Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Written by Dave Callahan, Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chu-Wai Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le and Stephanie Hsu
Shang-Chi, the master of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe tells a personal story about family, but also about living up to one’s potential. Shang (Simu Liu) finds himself living in San Francisco working as a valet alongside his friend Katy (Awkwafina) and both find themselves being chided by those around them for not living up to their potential. I liked seeing that both characters don’t take things that seriously and the friendship between the two seems organic and interesting. Awkafina is definitely there for one-liners and comic relief, but Liu is capable of holding his own with wit and charisma.
Everything changes when Shang becomes the target of a group of assassins and the encounter leads to the first of several really well choreographed and thrilling action sequences as Shang must fight off the assassins on a moving bus through the streets of the city. His skill not only reveals his secret to Katy, but also thrusts her into the life he had been running from. A life that brings him back into the world of his estranged father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) and the criminal organization that he has been running for centuries with the power of the mystical ten rings.
The film does a great job of blending the mysticism into the storyline without it feeling cheesy and they do that by not explaining everything. They leave it to the audience to believe that in this world there are hidden lands, demons, ancient magic and dragons. If there was one thing in the film that was slightly disappointing, it was the Death Dealer character. The character had been setup to be this looming presence in Shang-Chi’s life, but besides looking menacing, the character never really did much.
The story really starts to get in gear when Shang has to go in search of his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) in order to try to protect her from the same assassins. She shows she is just as capable as he is at protecting herself and their introduction allows for the family issues at the heart of the story to be explored. Shang’s complicated relationship with his father is one of the better dynamics in the film and the story does a great job of making the character more nuanced than a standard comic book or comic book movie villain. His motivations are almost rational in the context of the world of the film and fueled by a grief that shows that the character had genuine emotion and love of his family.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it culminates in a secret land, family secrets, the discovery of one’s personal power and mythical creatures that allow for an epic special effects filled final act that mixes well with the martial arts action. There are also some wonderful call backs to other MCU films and a cameo that redeems a story arc from one of them.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a lively, fun, action packed and intelligent entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It carves its way into the universe with style, humor and heart. A fun and entertaining film from start to finish.
Editor’s Note: There is a mid-credit scene that expands the story into the upcoming story arcs of the MCU with cameos from some familiar faces. There is also an after credits scene that teases conflicts Shang-Chi will face in the upcoming sequel.