Marvel’s origin films do have a formula at this point in the franchise. They closely follow the heroes journey structure that many other films follow. It’s just how these types of stories work. Some cases like Captain Marvel buck that trend a bit with some plot devices that change the formula a bit, but they never stray too far away from what we know. In the case of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we get the simplest version of an origin story and then we’re off. It’s ingenious how they haven’t used this in a Marvel movie yet.
Shang-Chi is special because he’s the child of a mythical being and an all-mighty warrior. That’s it. You don’t need to know why he kicks so much ass. He doesn’t need some convoluted “midi-chlorian” explanation. That’s why he’s awesome and has powers. It helps that he’s portrayed and given one of the best and most convincing performances in the MCU by Simu Liu. Shang-Chi was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and features a script by Cretton, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham.
In addition to Liu, we have Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, Men’er Zhang, Fala Chen, and Ronny Chieng. There’s another very famous actor in the film, but that’s quite the spoiler, so go ahead and watch the film and see just who else is in the cast! Shang-Chi combines a fantastical story with some of the best martial arts action in any film this decade.
No Spoilers Here, But Shang-Chi Has One Of The Most Complex And Best Villains In The MCU
Shang-Chi’s father, Wenwu, is played by Tony Leung. It’s no secret that he would be the villain of the film, but in what way? Would he just be the normal bad-guy for our hero to dispatch and send off into the pit of other MCU villains from origins films? The answer to that is no. He’s a villain that’s multi-faceted and aided by a truly great performance by Leung. His motivations are selfish, but he’s a broken man that’s lost basically everything in his life. His performance makes you feel for the villain in a way that we haven’t seen in the MCU since Thanos. You might not agree with his plot, but you can understand why he’s doing it. Adding in Liu and Zhang as his children, Shang-Chi and Xialing, you get a whole familial experience with the plot.
The dynamic between Shang-Chi and Katy (Awkwafina) drives most of the comedy in the film, which is abundant but doesn’t get in the way. There might be fanciful things happening on screen, but the writers of the film knew when and when to not inject laughs into it. Liu shines brighter than anyone else in this film and his presence is magnetic in every scene he’s in. He’ll definitely be one of the characters that you’ll look most forward to meeting other Marvel characters. He brings the whole film up to a new level.
Overall, the cast is perfection, including our “mystery character” that shows up in Act 2. They add a lot of the comedy to the film and help bridge the gap between the real world and the world that we enter for the climax of the film. It’s an ingenious plot device by the writers.
Give The Best Action “Oscar” To Shang-Chi Already
The action in Shang-Chi ranges from great to jaw-dropping. It’s like that the entire movie. If it wasn’t already for Nobody, this would be the best action scene of the year, and it turns out they both involve city busses. That opening action scene where we’re introduced to what Shang-Chi can do, is breathtaking. These scenes were very clearly inspired by the action scenes of Jackie Chan and his films. They do a great job of being inspired by those without outright ripping them off. It’s a great balance. In the third act of the film, the action set piece and events had my jaw on the floor the entire time.
Whether that’s giant dragons, armies, or monsters so terrifying that they’ll actually take your soul. The transformation that Shang-Chi undergoes is also one of the most inspiring and cool that we’ve seen in an MCU film. For the people who own the film rights to the Dragon Ball franchise, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. Just copy this movie.
Is There Anything Bad About This Movie?
There’s nothing that outright sticks out about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that I can comment on for being “bad”. Is the movie long? Yes. Especially for an origin story, it’s 2 hours and 12 minutes. But not one minute of that runtime is wasted on something that doesn’t need to be here. The filmmakers created a tight film that doesn’t waste any moments. The only thing that I can really complain about is that the character Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) is sort of wasted in the film. But he’s not the main villain and is a side-quest for Shang-Chi. There’s also a character from Shang-Chi’s past that seems like they’ll be a bigger part of the film, and then they’re killed off in the climactic battle.
That’s about it, really. This film is one of the finest that Marvel has made so far. If you consider the top tier to be films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, and Iron Man, (not counting Avengers films), this slots right in. Dare I say, it might be the top film. It’ll make you feel a wide range of emotions, but by the end of it, you’ll feel fulfilled and want much, much more from Shang-Chi and the characters in this film.
The characters drive the film. Not the effects, not the action, not the “Marvel” stuff. It’s rare that we get such a massive movie like this, where the characters and their story are what keeps us going with the plot. When you look at the overall picture, this is the story of a family that’s been broken apart by death and the sins of the father.
Shang-Chi Is Your New Favorite Marvel Movie
This film had the chance to be the first Marvel “bomb”. Think about it, it’s a character that isn’t super known by the average comic book fan or regular person. It features an all-Asian cast and doesn’t really have any recognizable actors to people out here in the West. Yet, because of the performances, the story, the action, and everything in between; you get one of the best Marvel movies made. This film is certainly one that I’m going to rewatch in the future. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the Marvel movie that we all needed right now. It’s a brand new story and it kicks off the new era of Marvel perfectly. I cannot wait to see more from this character and where he goes in the future.
You can’t go wrong with Shang-Chi, it’s got everything you could want out of a Marvel film, or any film for that matter. It passes the “Does this work without all the Marvel stuff?” test with flying colors. This would have been a wildly entertaining movie without the Marvel name and proceedings attached, with that, it’s one of the best films they’ve made.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases in theaters on September 3rd, 2021.
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