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New Escapist Video! On “Shang-Chi” and “Blade” as Homages to Hong Kong Action Cinema…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday’s article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

With the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the latest Marvel Studios film. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is loosely adapted from the seventies title Master of Kung Fu, and so it seems interesting to discuss the film in the context of another adaptation of a cult non-superhero seventies comic book: Blade.

New Escapist Column! On how “Blade” is a More Loving Tribute to Hong Kong Action Cinema Than “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss the film.

In particular, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been packaged and sold as a love letter and tribute to classic Hong Kong action cinema. However, that seems somewhat unconvincing. As with virtually every film the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the house style exerts an inescapable gravity that warps the movie back around it and forces it to adhere to a familiar template. There’s a sad but revealing irony in the fact that Blade, the movie that quietly launched the modern superhero movie boom, feels like a more sincere and loving tribute to Hong Kong cinema than Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Contradictory Generational Conflicts of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an interesting mess of contradictions. On the one hand, it is a classic story of generational conflict about a son who needs to defeat and vanquish his evil father in order to determine his place in the world – like Star Wars. However, it is also a story about a prodigal son who needs to connect with his roots and let his older relatives provide him with an identity that he cannot determine for himself. It’s a weird juxtaposition that creates an irreconciliable conflict at the heart of the movie.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is released theatrically in Europe and the United States this weekend.

Non-Review Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

There’s something unsettling on how conservative Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is, even by the standards of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This is particularly frustrating when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings positions itself as a progressive piece of pop culture. There’s a lot to appreciate about the film, conceptually. It is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from an Asian American director. It is the first entry in the franchise with a predominantly (almost exclusively) Asian cast. It exists in conversation with the company’s long-standing history of clichés and stereotypes, exploring and reconstructing them. Even more than that, it has a fundamentally charismatic cast and a fairly solid emotional arc, both of which should sustain it.

Stick with it.

However, all of this ultimately feels like empty window dressing arranged around a weirdly traditionalist and pandering core. At its heart, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a story about how “kids these days” really don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going, and really just need to get back in touch with their roots and learn from their elders. There are points when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels a little bit like a Jerry Seinfeld joke about stupid millennials with their gap years and their gig economy.

There’s something disheartening in all this, particularly with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings positioned as the first true origin story to follow Avengers: Endgame, the herald of a new era for perhaps the most ubiquitous pop culture franchise in the world. However, when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings should be looking forward into a bold new era, it casts its gaze backwards.

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New Escapist Column! On Why the Mandarin from “Iron Man 3” Remains One of the Best Marvel Villains…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings next week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Iron Man 3, and that movie’s attempt to update the Mandarin for the twenty-first century.

Long treated as Tony Stark’s arch-nemesis, the Mandarin is a complicated character with a very troubled history. The character is built around yellow peril stereotypes, and is easily recognisable as a classic Fu Manchu archetype. Part of what made Iron Man 3 so compelling and so interesting was the way in which the film wasn’t just built around the Mandarin as a character, but instead explored and interrogated the concept. It was a film about how pop culture, film and television, creates images of foreign enemies in service of the politic demands of the moment. Iron Man 3 explores that idea brilliantly.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.