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Film Review: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

Joseph Cyrulik

When COVID-19 started, centuries ago, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, had only just left theaters after becoming the highest grossing movie of all time putting a fitting cap on over ten years of the MCU. Soon after, Marvel got to work on the next phase of their plan which included a Black Widow movie, Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel sequels, a fleet of accompanying Disney+ series, and the feature introduction of a new, relatively unknown character: Shang-Chi. Now, Shang-Chi has finally hit theaters in spectacular fashion, providing a slew of new characters, thrilling action, a slightly more unique plotline, and a hefty take away at the box office. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows the son of the leader of the Ten Rings, a dangerous and powerful organization. He tries to right the wrongs of his past and stop his maddened father from destroying their home and the world. Shang-Chi is played by newcomer, Simu Liu, who gives a very respectable performance, and his sidekick is played by Awkwafina, and their on screen chemistry is easily one of the funnest parts of the film. Additionally, the films main antagonist, Xu Wenwu, is much more compelling then the run of the mill Marvel villain, and he is played well by Tony Leung. 

It’s no secret that Marvel has become somewhat formulaic in their origin stories. Not that that is a bad thing, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. but Shang-Chi does make a few small changes to make the story a little more unique so it doesn’t feel like you’re watching Iron Man, with a different hero for the tenth time, and that is a refreshing change. Still, there are elements of the story that seem a little too familiar, like the nature of the Ten Rings organization. A secret, powerful, and violent group of extremists who have been manipulating international political affairs for most of the 20th century. You know, kind of like Hydra, or A.I.M., or The Red Room from Black Widow which came out only months ago. Something like an eighth of the world’s population must be part of a secret terrorist group in the MCU. 

Shang-Chi also boasts some of the most thrilling action sequences in an MCU movie in a while. The martial arts fights are well choreographed and make it feel almost like an old Bruce Lee, Kung Fu movie. The fights also have some interesting set pieces involved and the action makes good use of those sets. However, the climax seemed to have an overuse of CGI that makes it a little difficult for the viewer to suspend disbelief and the editing is a little slow, so there are some longer shots that are almost all CGI and it is hard to follow exactly what is happening. 

Shang-Chi made a massive box office smash on Labor Day becoming the highest grossing movie on that holiday ever with over $70M on opening weekend. Aside from that achievement, the film is also onpace to be the highest grossing film of the COVID era. This means a great deal to the major Hollywood studios who might have postponed releases again if Shang-Chi had proved that viewers weren’t ready to return to the theater. 

Shang-Chi might not be the best MCU movie, but is certainly in the upper half of the hierarchy. The story has a few twists that break the mold of MCU origins stories just enough to make things interesting, while allowing for a few fun surprises and Marvel’s brand of quippy comedy. The action is thrilling and comes often even if it gets bogged down in CGI sometimes and Simu Liu makes a dent in his MCU debut with a performance that will likely solidify the character as a fan favorite for the MCU’s foreseeable future. Plus there are two post credit scenes that might not burn the house down, but are interesting and have what could be important information for future movies in them.

Final Rating for: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 3.5 out of 5 stars