Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have an Asian lead. I admit I wasn’t that excited for this like some of the other MCU movies because this looked too similar to martial arts movies that came out this year like Mortal Kombat or Snake Eyes. But as a MCU fan I went and saw this and I was actually surprised that I liked this movie more than I thought.
Shang-Chi played by Simu Liu while not the most complex MCU protagonist is still likable. I like that his relationship with Katy played by Awkwafina is more of a friendship than a romance (for now). The most complex character of the movie is his father Xu Wenwu or the Mandarin. He’s one of the most tragic villains in the series because unlike most Marvel villains all he wants is his wife and his children’s mother back. Yes, he’s doing terrible things to achieve this but you understand why. I also liked seeing returning characters like Abomination from The Incredible Hulk, Wong from Doctor Strange and especially Trevor Slattery played again by Ben Kingsley. Considering this movie technically has the real Mandarin it would’ve been a huge missed opportunity not to have him return.
Shang-Chi does suffer from the typical story beats used in a lot in the Marvel origin formula. Spoilers: There’s even a generic evil monster that shows up in the climax that has been manipulating Xu Wenwu into freeing it. There isn’t really much buildup or mention of this monster and felt like the movie wanted a giant monster action climax. Speaking of action scenes, like most Marvel movies Shang-Chi has great action scenes. Since this is a martial arts movie the action scenes would have a lot of it and the choreography is very impressive. The highlight to me was the bus action scene. It’s intense, funny and thrilling.
This isn’t really a huge flaw but it’s just a funny thought. The end credits and song look and sound more like a shaving cream commercial and doesn’t fit with the movie’s tone. That said Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a simple but fun addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a likable hero and a sympathetic villain. It was a nice way to introduce martial arts into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a nice introduction to a new MCU Superhero.
+ Action scenes
+ Returning characters
+ Xu Shang-Chi
+ Xu Wenwu
-Generic villain monster
-Similar Marvel formula