The future of the MCU, and the Avengers, has been a bit of a question mark following the events of Avengers: Endgame. Iron Man and Black Widow are dead. Captain America is retired. And Thor, well, Thor is still around and will return in his fourth solo film (Thor: Love and Thunder) later next year. Moving forward fans will be introduced to a slew of new characters hopeful to carry on the legacy of this multi-billion dollar franchise. Among them, is Shang-Chi. Shang-Chi may not be the most well known Marvel hero, but neither was Iron Man prior to the 2008 mega hit that launched one of the most successful franchises in history. And I have no doubt that after fans see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi will be a new fan favorite character.
Raised by his powerful and merciless father to be a perfect assassin, Shang-Chi escapes his home and goes into hiding in America under a new name. But, as often happens in these types of films, his past comes looking for him. And when it finds him, he must confront it face to face, and fist to fist. These encounters result in some of the best and most unique action sequences we’ve seen in the MCU. Actor Simu Liu doesn’t have a huge fanbase or a ton of major roles under his belt; but after his portrayal as the titular hero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, that is certain to change.
Liu carries himself with a humble innocence that makes his incredible fighting abilities all the more shocking and impressive. His style and movements are reminiscent of martial arts icon Jackie Chan. It’s a quick, manic style of combat that utilizes his surroundings to outwit and outmuscle his foes. That’s a compliment of the highest degree. With a film like Shang-Chi the action is one of the most important parts of the film. It is a martial arts film, after all. And lucky for us, the action excels.
Acting opposite the relatively unknown Simu Liu, is Chinese super star Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Chunking Express) as his father, The Mandarin. Viewers already got to see one iteration of The Mandarin and his army of the Ten Rings in Iron Man 3. That portrayal, by none other than Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), was despised by fans of the character after he was revealed to be nothing more than a bumbling actor playing a role. Shang-Chi corrects the missteps of that portrayal and delivers one of Marvel’s best villains to date.
While much of Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings will feel new and refreshing to audiences, it does fall victim to many of the MCU’s formulaic clichés. At times there is an over reliance on CGI and a forced abundance of comedic quips. The majority of those quips are delivered by Shang-Chi’s often clueless and inexperienced side kick (another MCU cliché), Katy. Katy is played by Awkwafina (The Farewell) who, for most of the film, continues her typical style of loud, over the top comedy. At times it’s a bit much, but by the end she’s found her footing and fits nicely into the story.
Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings takes the MCU in directions it has not yet been. It’s filled with action, heart and mystical beings. It’s a phenomenal introduction to a character who will no doubt play a pivotal role in the future of the MCU. If this is what Phase 4 has to offer, then I’m fully on board. 8.5/10