First things first, please know that this is not your big brother’s Marvel. The MCU is becoming a whole new beast of itself. And I for one, am all in. The films are becoming individually satisfying, and make for great singular films in their own right. Black Widow was a brilliant introduction into this new theme, as they took a recognizable figure from the universe we were previously privy to over the last dozen years, but they basically made a Bond-like spy thriller that was not nearly as extravagant as the preceding films, but still ultimately entertaining and downright fun as hell.
With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we get a bit of all of it. We get a brand new character who is likable, tough as hell, and human. Much like Black Widow, he’s just a dude who has had a very intense upbringing. Both were trained to kill, but both managed to maintain something resembling a soul. They’re different in their own ways, but the similarities are there for sure.
The plot of Shang-Chi is based around pretty common logic in the MCU. It’s daddy issues. They’ve always been there, but it has never been more blatant than it was with this film. Shang-Chi recognizes his father to be the monster that he is. But, in all honesty, despite the terrible things he managed to do over the course of a millennia, his intentions truly aren’t that bad. But, he clearly needs to be stopped. And this will require a glorious homecoming to a mother’s homeland that presents a very epic conclusion.
Filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton has made quite the departure from some of his previous work, including the brilliant 2017 film The Glass Castle, yet Cretton as well as his writing partner in Andrew Lanham have managed to fit themselves into this universe with the greatest of ease, yet still remaining deeply individualistic in their own right. And Simu Liu has proven himself to be a truly effective leading man who is absolutely going to make the character of Shang-Chi the legendary figure that he should be. Awkwafina brought the funny in a pleasant way, although her place in the film was a bit off-putting. But, she’s so damn charming, it really does work.
And while the newness of what Shang-Chi brings is absolutely exciting, the film itself manages to bring the classic martial arts feel that anybody who has previously partaken in the genre will surely enjoy. Much of this owed to the appearance of legends like Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Michelle Yeoh. With their powers alone, the authenticity of this film simply cannot be questioned.
I must admit that I did not have the highest level of interest going into this film. I was viewing it with the intention of being an MCU completist, and simply checking the proverbial box that is seeing the very next Marvel film. But, I simply wasn’t sure the intensely roasted combination of martial arts and the new world of Marvel would blend in a way that could translate to the screen.
But Folks, I’m here to say that I was wrong. Dead wrong. The pairing of brilliant martial arts and the delightful whimsy of the world of Marvel in Shang-Chi works on a level I never could have imagined. There are creatures, choreography, and just so much fun to be had with this extremely impressive addition to the franchise that has swept the world. And, without being too spoilery, it is clear that Shang-Chi is going to be a very important character moving forward. And I am all in. I may be a bit skeptical of Awkwafina’s role moving forward, but she was so delightful in her own way that I am, once again, all in.
There truly is something for everyone here. While the film may not top everyone’s list as the “best Marvel film to date”, the film should be comparable in quality to a Black Panther or End Game, but should also not be compared to anything you have ever seen before. I will say with 100% confidence though that if the fight sequences of these films are what draws you to them the most, you absolutely will not be disappointed. If truly unique ass-kicking is your thing, you absolutely have to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.