This week we publish as our single China News story, some fascinating glimpses into Chinese people’s reaction to the latest Marvel Movie. Although not yet released in China, commentaries abound. As usual there are many different views. These show some interesting aspects of Chinese culture.
“Shang-chi and Legend of the Ten Rings” has been the North American box office champion throne for three consecutive weeks. The picture shows the movie poster.
Is the evaluation of overseas Chinese and Taiwanese viewers very different? Interestingly, I found that Chinese Americans and Chinese Canadians in my life circle rated this film much higher than those of Taiwanese. And the common stereotypes of characters do not exist in “Shang-chi”, My friends in Canada feel very proud.
Back to the Taiwanese audience, many people like this film very much and find it interesting and entertaining; but after watching it, many of my friends think that there are the following negatives:
“The male lead is not handsome, and the female lead is not beautiful. Why are they leads?” “Although everyone speaks Chinese very well and the details of Chinese culture are handled well, it’s a bit weird for some reason.”
I want to use the concept of “spectrum” to explain it, which may be easier. Chinese people today are separated into segments. There is a yellow spectrum, with the darkest yellow on the left and the lightest yellow on the right. The shades of yellow represent the number of times we are exposed to “Chinese culture” every day, including the use of a wide range of Chinese language, the content of subjects learned in the education process, the media and philosophies that we are exposed to, and so on. The less is the whiter.
Overseas Chinese should be counted in the middle of the spectrum; while some other Chinese, because they rarely use Chinese in their lives, will belong to the white part. The “Shang-chi” movie itself was also produced by this group of people. Although it contains many Chinese cultural elements, its skeleton is still a story in Western culture with a “journey” as the main axis.
Therefore, the “light yellow people” in the middle to right of this group of people feel familiar and resonate easily when they watch this story. When we (on the darker side of the spectrum) look at traditional Chinese thought, Confucianism has deeply influenced our daily lives. “Respect for the elderly, respect for the virtuous”, “respect for the elders and the virtuous”, “respect for brothers and friends,” and “respect for harmony.”
“Wait,” you might say, “What does this have to do with the Marvel movie of Shang-chi?” The relationship lies in the fact that the gods and monsters of traditional Chinese culture occupy a hill to help the king. No one wants to “Dominate the world”.
Therefore, under such a background, no ordinary person can match the power of the dynasty. Therefore, after watching the movie, some people feel that, although the overall cultural details are handled well, they seem to be missing something. But, after all, this is a Marvel movie, and the Marvel universe is inherently empty.
It has not been released in China. Why has such a superhero movie based on the background of Chinese culture not been released in its expected most popular market – China? Marvel has not modified its “save the world” theme. With advice from their Chinese consultants, lawyers, and public relations team, they believe this is not enough to threaten the government.
In my view, “Shang-chi” will not be released in China for a long time. Possible reasons are as follows:
- Insulting to China. The principal actor, who plays Shang-chi, said that he followed his parents from China to Canada when he was five years old. His parents told him there are many people in China who can’t eat enough. Canada is the land where children can grow up healthily.
- It should be the job of the Chinese to promote Chinese culture. Around 2018, Marvel announced that there would be a Chinese superhero. At that time, there was a sense of pride that Chinese culture had become respected all over the world. However, in just a few years, the entire social atmosphere has changed. This kind of Chinese cultural entertainment dominated by American culture, may be a bit embarrassing for China.
Finally, for the sake of friends with different colour spectrums, the reason why the yellow spectrum is selected as “yellow” is because yellow is a colour representing a wide range of Chinese culture. There is no innuendo of race, politics, or other issues.
Marvel “Shang-chi and Legend of the Ten Rings” was released in September. When the trailer was released, the male protagonist, Liu Simu, had a look like Chinese President Xi Jinping. He received strong negative reviews from the Chinese world, and Chinese netizens responded particularly fiercely.
This mentality has its origins. There has always been a feeling in the Chinese world that the male and female protagonists of blockbusters must be led by “stars.” Ugly, weird, and unknown actors are rare to see in Chinese movies. Not only did Liu Simu lack the appearance and temperament of a star, but he was also unfamiliar. “His appearance insults China” has become the biggest controversy before the release of “Shang-chi and the Legend of Ten Rings”.
However, in my view, “Shang-chi and Legend of the Ten Rings” is not only unattractive, but there are a lot of problems in the film. For me, this film is the rock bottom film in the Marvel series.
“Legend of Shang-chi and Ten Rings” is not a perfect masterpiece, but its solid martial arts and cultural elegance can still stimulate the audience. A good sense of scale allows the film to develop smoothly, and after deducting the abrupt and cliched editing, it is after all a Marvel movie with a special flavour.
Shang-chi actually appeared in Marvel comics in 1973. Although it has a long history, he has always been a small hero in the Marvel world. In 2019, the filming of “Shang-chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Gang” started, and the Harbin-born Chinese Canadian actor Liu Simu starred as the protagonist Shang-chi. Director Destin Cretton is of Japanese descent from Hawaii. More than 90% of the actors are Chinese, including Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh, who are familiar to Chinese audiences.
But don’t underestimate the cultural differences. The ‘half-fights’ in the trailer are too far from the expectations of the Chinese audience. The scenes showcasing fists and knuckles add up to only a dozen seconds. From the refreshment of the action, the strength of the blow, the movement and the directing are not on the standard line.
Why do Chinese people highly approve of Jackie Chan’s action films? The reason is that even if he left the Hong Kong Kung Fu movie set, Jackie Chan still knows what real kung fu and hard work is. The action element of Kung Fu, the screen look and feel, must be polished through years of practice.
It is also very important that as part of the Marvel universe, Marvel fans did not put too many surprises in this trailer. Of course, what we are discussing this year is still a short two-minute trailer. What kind of reaction will the final movie have?