A martial arts master is forced back into the world of his immortal
warlord father who seeks to make his family whole again.
Shang-Chi and the Legend
Admittedly, after a string of TV shows featuring familiar characters and the long-awaited Black Widow solo film, I was really anticipating something new from Marvel. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many of the sequels we’ve gotten. And the big one on the way this year. But I also really enjoy something I’m not as familiar with. Hence, my anticipation for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A film which offered something different while also showing a huge step forward for representation in a mainstream Hollywood film. All of this wrapped up in the recognizable Marvel package with many, including myself, wondering what secrets would be revealed and where in the canon this would place.
Fun fact about me, I really love martial arts films. Especially the recent resurgence with the more brutal, gory ones we’ve been getting. So, with Marvel announcing this would be their martial arts film, I was pretty excited. And they definitely delivered. Shang-Chi has, by far, some of the most exhilarating action scenes in the MCU to date. From the close quarters bus fight to the climactic battle scene, there wasn’t a dull action sequence. A huge reason this works is the sincerity in giving the audience a movie which actually represented Asian culture and its traditions. Something which was done so well I forgot I was watching a film set in the MCU at times. Everything from the folklore to even iconic films is put on display to show the audience a culture we truly haven’t seen a lot of in a major Hollywood production. I must also talk about the villain, Wenwu. Or, as I like to say, one of the MCU’s best villains. Instead of a power-hungry tyrant, we get a deeply complicated man driven solely by grief. Finally, before I ramble on any longer, I also appreciated how this film fixed a certain character in a major way. To the point where a film whose ending was my only gripe is now completely fine with me.
This is the introduction to Phase 4 I’ve been waiting for. Marvel delivered big time in a film which brings the martial arts, proper representation, complex villain, and even a redeemed character. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a tremendous film which has me excited for what both the character and MCU have in store for us.
We have entered the Marvel age of inclusion, and it is giving us so many epic films. I'm glad some studios are striving for representation for everyone, with Shang-Chi being the first ever big-screen Asian-American superhero. And what an adventure it is. After Black Widow got delayed last year, it meant new dates for the rest of Marvel's Phase 4 openers. Things were a bit uncertain there for Shang-Chi, Eternals, and No Way Home. But here we are, with things a little better and movie release dates more set in stone. It feels exciting to go see a Marvel movie. After thirteen years now of building the MCU, it's comforting to know that the story is far from over and the plan is far-reaching.
Shang-Chi (Liu) is the son of a martial arts goddesss (Chen) and an immortal power-hungry warlord (Leung, who was fantastic as the one true Mandarin). He walked away from a life of murder and servitude to be his own man. One day, he and his lifelong friend Katy (Awkwafina, who is one of the funniest actors working today) are attacked by his father's assassins, and now Shang must fulfill his destiny. Along the way, we get reintroduced to Trevor Slattery (Kingsley), the original fake Mandarin who has been imprisoned by the real one. Bringing him back was a smart move and retroactively makes Iron Man 3 a much better movie.
Shang-Chi sets a mystical, darker tone for the MCU going forward. We are given more hints towards other universes, and the post-credits scene (I think) leads nicely into Eternals, if my theory is correct. Regardless, this is a fun, action-packed adventure sporting a host of unforgettable characters we are definitely going to be seeing a lot more of in the coming years. The Master of Kung Fu has arrived.