Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Marvel’s first big movie with an all-Asian cast.
It’s also their first film about a character who didn’t appear in another film beforehand since Doctor Strange in 2016.
Does it stick the landing? Yeah, it’s great.
- Genre: Action
- Release Date: September 2021
The film focuses on the conflict between Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi and his father, Tony Leung’s Wenwu – the head of the criminal organisation known as the Ten Rings. AKA those guys from the first Iron Man movie.
The film is relatively low stakes, with most of the story being self contained. It also doesn’t directly tie-in into the other Marvel movies barring a few quick cameos.
The crux of the story is the conflict between Shang-Chi and his father Wenwu.
Both Simu Liu and Tony Leung carry that feud in their performances brilliantly.
Simu Liu is great as Shang-Chi, managing to pull off both some dramatic work and some comedic elements too.
Tony Leung, who is making his Hollywood debut, is terrific as the villain Wenwu.
Context to the Film
If you don’t know, Shang-Chi in the comics was created in the 70’s during the popularity of martial arts media.
Marvel wanted to make a comic based on the TV show; Kung Fu (ask your parents).
But, they couldn’t get the rights so they used Fu Manchu as Shang-Chi’s father in the comics.
This got phased out later in the years because A.) Marvel lost the rights and B.) Fu Manchu is racist. So Wenwu replaces him, but he is also another character from the Marvel comics; the Mandarin.
In my opinion, the character of the Mandarin in the comics was a racist stereotype. This film revamps the character of the Mandarin from the ground up and the filmmakers do a fine job of it.
This version of the Mandarin is actually more interesting here. Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriter Daniel Carruthers make him more three dimensional and add a lot of pathos to his character.
Tony Leung’s performance in this film is admirable. He sells his character’s feelings of lost and longing for something perfectly – much like in another film he is in; In the Mood for Love.
A special mention should also be given to Meng’er Zhang and Awkwafina, I liked both their characters and hope to see them show up in more stuff down the line.
Moments in the Film
The action scenes in this film are great. The Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been criticised for having too many action set pieces relying on CGI nadgreenscreen. Shang-Chi often downplays that towards the final act for more physical fight scenes, which are really good.
Choreographed by the late Brad Allen, the fight scenes are directed really well, referring to the Hong Kong action movies of the 90’s like First Strike (the film also has Michelle Yeoh and Yuen Wah) and wuxia films too.
The final act does deliver more fantasy than what’s shown in the trailers, the special effects are pretty great looking there.
How the Ten Rings are used in the film are clever too, being more bands than rings makes the fights more physical and they are used in a variety of different ways which look epic.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a remarkably fresh and different looking Marvel movie with great performances and fight scenes.