Shang-Chi Review – Shang-Chi is the kick start of Marvel’s Phase 4 that brings the MCU full circle and readies it for its new direction
Just going to get right into things with my Shang-Chi Review, it’s easily a top 10 MCU film, and likely a top 5. Shang-Chi is the movie that MCU fans have been waiting for since Endgame. Not to say Black Widow is not a good movie, or not the official start of the Phase 4 movie slate. But Black Widow was the movie fans have been waiting for since Iron Man 2, and should have been part of Phase 3. Anyway, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the true kickstart to the Phase 4 movie slate and brings the MCU full circle.
Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. Shang-Chi is the son of the founder and leader of the ancient order of The Ten Rings, Wenwu (Tony Leung). Wenwu wields incredible power bestowed upon him by ten powerful rings and thus leads an army named after his signature weapon. He raised his son to be the greatest weapon of the order and believes the time has come for Shang-Chi to put aside his life and take his rightful place in the order. This is a very light summary with zero spoilers and barely begins to scratch the surface.
Shang-Chi is unquestionably a magnificent martial arts film. It gloriously pays respects to nearly all styles of martial arts films and miraculously blends them together. This feat alone is worth the price of admission. Incredible hand-to-hand combat, weapon combat, environmental integration, improvised weaponry, wire fighting, magical abilities, etc., this film has it all. It flawlessly blends it all together to create a fluid power that organically joins and lives inside the established MCU. Destin Daniel Cretton’s vision and execution of it all can not be understated. The pure magic of seeing a comedy-laden fight scene, akin to Jackie Chan films, transition to more hardened action, akin to The Raid, and somehow end up in a martial arts epic, akin to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is mind-blowing. I am happy to also share, the trailer does not give away any of the best parts of the movie. That bus scene that is heavily featured, gives away a few big beats but is definitely just the tip of the iceberg. Also, no shaky cam.
Speaking of the tip of the iceberg, audiences will find that as incredible as the martial arts of the film is, it is simply the opening act to a deeply profound family drama. At the heart of the film, Shang-Chi is a movie about family. Not as blatant and direct as say another major franchise, but in a deeply impactful and uncannily relatable way. Tony Leung, as Wenwu, leads the film in this aspect. His emotional journey is the catalyst to the events of the film. A father’s love for his family comes in many forms, and despite any disagreements and questionable acts, audiences will not be able to question the love Wenwu has for his kids. Leung masterfully brings this conflicted character to life with pure eminence. Fans will not be able to resist rooting for him, even in some of his darkest moments. Despite being the billed antagonist, fans will undoubtedly recognize him as the protagonist of his story.
Wenwu’s questionable parenting is reflected in his children Shang-Chi and Xialing. While seeing the undoubtedly controversial acts of his parenting, it is hard to argue with the results. His children are even more capable than he planned. Xialing, played by Meng’er Zhang, instantly climbs her way to the top of badasses in the MCU. Her father did not train her and kept her at arms length growing up, but that did not stop her from learning and teaching herself the deadly ways of The Ten Rings. She took what she wanted and made her dreams come true without her father. She stands on her own, and neither her brother nor father can knock her down. Zhang gives a spectacular performance, imbuing Xialing with a truly icy exterior that will chill anyone in her view which makes her eventually thaw that much more powerful. She will also undoubtedly be the inspiration for many vision boards as she is without a doubt a vibe. I also recently learned she had no martial arts experience prior to portraying Xialing, which is surprising because she truly excels in her action sequences.
Outside of family-related by blood, and all of the hard-hitting emotions, we have the other side of the spectrum with the family you choose. Shang-Chi and Katy are BFF goals. Katy, portrayed by Awkwafina, is Shang’s best friend and the outsider to The Ten Rings. She hilariously reflects how outside of normal the circumstances are. Her chemistry with the cast is palpable. Katy and Shang-Chi’s support and riffs will place them on the top of all duo lists. They have that perfect back and forth that is fully supportive and constantly digging at each other. It makes for a great back and forth that truly brings out the best of the performers and their characters. There’s also Katy and Xialing, which is what likely warms Xialing into working with and hear out her brother. Katy is an obvious fan of Xialing upon witnessing her match with Shang-Chi. Her fandom eventually leads to a wonderful camaraderie that plays off Katy’s outspoken demeanor and Xialing’s silent confidence. The clashing personalities make for an epic friendship.
