Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is heir to the villainous Ten Rings organization, an inheritance he does not want. After escaping and hiding for several years, Shang-Chi faces the Ten Rings again to stop his father (Tony Leung), the leader of the ancient organization, from unleashing an evil that could destroy the world.
After the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame, it is a nice change of pace to come back to stories that are smaller and more personal. Black Widow might have been the first film released in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but chronologically, it was before Avengers: Infinity War. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film in the future proper of the MCU. And in the same vein of Phase One’s Iron Man, it takes place on a small scale and very personal level but opens the door for a much larger future.
Not too long ago, I went through the entire series of Kim’s Convenience, where Simu Liu plays the character of Jung Kim. It’s jarring to see him transition from a comedy role to an action role; I imagine it is the same feeling fans of The Office felt when they saw John Krasinski first play Jack Ryan. Anyway, Liu performed the action parts just as well as he did the comedy parts. His star power is quickly on the rise and I can’t wait to see more of him in the MCU.
As much as I like comedy, one thing that MCU films have had difficulty with is finding a good balance between humor and seriousness. Thor: Ragnarok is one example of an offender of this. However, Shang-Chi was able to balance these aspects much better than many of its predecessors. It helped that rather than have every character be the comedy relief, that role mostly fell on the shoulders of Awkwafina. Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend (not love interest) Katy helped balance the film well. She had her comedic moments but they weren’t overbearing and never took away from the more sincere or somber moments. I hope future MCU films take note of this character and how to handle comedy in superhero films going forward.
Many comic fans did not like the Mandarin’s portrayl in Iron Man 3. I’m not a die-hard fan of the character of Iron Man so I enjoyed the character twist in that film. I especially like the follow up one-shot, Long Live the King, which follows Trevor Slattery after the events of Iron Man 3, which teased the appearance of the real Mandarin. Slattery, played by Ben Kingsley, is an entertaining character that Kingsley completely morphs into and always gets a laugh out of me. I was ecstatic to see him incorporated into the story in this film, especially after the previously mentioned tease at the end of Long Live the King. Kingsley once again plays the character to perfection and created some of the best laughs of the movie.
Way back in my State of the MCU Address, I stated that I wanted Shang-Chi to embrace its character’s roots and fully embrace the martial arts action side of things. And in that regard, this film did not disappoint. Every set piece was exciting and packed with exhilarating action sequences. It really channeled the Kung Fu roots of the character and let loose.
Like I said before, I’m not overly attached to the Mandarin character, and that also applies to his iconic ten rings. However, one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the way the titular objects were portrayed in this movie. In the comics, I like to equate the rings to the infinity stones, albeit much less powerful, where each ring grants the wearer a unique ability. When combined and used together, the user is granted enormous power. But in this film, they became more physical in nature, not granting any special powers, other than not aging and physical power. I can understand the change, it might have taken up too much extra time explaining the rings’ powers or trying to find ways to incorporate the rings’ powers into the story, so the change might be benefial to the story, but it is disappointing to see the potential of the rings overlooked.
I thought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was GOOD 🙂 Phase 4 of the MCU has provided a fresh start while building inside what came before and this film has taken full advantage of that. It’s self-contained but offers a path into something greater going forward. The action is top-notch and the comedy is one of the best in the franchise in a long time. While it doesn’t quite make it to the top echelons of the MCU, it is an adventure that is well worth the time.
Cast & Crew
Destin Daniel Cretton – Director / Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay / Story
Andrew Lanham – Screenplay
Simu Liu – Shaun / Shang-Chi
Awkwafina – Katy
Tony Leung – Xu Wenwu
Meng’er Zhang – Xialing
Ben Kingsley – Trevor Slattery
Fala Chen – Li
Michelle Yeoh – Ying Nan
Yuen Wah – Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu – Razor Fist
Jayden Zhang – Young Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong – Young Xialing
Arnold Sun – Teen Shang-Chi