Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)—Review

The Marvel content during the pandemic has all been very good, but, other than WandaVision, neither the shows or Black Widow have reached the level of what I would consider top-tier MCU. That has officially changed. As a huge fan of comic book, wuxia, and Kurosawa films, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits all the marks. Shang-Chi has greatly exceeded my already high expectations and has easily become one of my favorite solo superhero flicks and favorite origin stories that Marvel Studios has ever produced.

Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Via Marvel Studios

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows the titular hero (played by Simu Liu) as he must confront his past as Xu Wenwu (played by Tony Leung), both Shang-Chi’s father and the leader of the terrorist group the Ten Rings (the terrorist group from the Iron Man films), seeks him out after Shang-Chi’s ten years of hiding. Being trained to be an assassin and a master of hand-to-hand combat, Shang-Chi must team-up with his friend Katy (played by Awkwafina) and his sister Xialing (played by Meng’er Zhang) to stop his father’s organization.

Shang-Chi at its core is a classic wuxia (Chinese martial arts fantasy) film, but what makes this film so special is all the other genres intertwined: feelings of a Akira Kurosawa film, fantastic martial arts and stunts that bring to mind movies from the Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee era of films, the signature Marvel stamp, and also the plot of a classic and emotional family tragedy. This genre-melding brought forth an incredible story of complex characters, fantastical set pieces, and the best martial arts I have ever seen in an American made film in an extremely long time.

Tony Leung in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Via Marvel Studios.

The acting in this film, from our main cast, is absolutely incredible. Simu Liu is going to be the next big face of the MCU after this film—he was absolutely fantastic and fit right into the Marvel world while simultaneously proving that he can absolutely lead a big franchise film. If you weren’t a fan of his from Kim’s Convenience, you definitely will be now. Meng’er Zhang and Awkwafina are also both fantastic in this film with each bringing great performances and wonderful chemistry with Simu Liu, and it is the relationship between these three characters that really make the heart of this film beat. Then there are the great legends Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung—they are both fantastic. Yeoh is absolutely fantastic in the parts of the film she is in, and after the film was over, I was desperately wanting more of her background (it’s really hard to talk about her character without spoiling a plot point in the film). Tony Leung as the true “Mandarin” (there explanation/work around for Iron Man 3 (2013) was fantastic) may have become one of my favorite villains in the MCU. His character’s motivations in this film are extremely layered, complex, and heartbreaking, and Leung is able to so perfectly portray these complexities while still present such an intimating presence on screen. Despite all the martial arts and incredible action set pieces in the film, the emotional turmoil between Liu’s and Leung’s characters are the true conflict, and the emotional battle between the abused son and the power crazed yet emotionally tortured father is one that will always endure as one of Marvel’s best.

The only complaint I have with this film is that some of the CGI was not as polished as I feel like it could be—some of the portions of the tram scene and the final battle (both have clips seen in the trailer) either have a weird uncanny feeling when its a full shot while CGI cleans up a stunt or the CGI is so busy that it can be a little difficult to see everything going on. That aside, I absolutely adore this film. This is one of those rare films that, literally, anyone could walk into and come out having a fantastic time at the cinema. If you don’t feel comfortable going back out to crowds, unfortunately, you will have a bit of a wait: Shang-Chi is getting a theatrical exclusive window of 45-days, meaning it will be, at the earliest, mid-late October before making its way to Disney+. However, this is definitely a movie that must be seen on the biggest screen possible. So, if you are fully vaccinated and in an area where COVID rates aren’t skyrocketing, go back out to the theaters to see this beautiful Chinese fantasy Marvel film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

9.5/10

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language.

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