Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Following a solid return to the big screen with “Black Widow” this summer, Marvel Studios is back with the release of its latest film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Directed by Destin Daniel Crelton, the film provides fans with a harrowing adventure filled with thorough character development, well-crafted comedic dialogue, and some of the best-choreographed fighting sequences Marvel has ever produced. In addition to an incredible storyline for its lead antagonist, the film is easily one of the greatest origin stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to date.
Set after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the movie takes viewers on the journey of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a skilled martial artist attempting to live a normal life in San Francisco after running away from his crime-boss father at an early age. While living it up in the city with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), Shang is forced to confront his past after his father Wenwu (Tony Leung) sends henchmen from his Ten Rings organization to steal a pendant Shang’s mother, Ying Li (Fala Chen), gifted him as a child. Unbeknownst to the lead character, the pendant holds the secrets to unlocking an ancient power safeguarded in Ying Li’s ancestral home.
After reuniting with his estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi must find the courage within himself to protect his mother’s mystical homeland from his father, whose desire to “rescue” his deceased wife blinds him from the importance of his surviving children. With his sister and best friend at his side, Shang learns to correct the imbalances within to restore his father to the man he once was and defeat the dark forces seeking to destroy everything he holds dear.
One of the film’s strong suits was the character development for its leading cast. Shang-Chi and Xialing are both given emotional and detailed backstories that assist in fleshing out their character arcs in the film’s present-day. Moreover, Liu and Zhang’s performances bring a level of depth to their respective characters that gives fans two badass heroes to look out for in future MCU projects.
Surprisingly, Katy’s storyline turned out to be meaningful and incredibly well-written. Despite concerns that Awkwafina’s character was going to be the classic, comic relief character with no real importance to the overall plot, Katy’s arc proved to be much more significant. Not only is she the anchor that keeps Shang-Chi grounded during his hardships and struggles, but she also serves as the lens for the audience. Her innocence in this new world gives viewers a character with whom they can experience this unexplored aspect of the MCU.
While the performances from the film’s protagonists were terrific, it was ultimately Leung’s portrayal as Wenwu that stole the show. Unlike traditional comic book villains, Wenwu’s ambitions throughout the majority of the film don’t stem from greed for power and fortune, but instead out of love for his wife and children. By utilizing this unique facet of his character, Leung is able to create a complex antagonist that fans can sympathize with, making for one of the greatest character arcs among MCU villains thus far.
Overall, “Shang-Chi” offers fans of the MCU the best origin film since the release of “Black Panther.” With a strong leading cast and a rich, unique storyline, the picture shows that even after the cinematic masterpiece of “Avengers: Endgame,” Kevin Feige and the creatives at Marvel Studios are still at the top of their game.
Fans can catch “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in theaters now.