but you know, it tells this whole story and finishes it. And then just as Iron Man had the post-credits scene where C.M. Jackson shows up and says, like, Hey, I’m thinking about this thing called The Avengers. This movie has similarly and Awkwafina having drinks with their buddies and telling about the adventure they went just on and then a little magical door opens and incomes Benedict Wong and says, Hey, why don’t you come back to the Sanctum Sanctorum? Because I have to tell you about the plot of the next Doctor Strange movie.
S1: Ha ha. Right? Definitely. It’s like this movie has been so long. Let’s just ended on a nice note. But of course we can’t. Of course we got to set up that this is relevant. I was kind of like, You know what I could do with like a Marvel main series adjacent thing with Shang-Chi and his adventures. Although I do like the idea of, you know, he’s an Avenger too, you know, like, I want him to matter, I want him to matter. But we could have had like a Black Panther thing where we understand it will fit into Avengers, but it’s also still its own thing and sort of tangential. But yeah, right? And I’ll tell you, Sam, I’ve never seen Doctor Strange, so I was like, I don’t care. I guess I’ll see the next one. I just don’t. I know at this point because Benedict Wong was in Avengers, but I was like, I don’t I don’t care about these people. I have no, I don’t like Benedict Cumberbatch. I honestly marvel only gets me if I like the actor and I don’t care about Benedict Cumberbatch. You’re like, Please stop telling me that you don’t watch Marvel movies.
S3: I don’t. I mean, it’s I don’t care. I would advise it. As I said before, I just I I just saw Benedict Cumberbatch in a Jane Campion movie. He was very good. So but I would not make a case for his across the board, and he does not in fact, turn up in this movie. It is just Wong taking the back to Doctor Strange HQ, where Mark Ruffalo, Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel are kind of, I don’t know, kind of space zooming in or something. They’re holographic Li present at this conference where they’re kind of doing a little sort of molecular analysis of the ten rings or something. There’s a very brief reference at the beginning of the movie to, you know, no one knows where when we found the. And rings. Some people say it was in a crater, and then that kind of gets forgotten to for two hours and then they do this kind of thing where they zoom, zoom, zoom, you know, like in on the ten rings like down on the molecular level and there’s something pulsing. And they say it’s a beacon. And we don’t know for what I think. The implication is it’s, you know, like space oriented somehow, but we will have to tune in next time to find out
S1: what that is. Yeah, I will say the post-credits scene resonated with me because I have seen Avengers, and this was the first time we’re seeing Bruce Banner again, and he is inexplicably not the Hulk anymore because he was supposed to stay in Hulk mode. So that was slightly intriguing to see him again in a human form, and it is sort of exciting to know he’ll be back soon enough. Not shocking, but exciting, likely in what’s next She-Hulk for him and then the Marvel
S3: She-Hulk TV series.
S1: Yeah, yeah, and Disney.
S3: A couple more TV series is before the next right.
S1: There’s also part of that post-credits scene is Shang-Chi and Katie, a callback to earlier in the film where they go do karaoke. They’re like, Yeah, we can start on all this superhero stuff now. Or Master Wong, you want to come join us for karaoke. So they all like they all go to karaoke, and it’s actually quite fun. It’s quite sweet. Yes. And we’re done. There’s a second and final post-credits scene. We got to have a real post-credits scene, so I always sit through the credits for Marvel movies, even though I’m acting like I’m a bad Marvel fan. Like, I still am a fan, you know, like, I pick and choose. I’m not interested in Doctor Strange. I’m not really interested in Iron Man. One day I will watch his movies, but I am interested in the overarching storyline, so I sat through the rest of the credits, very long credits. And then the final moment is we cut back to shallying, who, as we mentioned, is dismantling the compound, her father’s compound. But you know, she’s kind of looking through her old room. You see that she has, if not fond, memories, memories, you know she is. It’s hard to throw out every piece of your childhood. So she’s sort of wavering and going through her, her memorabilia. And then someone calls her out to the main courtyard and instead of saying, Hey, we’re going to go now, bye. This is, you know, where we don’t work here anymore. There’s a ton of people fighting in the courtyard training and the suggestion the implication is that she didn’t get rid of the ten rings she has taken over her father’s compound. She is now taken over as his theoretical, his hypothetical thrown. And now she’s in charge. So whether it’s that she has reinvigorated her fight club, which got destroyed in the battle with the ten rings folks earlier on, or maybe she is going to just start her own army to either defend China or the world or something more devious? We see her seated and ready to keep prepping for whatever may happen in the future. So it’s vague enough to make you consider, you know, the possibility that maybe she will take up her dad’s villain mantle, but also big enough to make you think maybe this is all a good thing. Maybe she is going to be the protector of this, this place that her brother kind of doesn’t have time to be. And it also promises that the ten rings will return. So, you know, we have a little flash there that they will be back, which we know Shang-Chi will be back. But the ten rings too are they are they bad? I mean, Shang-Chi has them now. So what does that exactly mean?
