Shauna Fox weilds her tremedous powers.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will most likely be many people’s first foray back to the cinema after over a year. And they won’t be disappointed. Destin Daniel Crettoni’s film is action-packed, visually epic, with stunning cinematography and an engaging story to boot, plus the humour is spot on – I mean when you have Awkwafina in a movie, you know it’s going to be funny.
This is a good introduction to new characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe; we’re in phase four now. The ‘old’ favourites can make an appearance and we know this means our new hero is destined for ‘Avenger-hood’. Simu Liu plays the eponymous character. Likeable and charismatic, though, like most heroes, he has a complicated past … and family. Shang-Chi is introduced to us as Shaun, working as a valet driver at a hotel in San Francisco with his friend Katy (Awkwafina). Shaun appears to live a normal life, but when he’s set upon by assassins on a bus and he kicks ass with his awesome martial arts skills … things are not quite as they appear.
Shang-Chi undergoes a journey of self-discovery, trying to figure out who he is beyond what his father trained him to be. His father, Xu Wenwu, by the way, is the real Mandarin (Tony Leung), and the owner of the ten rings that give him great power.
This movie stands apart from its predecessors due to its fantasy element. While, of course, all Marvel films are essentially fantasy, Shang-Chi incorporates Chinese lore and mythical creatures that have not existed before in the MCU. There is also a very modern vibe to this movie, very similar to that of Black Panther; this is, in part, because of a killer soundtrack.
Visually, this is a powerhouse film, from the fast-paced martial arts, to the slow-motion tai-chi, Shang-Chi does not disappoint. While the story is slightly longer than it probably needed to be, it was a satisfying experioence. The movie benefits from highlighting a range of characters and giving them the screen time to develop. Shang-Chi’s father, Wenwu, is a domineering character, but with such love for his wife that it gives him some redeemability. Katy and Xialing (Shang-Chi’s sister, played by Meng’er Zhang) are strong characters, and it is just as enjoyable to watch them find themselves as it is to watch Shang-Chi.
One of the more subtle aspects of this film is the opening scene, the explanation of how our characters got to where they are in the present. Narrated in Mandarin, it lends the film an authenticity, and grounds it in Chinese culture.
Shang-Chi brought me back to my childhood, when I used to watch Jackie Chan films and marvel (no pun intended) at the style and skill involved in martial arts. While Shang-Chi can pull off insane moves, he is the most normal, down to earth hero the MCU has had. It’ll be intersting to see his character in future Marvel projects and to see what he and the ten rings get up to next.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in cinemas from 3rd September 2021.