By: Savanna Snead
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Finally, a Marvel movie than can stand on its own 4/5 Stars
After thirteen years and over twenty movies, Marvel has gained its first Asian superhero. Like Black Panther before it, Shang-Chi features an iconic Asian cast including Tony Leung (Hero, Infernal Affairs), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), comics Awkwafina (Nora From Queens) and Ronny Chieng (The Daily Show), as well as a cameo by the legendary Tsai Chin (The Joy Luck Club). The film is, of course, an origin story but it doesn’t feel like one. It’s a complete story in its own right, filled with dragons, soul-sucking monsters and late-night karaoke.
Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, is a broke hotel valet. Along with his best friend Katy, played by Awkwafina, he goes on joy rides and shrugs off responsibilities. After an electrifying fight scene on a bus, Shang-Chi must confront the painful past that he escaped as a teenager and explore the stories that his deceased mother told him of her mystical, hidden homeland called Ta Lo.
At its heart, the film is a story about family and loss. Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father, is a man consumed with grief, ready to alienate both his son and daughter in order to attain his goals. The relationship between father and son is captivating to watch, as we see Wenwu fail at his attempt to train Shang-Chi into becoming his successor.
Marvel has its fair share of bad fathers – Howard Stark, N’jobu, and Ego to name a few – but Wenwu takes the crown as the worst father. As the thousand-year-old leader of the Ten Rings, Wenwu is a complex figure driven by both greed and love. There have been many complaints
about Marvel villains feeling one-dimensional or stilted; there will be no complaints about Wenwu or the enthralling performance by Tony Leung.
The action sequences, choreographed by Andy Cheng and Brad Allen, are the best Marvel has ever created. They’re slick, powerful and punctuated by electric beats to hype up the audience. The fights feel real and grounded, even while the characters throw punches eighty stories above ground on the side of a skyscraper or while standing next to mythical animals like the nine-tailed fox. As the movie becomes enmeshed in the magical world of Ta Lo, the fight scenes become grander and more emotional.
If you’re looking for a great action film to see with friends or family, Shang-Chi is a must-see. Whether you stream it on Disney+ after the 45-day theatrical window or see it in a local theater, you won’t regret seeing it.