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My list of Kung Fu movie tropes for Shang Chi

 

I’m gonna include the video yall… Relax. The homie Simu Liu showed everyone a sneak preview of a fight sequence from Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I know I was impressed though I can’t speak for everybody here at TNL. I’m a big fan of martial arts flicks and actors. Bruce Lee was my personal Jesus for most of my childhood and as an adult I grew to love the mighty Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa, Samo Hung, and the homie Iko Uwais. 

If you don’t know who Shang Chi is I’d recommend checking his character out. What I can tell you is that he was created in 1972 by artist Jim Stalin and writer Steven Englehart and debuted in Marvel Special edition issue 15. His father was a villain that raised Shang Chi in martial arts since he was an infant. Shang Chi would learn of his father’s evil doings as an adult after assassinating a target his father told him was a threat to peace.

Though Shang Chi was created during the height of western cultural appropriation, he still became a fan favorite. With what Marvel was able to do with the Guardians of the Galaxy, fans hope to see the likes of this happen for one of Marvel’s most underrated characters. Shag Chi is going to be Marvel’s version of “Enter The Dragon” no doubt to pay homage to the inspiration Bruce Lee had on the titular character. Enter the Dragon was the movie to set the tone of all martial arts movies from then on. 

The delicate balancing act that exists for Marvel is quite clear. They have to be able to deliver a narrative that does justice to the source material of the character and create action that honors the genre that gave birth to it. There are things fans want to see in this MCU martial arts flick.  Things that knew how to let audiences know, they watchin a martial arts flick. I’m gonna break down my top 5 things I need to see in my Marvel martial arts film.

Number 5: Rival Clans

The best kung fu films always have a school of dudes that are the baddest in the land, and they have a rival clan. Conflict is usually started with a standard exposition laden insult like “Your kung fu is weak compared to my southern crane style” or “Your technique is useless, come try your luck against my poison snake fist!” We can see this essential Kung Fu Film tradition come into play through the revival of the character in 2015’s Master of Kung Fu: Battleworld which was a Secret Wars spin off series. The series depicts Shang Chi as a disgraced drop out student of Kun Lun(where Iron Fist learned his abilities.) It sees him take on many different rival schools in particular, the Hand.

 

Number 4: Wise old man

Who made Luke who he was in Star Wars? Who helped Po reach his prominence as the Dragon Warrior? There’s always been a grizzled old man in the cut waiting to humble the protagonist. Maybe he’s a drunken prophet, and exiled master from Fushan, or your father’s former best friend. I don’t care, some old dude has got to set Shang Chi right before he can become that dude. This may very well end up as Shang Chi's father, the Mandarin. Or Zheng Yu. I'm not sure who will be Shang Chi's actual father but I'm sure Marvel isn't going with Fu Man Chu.

Number 3: Expert Crowd Control

One of my favorite scenes in Martial Arts history is in Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury. Known to us here in the states as Chinese Connection. There’s this scene where the main character Chen Zhen played by Lee, walks into a Japanese occupied Chinese kung fu studio. The Japanese have converted the school into a makeshift Karate Dojo and are boasting that their Karate is superior to Chinese Kung Fu. Chen Zhen was having none of this. He beat them. All of them. Including their sensei. Not only did he beat them all, he did it without breaking a sweat. I’ve never seen a good Kung Fu film without nameless extras getting their asses kicked by the hero to remind the audience why you don’t write checks your ass can’t cash. 

The fight wasn’t even the best part. It was what Chen Zhen said to them after he was done. The Japanese students left a sign at Chen Zhen’s school that translated into “Sick Man of East Asia” on the Dojo. A disrespectful statement about Chen Zhen’s murdered master. Chen Zhen took the sign and kicked it in mid air, smashing the frame around it to pieces leaving the sign intact. He rips pieces of the sign and grabs the Karate students’ sensei, force feeds him the strips of sign and says, “Eat… EAT! This time it’s paper. The next time it will be glass!” That’s some cold ish to say to a mofo after you beat him and his students to pulp. I would love to see Shang Chi pay homage to that scene.

Number 2: Training Sequence
        Not to be confused with the 80’s montage training sequences. All the best Kung Fu movies have a training sequence where the protagonist is demonstrating his unbeatable form and he’s reciting some dope ass philosophy while doing it. For bonus points. The best movie I can think of to reference for this is the 36th Chamber. The entire movie is a training sequence and main character, San Ta is not to be trifled with. Multiple scenes take place in this school where San Ta is just training and sparring with like 4 or 5 of his fellow students. Almost seconds after, his master asks him to step in front of the class and tests San Ta’s hands himself. To see Shang Chi do something like this, to watch him rise above his peers and prove he is chosen one would be amazing.

Number 1: The finisher

The finisher is represented as the signature move only the protagonist can pull off. While they weren’t as popular when the genre started to rise, around the 80s actors like Jean Claude Van Dame had fans hanging on the edge of their seats waiting for that 360 degree aerial windmill kick to his final opponent. Shang Chi should have a technique that separates him from all his foes and to see this would be homage not just to the movies that featured finishers like that, but the video game franchises as well. THANK YOU MORTAL KOMBAT!!!

This is my list of must have tropes for Shang Chi. And while I believe Marvel will make this movie awesome and do well to have throwbacks to not just the genre but the greater MCU as well, I am eagerly waiting to see Shang Chi and Legend of the 10 Rings comes out in July 2021. What are your favorite Kung Fu movies? Are you excited for Shang Chi? Do you think Sima Liu will do a good job? What things are you hoping Marvel avoids with this movie? Let us know here at the Nerd’s List.

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