Come on now! We are so excited for everyone to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Director Destin Daniel Cretton and the cast have made something so beautiful on a visual, emotional, and ethereal level. As the kids would say, this movie is fire. It was everything we wanted it to be, plus so much more. What a delight. What a cinematic treat. There’s no way this film isn’t welcomed with open arms by fans and critics alike. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings takes place after I and is the epic origin story for Shang-Chi. Based on the Marvel comics, the story introduces audiences to the Ten Rings organization while also showing us how Shang-Chi becomes the “Master of Kung Fu,” the moral conflict between him and his father, and the struggle between family and independence. The film stars Simu Liu as the titular Shang-Chi, Awkwafina as his best friend Katy, Fala Chen as Shang-Chi’s mother Jiang Li, Meng’er Zhang as his sister Xialing, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father. The film also stars Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Sir Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery. The excitement felt knowing most of these characters will work alongside other superhero favs gave a sense of renewed Marvel fandom energy.
While watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first few things established are themes of discipline, family, and respect. The storytelling reminds us of the important things in life before getting into the tainted past and future chaos. I appreciate Cretton establishing those early on as we get to know who Shang-Chi is. The overarching themes of this film are family, friendship, and fighting for those you love no matter the cost. That last one is a doozy and makes the conflict with the “villain” much more complicated. Wenwu wants to destroy anyone and anything that gets in the way of saving his wife, the love of his life, the mother of his children. What we won’t do for love instantly popped into my head. Shang-Chi’s struggle between listening to his father and listening to his heart comes through. The moral dilemma in this film plays nicely with the “Marvel formula.”
As usual, the comedic writing of this Marvel film is great. The dichotomy between living your life and saving the world is put into play but made less overwhelming with the use of perfectly timed comedic moments. Awkwafina was able to use her talents in that department. I was worried at first about having her in a Marvel action hero film, but it works. The friendship Katy and Shang-Chi have is great. It doesn’t go over the top, nor do their more emotional moments get in the way of the story.
I appreciate the nods to the comic book, like the use of dragon scale outfits and supreme hand-to-hand combat. I also approve of the changes that were made to the story, including but not limited to Shang-Chi’s mother, played by Fala Chen. Her role was done so well on screen that when she wasn’t there you still felt her presence. The family dynamics were woven throughout, letting the audience learn piece by piece to form their own opinion at the end of whose side they were on.
I am such a fan of Tony Chiu-Wai Leung’s portrayal of Shang-Chi’s father. Through all the pain, demands, expectations, and power, there was no doubt in my mind that Wenwu didn’t love his son. The complexity of the character was artfully navigated through direction from Cretton and acting from Leung. The father-son dynamic is complicated for sure, but never did I think he was heartless and unloving. I will say, it did give me some Mortal Kombat (2021) vibes with Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but only for a moment. He is the antagonist to our hero, but never a true villain. Vengeance is a powerful thing that is formed from deep love and loss. There is a clear celebration of feeling one’s emotions.
Remember those really fun, classic Kung Fu films that you would watch and be completely mesmerized by? This is on that level. The fight sequences are a major part of what makes this film truly great. Simu Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung are brilliant in their own way. Each has a specific rhythm and flow in their choreography that works with their character, for the story, and the all-around action of the film.
Watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings should yield a deeper appreciation of Chinese culture, Asian history, and the evolution of the action film. Although the film has a lot of fighting and could be seen as violent, the violence transcends to a level of physical beauty that is thrilling to watch on the big screen. The visual effects that accompanied some of the fight sequences elevated the battles to another level. The skill, the artistry, and attention to cultural aesthetics were superb.
This film, fingers crossed, will do for the Asian community what Black Panther did for the Black community. The culture, the legends, the history — I want so much more of it. I remember how I felt seeing people like me in an epic comic marvel film. This film is coming out at a great time, and I am so proud to be part of this much-needed inclusivity (took long enough).
You can see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in theaters on September 3.