Marvel Studios has been true top form over the past year, with its first foray into live-action television shows for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (sorry, Netflix), and now its second theatrical release amid the pandemic, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” is certainly swinging for the fences.
In “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi, a professional valet who must confront the demons of his past that he thought he left behind when he is once again pulled into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization — run by his father (Tony Leung).
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12,” “Just Mercy”), the film also stars Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, Tonny Chieng, and one other familiar face that I’ll let you find out for yourself.
“Shang-Chi” isn’t your average MCU film, and it knows it. As a self-described “easy to please” Marvel fan, I was pleasantly surprised by how different and refreshing this film was, not to mention my delight at spotting cinematic influences from the likes of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” of all things.
Origin stories are never easy to tackle, and “Shang-Chi” suffers somewhat from the age-old issue of “so much information and not enough time,” but manages to balance out the story and necessary lore dumps well. Flashbacks are present throughout the film, and often contain major plot reveals and additional context that only further flesh out our lead character.
Speaking of, Liu is a revelation in this role, and I am not being hyperbolic when I say I truly believe he was made to be in the MCU. Not only does he glide effortlessly through the action sequences, but his comedic timing and emotional delivery really drive home that our hero is someone hardened by trauma and training, yet only seeks to find love and acceptance.
The highlight of the picture is most definitely the fight scenes, which are, without a doubt, the very best the MCU has had to offer so far. Each one was a thrill to watch and kept me on the edge of my seat (the bus sequence was a personal favorite, especially with the appearance of Klev, best known for the “Do a flip!” scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”). Another action sequence I loved involves some unique cinematography involving an intense, emotional butt-kicking from Leung reflected in a mirror as a young Shang-Chi shrinks away in a corner.
At its core, “Shang-Chi” is about, like everything in Phase 4 so far, trauma. Specifically, how family trauma can shape and change us, despite our best intentions — but that we can always choose to be better. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is certainly not butterflies and rainbows right now, but the stories we get in exchange are deep, complex and emotionally resonant, which I think is a fair trade.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is rated PG-13 and does feature some intense fight scenes, as well as one somewhat graphic gore-related sequence toward the end. There is one mid-credits scene and one end-credits scene, so be sure to stick around after the film ends.
In the Parks
While there isn’t anything specifically related to Shang-Chi in the parks just yet, you can join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes at Disney California Adventure in Avengers Campus!
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shang-Chi does make his way to the land at some point — as Simu Liu made a cheeky “post credits-style” appearance at the end of the grand opening livestream back in April wearing one of his outfits from the film.
Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” premieres in theaters on Sept. 3, 2021. You can check out the trailer below: