The latest smash hit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has arrived with ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.’ The film introduces audiences to Shang-Chi (Simu Liu); an easygoing San Francisco resident who spends his time parking cars and hanging out with his friend Katy (Awkwafina) and her family.
Life is steady if unspectacular until he is accosted on a city bus by a group looking to take a pendant his mother gave him. When Shang-Chi shocks Katy and the occupants of the bus with his martial arts abilities; he attempts to find his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang); who runs an underground fight club. Xialing’s estranged from her brother but their father Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) has conspired to bring them and their pendants before him.
Using the sacred devices known as the Ten Rings, Wenwu has ruled for over a thousand years. Using the artifacts, he is able to destroy all who oppose him. He also maintains a large army he has gathered over the centuries. Wenwu wants to revive Shang-Chi mother, convinced that she is calling to him and he wants to be with her. It was her influence which allowed him to be a better man and forsake the power and abilities the rings offered him.
Wenwu plans to go to the mythical realm that Shang-Chi’s mother came from and free her, or burn the place to the ground. Meanwhile, Shang Chi must make some hard choices between family and doing what he believes is right. What follows is an action-filled thriller with plenty of mysticism and humor. The film combines Asian and Western cinematic styles resulting in some engaging visual action sequences.
What really sets the film apart from many superhero films is that the characters are complex especially in regards to their past and their motivations. Their relationships with one another are key to the film as family, honor, and justice are vital elements to the film. These aren’t just good words, they’re relationships developed right along with the characters.
While the final act may be a bit FX heavy for some, I found it in keeping with the story. The great Sir Ben Kingsley provides some welcome comic relief in his return as Trevor.
Awkwafina is also great as she provides some very laugh-out-loud moments. She is not afraid to mix it up when the situation calls for it. Simu Liu was great in the lead role, performing the physical aspects of his role well, adding a restrained sensitivity. His character was conflicted by choices he made in his youth and the ramifications of those choices as an adult.
There are bonus scenes that set up future adventures for these characters. There is at least one that will no doubt have Marvel fans heatedly debating when the film premieres. Once again, Marvel has shown why they have had such a sustained success with their films. They have done a great job of introducing a new character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But they have done an even better job connecting him to their cinematic past and future.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Rated: 4 stars out of 5