When Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters on September 3rd, audiences will be treated to a superb film and Marvel films fans will experience a great big “Welcome Back to the MCU!” they have been craving. For some, that may not be very important, but I think it is safe to say that once you hear the Marvel opening fanfare, you’ll settle in, hoping to immerse yourself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one filled with comic book heroes and villains on a fantastical scale that somehow feel relatable and gorgeously choreographed fight/action sequences. Marvel director Destin Daniel Cretton has crafted a film that gives us all that and sneaks in something that looks and feels like art.
I struggled with exactly how to express that thought because I didn’t want to scare anyone away from the box office by suggesting that this is an art film. But there were times when I was drinking in the beauty dancing across the screen and I had to admit: the whole film felt, well, elevated.
The opening of the film tells the story of Shang-Chi’s (Simu Liu) lineage. Impressive, grand, and filled with larger-than-life characters. But, like most of the origin stories of MCU heroes, our introduction to the title character helps to us connect to him as just a guy named Shaun, just making his way in the world. He has an ordinary job. He hangs out with ordinary friends and their families, and he goes out after work for happy hour. But where he came from and who he really is, is answered soon enough and the telling of it is, literally, a wild ride. I will say that Shang-Chi takes a little while getting started, but I’m glad it takes that time. It feels like the buildup on a roller coaster before you crest for that first drop and you don’t really get a chance to breathe for the rest of the ride.
The cast does a great job, with Simu Liu wearing the title character like a second skin. He imbues his portrayal of Shang-Chi with vulnerability and decency that doesn’t come across as cloying as it might in the wrong hands. His fight sequences are just as impressive, considering he squares off with both Tony Leung (more on him later) and Michelle Yeoh. He was a great choice for the role.
Awkwafina stars as Shang-Chi’s best friend, Katy, one who has no connection with his past, but is determined to stick by him no matter what. She does a good job in the role, especially in the last half of the movie where she does surprisingly well in her more serious moments.
Meng’er Zhang as Xialing, Shang-Chi’s sister, is stunning and fun to watch. Her acting and action are on point. I can’t help but hope that the character gets her own film down the line, and that we see more of the actress in her own right.
Of course, Michelle Yeoh is luminous as Ying Nan. When she is on the screen, she always owns it and, in this case, she lifts an action movie to, as I said before, art. It isn’t just the gracefulness of her movements, but everything about her performance seems to transcend the medium. When I think back to the film, her scenes stand out more than almost any other.
That brings us to Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu, Master of the Ten Rings, father to Shang-Chi, and the film’s bad guy. What can I say? With apologies to Simu Liu, Leung owns this film. One of the things that Marvel does so well is give us complex heroes and villains, and Xu Wenwu is no exception. He is right up there with Killmonger and Thanos as bad guys you want to hate but you kind of get. So, casting Tony Leung in this role was a masterstroke. His acting range is incredible, which he demonstrates effortlessly scene after scene, his face convincingly moving through multiple emotions though he barely moves a muscle. His charisma is off the charts and on top of all that, he is matinee-idol gorgeous. And when I say that the first time his character and Jiang Li (Fala Chen) meet is one of the most sensual things I’ve seen on film in a long time, I mean every word.
As for the look of the film, like other Marvel films, it is an eclectic mix of the everyday and the fantastic. Thanks to production designer Sue Chan and visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend, the transition between worlds was seamless and, at times, breathtaking in its beauty. Kym Barrett’s costume work was outstanding.
The film’s soundtrack was great, with the occasional pop tune that typically peppers movies, never working too hard to get your attention. Joel P. West’s score was perfect. It never got in the way of the action. Instead, it enhanced the action throughout the film.
Oh, yes, and there were martial arts in the film. I’m no expert and I have only watched maybe a dozen films that feature martial arts as an integral part of the story. However, I know what I like, and I liked what I saw. Jaw-droppingly beautiful and thrilling is the phrase that comes to mind. I’ll leave any technical critique to those more knowledgeable than myself.
Do I have to say that there is an end credits scene? I don’t, right? But just in case, yes, there is an end credits scene and stay put or you’ll miss out
My verdict: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is amazing and is easily one of the best MCU films. See it, if you can, safely in a theater because the action deserves the big screen. So vax up, mask up, keep your distance, and go see it!
Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” opens in theaters on September 3, 2021
It 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.
The film also stars Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy, with Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, and Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father; as well as Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Yuen Wah, Ronny Chieng, Zach Cherry, and Dallas Liu.
“Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and produced by Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Charles Newirth serving as executive producers. Dave Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham wrote the screenplay for the film and the screen story is by Dave Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton.