It’s safe to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been doing some unique world-expansion outside of the films with familiar characters shining in shows such as Loki, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Scarlett Johansson’s solo adventure, Black Widow, covered a hidden chapter from the previous Phase Three.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film to take place after Endgame and a chance to show the carefully constructed MCU world on a grander scale. Or so we thought that’s the route they would take.
This review is spoiler-free.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows Shaun (Simu Liu), a young man in San Francisco, that is forced to confront his past as his father’s Ten Rings organization.
This film wasted no time to introducing the audience to the mystical ten rings and the power they wielded, not allowing much mystery for viewers to figure out what’s going on. The opening sequence about Xu Wenwu’s (Tony Leung) ruthless conquering of the known world over countless years with the godly powers the rings grant him was visually exciting. As we see a more human part of Wenwu exposed in the opening, elegant beauty begins to weave into the film and is establishes a wonderful sub-theme about family, culture, and destiny.
Shaun/Shang-Chi is a likable character from the start; an everyday guy who works a normal job as a valet, singing karaoke with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), and spending time with his own family made up of loving friends. But a simple bus ride showed another side of the mild-mannered young man as assassins sent by his father showed the lethal Kung-Fu skills. From there, Shaun realized that he couldn’t hide Shang-Chi forever as his past came to collect him.
I would never thought that a superhero film could be so beautiful. While it’s a basic superhero’s journey film, fitting the standard formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at its core, it didn’t feel like an MCU movie at all. Filled with wonderful visuals and tied with the bonds of family and culture, Shang-Chi found its footing first here before fully establishing itself as a superhero film. The main events of the MCU were mentioned to tap us all on the shoulder as a gentle superhero reminder. However, the exploration and representation of Asian culture is a true positive, breaking away from the stereotypes of Asians in cinema to truly let the beauty shine through. The writers also went hard on the fight scenes; from the first one on the bus to many others along the way, it truly paid off to deliver on the action and adventure to pair with the family drama of Shang-Chi’s family.
Simu Liu and Tony Leung turned in stellar performances as son and father, respectfully. They helped the audience connect with both characters as their long-simmering family drama played out for the audience. Direction from Dustin Daniel Cretton greatly assisted in making the fight scenes come to life on the screen and showing the amazing choreographed art for our viewing pleasure. A surprise appearance by a forgotten Marvel character with ties to the MCU and the Ten Rings made a reappearance and steals the show on a comedic level to balance out with the action.
While it doesn’t move the MCU forward as far as the overall story of where we are going, it does a good job of setting up for something bigger in the MCU. Marvel Studios has always played the long game and it paid off in the first three phases. Entering Phase four and with the Disney + shows establishing the central story baton going for the movies to pick up, the superhero movie powerhouse studio had to start somewhere and this put together origin story did just that. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduced a fresh, fun and great new character for us to get to know for years to come.
What did you think of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? What do you think is next for the MCU as Phase Four begins to expand into the films?
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