S3: Yeah, I mean, that feels to me because we know I mean, we obviously don’t want any of the plots, but we know at least, you know, the names and the characters of the, you know, the next several Marvel movies. And you know, it doesn’t seem, especially if they’re focused on these kind of cosmic battles. It doesn’t really seem like this sort of underground, you know, criminal organization like really fits into that. So this feels to me like it’s probably going to be a setup for a Disney Plus TV show, but who knows?
S1: Right? I would be very down for solid show. So, you know, I hope, I hope that’s where they’re going.
S3: Yeah, that would be neat, actually, because I mean, one of the list didn’t really end up getting Bourne out. But one of the reasons that that I, among other people, was looking forward to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is. It seemed like, oh, here is going to be a show that’s actually based on like sort of hand-to-hand combat, like physical fights and not just like gaudy bolts of light again. And it didn’t really turn out that way, but it seems like if they build a series around the ten rings and around her, there’s going to be more of that kind of fighting. And that’ll be nice, right?
S1: Yeah, I’m very into that. And overall, I mean, so we’re into calling show, but are we into a Shang-Chi sequel or of Shang-Chi reappearance? I think we both are. But where where are you now that the movie is over?
S3: I am. I am excited that as far as we can tell, whatever Shang-Chi goes, Katie must follow because, you know, I don’t don’t enjoy watching Simula, like, talk all that much. There’s a big monologue he has in this, where he sort of explains, you know, how his father turned him out as an assassin when he was a kid, you know, kind of, you know, ruined his life, corrupted his soul, yada yada. And it’s just not good, I guess, to be literally. I just I think it’s a very limited actor, but every time. But every time the camera cuts away to Katie watching him, I it was like taking a big cold drink of water. Like, it’s so much better to watch Awkwafina Act. So I’m excited for more Katie. I’m certain there will be more Shang-Chi because his rings are going to be important somehow, and they’re building. I think he’s, you know, supposed to be an Avenger at some point. You know, we’re going to have to see how this all fits together because it’s all, you know, tremendously secret and everything. But yeah, I think this, you know, it feels like an intriguing start for whatever this new, you know, giant sweep of however many dozen movies is eventually going to be called. I’m definitely looking forward to close hours. Eternals movie and the Doctor Strange movie, which has been taken over by Sam Raimi on the Spider-Man Multiverse movie with all the various screens, goblins and doctors.
S1: Octopus, doctors, octopus.
S3: Yes, so I think that’ll that’ll be fun.
S1: I’m super excited for that one. I am very here for Spider-Man and the Eternals. So you and I will hopefully reunite for that one. All right. In a few months, the team. Yes, we will love this team, frankly. Big fan of this team, you and I were Shang-Chi and Katie. Well, you can decide. I think you’re Katie. I’m Shang-Chi.
S3: I would. I would love that.
S1: Yes, you are my Katie. I am Sean. And you’re my Katie. Well, that is our show. Please subscribe to the Slate Spoiler special podcast feed. And if you like the show, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you get your podcasts. If you have suggestions for movies or TV shows that we should spoil, or if you have any other feedback you’d like to share, please send it to spoilers at Slate.com. Unless it is negative, in which case, send it to spoilers at Slate.com net. Our producer is Morgan Flannery. First Sam Adams. I am Allegra Frank. Thanks for listening. Over.