Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review: A Match Made in Wuxia Heaven

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is not a film that you expect from Marvel Studios. It’s both a spiritual and emotionally complex film, with some of the best action you’ll see in an MCU flick. Director Destin Daniel Cretton has created a rich fantasy world that feels indebted to China and Hong Kong’s adventurous fantasy martial arts films, which fits perfectly alongside the vibrant mythology of the MCU.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a parking valet who’s living his best life with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). When his dark and complex past returns with a vengeance, Shang-Chi must face the man he has avoided for all these years, his father (Tony Leung).

Sure, the Captain America films have some incredible fight scenes. However, Shang-Chi tops even those scenes. One of Marvel’s greatest strengths is taking a genre and molding it to the Marvel formula. The movie’s action scenes feature a myriad of influences from some of Hong Kong’s legendary directors. For one thing, Shang-Chi features a multitude of acrobatic action scenes highly inspired by Jackie Chan movies. The more wondrous wire-fu scenes have a grace and beauty that come straight from Zhang Yimou’s Hero or Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now, mix it all under the lens of a superhero movie, and you have one killer martial arts flick. 

Thankfully, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t the type of film that’s all style and no substance. The movie also features a heartfelt and dramatic story about a broken family. In a majority of Asian cultures, family means everything. However, screenwriters Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, and Andrew Lanham put together a family story that doesn’t just relate to Asian cultures but all races and cultures. After all, love is universal. 

em>Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is both a spiritual and emotionally complex film, with some of the best action you’ll see in an MCU flick.

Hence, it’s why Shang-Chi‘s Wenwu is one of the best villains Marvel has put out there. He’s a complex and compelling villain whose ambitions are based on love. He’s given up his villainous lifestyle for love. Yet, like any addict, he goes back to the one thing that makes him feel good when his life falls apart. In this case, the ten rings. Of course, the legendary Tony Leung is quite possibly the only one who can handle this much joy and pain with ease. A career that spans over 40-years, Leung has played a myriad of roles for such greats as Wong-Kar Wai, John Woo, and Zhang Yimou. After all these years, this is his first English language role. Yet, it’s no surprise that his greatness transcends all languages. 

Not to be outdone is Simu Liu as the film’s titular character. Although this is Liu’s first big role in Hollywood, Liu absolutely aces the role. Shang-Chi doesn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider or is given a super soldier serum. He’s a normal human being who goes on the path of self-discovery to deal with the trauma deep within him. When he can look inside and embrace the good and bad in his life, he’s ready to become a hero. Liu showcases a flexible range that fits Shang-Chi’s heroic journey nicely. Once again, Liu proves that it’s easier for comedic actors to transition into drama than the reverse. 

As for the rest of the cast, they’re excellent across the board. Similar to Liu, Awkwafina showcases the comedic and dramatic range that she exhibited in The Farewell. In fact, this is her best performance since Farewell. As good as they are separate, together, both Simu Liu and Awkwafina are the best pair since Wanda and Vision. Their friendship and chemistry are beyond compare. At the same time, Meng’er Zhang is exceptional as Xialing. One of the primary reasons that the family plotline in Shang-Chi works is because of the performances between Liu, Leung, and Zhang. 

Overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an absolute blast. It’s a breath of fresh air that works as a stand-alone story, but it also feels like a crucial element for the future of the MCU. Destin Daniel Cretton took great care in creating a film that’s both a celebration of Asian cultures and accessible to everyone. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Shang-Chi. I can’t wait to revisit your world in the next film.

Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

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