James Jay Edwards

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Ushers in the Next Phase of Marvel with Fist-Flinging Style

(Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios)

James Jay Edwards reviews Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a Marvel superhero film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. (Marvel Studios

 

Those who thought that Black Widow was leading the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a bold new direction haven’t seen anything yet. Enter Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is about a young Chinese man who, calling himself Shaun (Simu Liu from Kim’s Convenience), lives in America and has a job parking cars with his best friend, Katy (Ocean’s Eight’s Awkwafina). After fighting off a gang of thugs who came after him, Shaun is forced to admit to Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi, and that he has been trained as an assassin from a very young age by his father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung from The Grandmaster).

 

(Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, theatrical release poster, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios)

But that’s just the beginning. Shang-Chi’s father has been coming after him and his sister, Xialing (promising action newcomer Meng’er Zhang), hoping for their help at finding the hidden village of their mother, Li (Fala Chen from Grace Under Fire), a place where magical fighters are trained. It’s a deceptively dangerous place, though, so Shang-Chi is joined by his sister, best friend, and a whole cast of unlikely allies to stop his father from reaching the village and causing more destruction than he understands.

The Ten Rings is a terrorist organization that has been simmering through the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the Iron Man movies. In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the group takes the form of an army that has been trained by Wenwu. They are named after a set of ten rings that Wenwu wears on his arms and give him his power. So that explains the long title of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

 

(Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios)

Marvel and Disney enlisted filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton, who is most known for personal dramatic movies like Short Term 12 and Just Mercy, to helm Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The decision is a wise one, since Shang-Chi deals with themes of family and loyalty, and thus has plenty of scenes of philosophical discussions and heart-to-heart confessions, and Cretton handles these as well as he ever has.

But Cretton also proves that he can deal with action. Which is good, because just as one might expect, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is packed with adrenaline-fueled, high-impact martial arts combat. The fight scenes are fast paced, highly choreographed, and flawlessly executed, seemingly sped up just a smidge to add extra energy to the already electric chaos. There’s a heavy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon influence on the action, with old-school fighting techniques clashing with new-school technology. Think of it as a Bruce Lee movie if Bruce’s enemies had laser machetes for hands.

 

(Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios)

As was the case with Black Widow, the stakes in Shang-Chai and the Legend of the Ten Rings don’t feel as high as they do in other “save-the-world” Marvel movies, mainly because it’s a personal journey for Shang-Chi and his sister, unhindered by subplots and side quests. Shang and Xialing have a personal mission, and they pick up accomplices along the way (one of which is Ben Kingsley reprising his role from the Iron Man movies), but the journey is mostly all theirs. And, while the world may be at stake, it never actually feels like it. It’s more about them saving their family.

And speaking of reprised characters, just because Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a standalone Marvel movie that is part of the “next wave” of the universe doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of connections. The movie makes it clear that it takes place in the same universe as The Avengers, and while Tony Stark or Steve Rogers may not make appearances, there are some fun surprises.

 

(Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a slick and stylish ode to classic kung-fu movies that will, hopefully, set the bar for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a thrilling movie that pulls at the heartstrings and tickles the funny bone just as much as it accelerates the pulse. This is the future of the MCU, and the future is bright.

Oh, and yes, there’s a post-credits scene. There’s a mid-credits scene as well, and those who are familiar with Destin Daniel Cretton’s cinematic output can predict one of the characters in it (hint—this actor has been in most of the director’s movies). So, stick around a bit.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens in theaters on September 3rd.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

Related posts

*

Top