There are a number of other performances to talk about, such as Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong, and Fala Chen. But it is hard to discuss without spoilers. I do want to mention Jayden Zhang, Harmonie He, and Arnold Sun for their wonderful portrayals of younger Shang-Chi and Xialing. As well as Stephanie Hsu who plays that friend who is reluctantly outgrowing her friends.
My only critique of Shang-Chi is that you can feel it follows the same beats as another MCU film. This is not a bad thing as Marvel has essentially perfected their formula. But as Shang-Chi is kind of emerging from the shadow of The Suicide Squad, which is undoubtedly bouncing to the beat of its own drum, it doesn’t ring as loud. It is a great origin film and definitely feels far more unique than a lot of other Marvel movies. But beat-wise, I would say it shares Black Panther’s bass line.
Lastly, I want to talk about the cultural impact of the film, which I do not believe heavily influences my Shang-Chi review, but I will leave it off to interpretation. First off, gratitude that the biggest movie studio in the world backed and is distributing a movie that features a predominantly Asian cast and production team. Secondly, for the amazing representation of Asian Americans. Not that Crazy Rich Asians wasn’t great, but I literally cannot afford to relate to those characters. It was amazing seeing so many Asians playing different types of characters than the stereotypes we are usually given. But, I feel a big problem of Asian representation is that we are “Othered” and crazy richness is pretty otherizing. If the rich people aren’t trying to take over the world or put on masks to save it, I tend to not care about that type of content. Shang-Chi portrays Asian Americans as Americans and regular people. People with jobs, troubles, goals, and like to have fun. They are presented as people first then are made unique by their culture. Another shout out to Director Destin Daniel Cretton, because a lot of the movie is subtitled and I’m sure most will not even realize it. The characters’ culture is a part of their character but they aren’t labeled as their culture. It’s a very subtle order that has a tremendous impact on the perception of the character which in turn is how many will perceive people of the culture in reality. It is genuinely a step in the right direction and hopefully will begin a change in the world, a habit that Marvel movies do tend to have. I expect numerous karaoke bars to have their reservations immediately booked after the film’s release.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings kick starts Phase 4 of the MCU Movie slate and brings the MCU full circle. Shang-Chi in comparison to other MCU films feels a lot like Iron Man. The Ten Rings is what started off the events of the MCU and The Ten Rings have once again brought us back and readies us for what is to come. Shang-Chi contains some of the best action scenes the MCU has to offer, gloriously blending numerous genres of martial art films into something unique that fits perfectly into Marvel’s established universe. It is also a profound family drama that features a truly awesome villain that will have the audience questioning if he really is a villain. It also has amazing friendships and honestly a Friend‘s level of cast chemistry. Shang-Chi is the perfect blend of action, drama, heart, and comedy that Marvel is known for. Shang-Chi is Marvel letting the world know they still have so much more to bring us. My Shang-Chi Review gets a 4.5/5
Shang-Chi and the Legend of The Ten Rings Review
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings kick starts Phase 4 of the MCU Movie slate and brings the MCU full circle. Shang-Chi in comparison to other MCU films feels a lot like Iron Man. The Ten Rings is what started off the events of the MCU and The Ten Rings have once again brought us back and readies us for what is to come. Shang-Chi contains some of the best action scenes the MCU has to offer, gloriously blending numerous genres of martial art films into something unique that fits perfectly into Marvel’s established universe. It is also a profound family drama that features a truly awesome villain that will have the audience questioning if he really is a villain. It also has amazing friendships and honestly a Friend‘s level of cast chemistry. Shang-Chi is the perfect blend of action, drama, heart, and comedy that Marvel is known for. Shang-Chi is Marvel letting the world know they still have so much more to bring us.