Can you believe it? Just 13 years after the release of Iron Man (2008), this weekend sees the release of the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and it is playing exclusively in cinemas from today.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung. The movie is set shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and introduces a new hero into the MCU in the shape of martial arts extraordinaire, Shang-Chi.
In the film, the eponymous hero is working as a car valet until he finds himself under attack from a group of hoodlums working for his estranged father. This causes Shang-Chi to go on a quest to track down his sister, to warn her that she could be in danger too.
No sooner than he meets with his sister, Shang-Chi becomes locked in another battle with more of his father’s mercenaries. This in turn leads to an uncomfortable family reunion where secrets are uncovered and the past is explored.
But there’s more going on here than Shang-Chi first realises. His father is putting a plan in place that could threaten the safety of the world.
Can Shang-Chi find the inner strength to face his father and stop the oncoming darkness? You bet your ass he can!
As mentioned above, if you want to watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings you will need to get yourself to a cinema. Unlike the recent release of Black Widow, which had theatrical screenings and a streaming release, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will not be popping up on Disney+ just yet.
The reason for this? Disney/Marvel Studios want to encourage audiences back to the cinema (where possible) and to give Shang-Chi a high-profile debut. This is a new character for the MCU and the studios want to ensure he is given the best start, despite the ongoing problems of the pandemic.
Do they succeed? Yes, but not without a few issues.
While there is much to like about this movie (more about that in a moment), I feel that this isn’t the strongest debut for a Marvel character. While Simu Liu is fine in the role, and makes the most of what he is given, I don’t believe Shang-Chi is the strongest written hero that Marvel has produced. Put simply: Shang-Chi doesn’t pack quite the same punch as some of his peers.
He isn’t as charismatic as Tony, as goofy as Star-Lord, or as cool as T’Challa. For me, he’s more of a work in progress, rather than a fully formed star, although I have every confidence he will get there in the inevitable sequels and spin-offs that will follow.
But while I wasn’t quite sold on the lead hero, there’s no doubting that the film knows how to wow the audience through its action sequences and elements of fantasy. If you want to see huge spectacle this weekend, then this movie certainly delivers, so make sure you get a ticket!
In terms of the action, this film boasts some of the best fight choreography in the MCU. From a skyscraper showdown to a mesmerising battle between father and son, the movie consistently has it where it counts in this department.
Arguably the best choreographed sequence involves a brawl on a bus, which is a truly exhilarating scene and provides the movie with one of its stand-out moments. The scene has ‘re-watchability’ written all over it, is guaranteed to hold the audiences’ attention (it certainly held mine), and was easily my favourite part of the film.
With regard to the fantasy element, there is some stunning imagery towards the end of the movie which is not only imaginative, but also beautifully realised. Some of the ideas and characters introduced moves Marvel into a new and exciting direction and I am totally here for it.
The MCU has become more fantastical as time has gone by and I look forward to seeing what’s next. Based on what is showcased in this film, there is no end to what we will see in the coming years and this excites me greatly.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also boasts fantastic costumes, great set designs, and a superb supporting cast – specifically Awkwafina. Marvel has clearly spent money on this movie and that is evident in every inch of the screen.
All of this is pure gold, but the movie’s trump card is the casting of Tony Leung who plays Xu Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father and the leader of the eponymous Ten Rings. Wenwu is the villain of this story, is easily the most interesting character, and is played perfectly by Leung.
In recent years, Marvel has come on leaps and bounds with its villains and this is yet another fine example of the studio getting things right. Wenwu isn’t a moustache-twirling bad guy, but rather a three-dimensional figure whose life has been shaped by tragedy and anger, and he is so interesting to watch.
In terms of what he brings to the story, I would say he is the integral character in this movie – even more so than Shang-Chi. Even though he’s the villain, you can’t help but feel for him at times, and I loved every scene he was in.
So, all good stuff, other than a slight wobble with the title character then? Erm, not quite. When this movie works it really works well, but it does stumble a bit in terms of pacing.
After a strong start, the film seems to lose momentum and this means the mid-section of the picture feels a little uneven. It’s never not entertaining, it’s just not always that engaging.
It almost feels like the film needed another action sequence in the middle of the movie just to liven things up a little. A bit too much exposition seems to slow things down a touch and I found myself disconnecting for a while.
I also feel that while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduces some very interesting ideas, its many components feel as if they are more important to the future of the MCU than they are to this movie. The film is good, but I feel something stronger is on the horizon.
Over the past few months, since cinemas re-opened, I have watched attendance at my local cinema increase. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings appears to have attracted the biggest audience so far, and provides a good indication of how important this movie is to some audiences.
Marvel is continuing to diversify and develop the MCU in exciting new directions, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings certainly goes to great lengths to ensure new paths are being forged. It isn’t the next Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) or Black Panther (2018), but it is a perfectly fine Marvel movie, and offers plenty of value for the price of a cinema ticket.
Should you go and see it? Of course! Don’t expect it to be your new favourite film, but do expect to be thoroughly entertained.