The latest addition to the famed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” takes an innovative approach to the telling of an origin story. Released on Sept. 3, 2021, the film has become a box office hit, with a box office gross of 162.1 million dollars within a week of its release, and many critics are already calling “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” the “film of the year.” With its successful depiction of the complexity of family and elements of thrilling action sequences through stunning portrayals of the martial-arts fight style, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is definitely a film to remember, even past 2021.
Thousands of years ago, the powerful and mystical ten rings, which grant godly powers and immorality to their user, were discovered by Wenwu. He brutally uses the rings to build a society of mercenaries called the Ten Rings that destroy kingdoms and wreaks havoc across the world. However, when Wenwu ventures out in search of the mystical city of Ta Lo, he ends up meeting Jiang Li, and the two fall in love, eventually marrying and starting a family of their own, giving birth to the title character, Shang-Chi, and his sister, Xialing. For quite some time, with Wenwu giving up his old, power-hungry ways to be with the love of his life, there is peace in the world; however, upon Jiang Li’s untimely death, a grief-stricken, newly-evil Wenwu tries to mold Shang-Chi into a ruthless killer to avenge his mother’s death. Skip ahead to present-day, we see a much older Shang-Chi riding the bus with his best friend Katy, and on this bus ride, they come face-to-face with Shang-Chi’s past—specifically his father’s quest to lure Shang-Chi back to China to further his twisted and dangerous quest to get Jiang Li back. This throws the both of them into a jumbled mess of attempting to stop Wenwu from going through with his quest; full of martial-arts sequences amidst stunning backdrops and family reconciliations throughout.
Although the film is packed with actions, relatable characters and emotional family reunions, one flaw is the limitation of the character Katy. Played by the talented Awkwafina, Katy was fun, kind and has all the traits you would want in a friend. But that’s the problem. Katy is merely included to be Shang-Chi’s “girl best friend,” a cliché that Marvel usually doesn’t include in many of its movies. She’s a character who begs her friend to take her to Macau, where the story unfolds. It would have been nice to add some personality to her or make her unique in some way, but instead, she’s just another potential love interest for the main character. Nevertheless, she’s a refreshing person, someone who is clueless with the audience on Shang-Chi’s past and helps her friend discover himself.
The action scenes and the cinematography prevalent in the movie are also worth praising. The fight scenes in this movie are at par with those present in Marvel’s previous “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and to top all this off, these action scenes were filmed so that we, as the viewers, feel as if we were actually part of the plot, watching these fights unfold in front of our own eyes. While the movie ends with the typical Marvel climax—the good guys fighting CGI-generated monsters in a CGI-landscape—as a whole, the film strays from the usual MCU movie formula in that it differs considerably (in a good way) in terms of its soulful tone and intricate depictions of familial conflict that underlie the premise of the film. Additionally, the locations used in the film went incredibly well with the movie. The city of Macao went perfectly with Shang-Chi’s first battle with his father’s men. The bustling city and buildings were matched with the tense atmosphere of Shang-Chi’s broken-off relationship with his sister and father.
The movie is also Marvel’s first film to include an Asian main character and an overall diverse cast. Through the movie, the embracing of Asian culture is prominent and includes a diverse cast. Simu Liu, the actor who plays the title character, and Tony Leung, who plays Wenwu, were also praised for their acting.
The Asian representation portrayed in this film was powerful and original. Many Hollywood productions are recognized for their underrepresentation of minority casts. But because the representation came from arguably the biggest movie in the world, it means a lot and is groundbreaking in that respect. This film also encourages western movies to follow in promoting more inclusive casts by setting up a possible example for other western movies.
As a new Marvel Cinematic Universe character is once again welcomed to the big screen, fans are already excited to see Shang-Chi’s story unfold with the rest of the Avengers.