Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Stars: 3.5/5
Growing up watching Jackie Chan movies, in complete awe of the swift thrill-seeking action with every blink of the eye, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings almost feels like a homely addition to the MCU. Add to that, we have a devastatingly talented ensemble, who helps steer this Black Panther’s “intricate diversity” meets Thor: Ragnarok’s “witty tone” extravaganza.
Bringing Marvel its first Asian superhero in the cinematic universe, Simu Liu takes on the mantle of Shang-Chi, the son of Ten Rings’ vicious leader, Wenwu aka The Mandarin, who replaces the problematic comic book character, Fu Manchu (Tony Leung). In a backstory, we’re made aware of Shang-Chi’s tough childhood at the hands of his father, which prompt his teenage self to run away to San Francisco and start afresh as Shaun, with whimsical best friend Katy (Awkwafine) by his trusted side. While being a valet has its safe perks, Shang-Chi’s past comes screaming through and he’s forced to reunite with his estranged, more powerful sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) as Wenwu hunts down his children for an ulterior family motive.
Simu is, quite frankly, such a welcome addition in the MCU and it’s thanks to his instantly likeable screen presence in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. While he definitely looks the superhero part, a maskless attire obliges him to be more present in the swift action sequences and Liu delivers in spades. He’s also able to infuse MCU’s classic wit and a keen sense of vulnerability not just in the heavy dialogue-driven scenes but more often in the midst of the chaotic action unfolding at every turn.
Being the perfect counterpart to Shang-Chi and just a breath of fresh air in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the effervescent Awkwafina aka Katy, who has no qualms about stealing every sequence she’s a part of. Being given mostly dry-pan humour to fight past, it’s her dialogue delivery that makes an unfunny line seem like a laugh-out-loud moment. We’re almost welcomed into “The Awkwafina Show” It’s also the easy-breezy chemistry that this unlikely duo shares that cement some memorable sequences, especially the karaoke bar “Hotel Room Calfornia” fillers.
Meng’er makes her film debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and plays Xialing with commanding pomp, matching toe-to-toe with legends like Tony. Speaking of the veteran actor, Leung’s resistant acting works wonders in defining Wenwu’s troubled mindset, making him a truly terrifying villain to witness. Even veteran actress Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, Shang-Chi and Xialing’s aunt, continues to show off her prowess as a gifted performer. While Fela Chen is a graceful delight to watch as Shang-Chi and Xialing’s mother, Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist, gifts Shang-Chi a formidable opponent to tango with.
Making his hilarious return to the MCU is Sir Ben Kingsley, who reprises his role as Trevor Slattery (who pretends to be The Mandarin in Iron Man 3) with his Shakespearean acting coming in handy as he becomes an inimitable tour guide for Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy in their mission. At its heart, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings relies heavily on its supreme ensemble.
As for the action sequences, while the final battle has its hits and misses and quite often even overcrowded, it’s the set pieces towards the beginning that feel like a roller coaster ride. Whether it be the “all stakes in” bus battle or the deathly skyscraper showdown, you haven’t seen action as fast and furious in the MCU as in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. On the contrary, there are also the more intimate action sequences, like Wenwu and Ying Li’s violent meet-cute at Ta Lo or even Ying Nan giving Shang-Chi a masterclass on her own powers and, particularly, how to perfect his undeniable warrior talent.
As for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings storyline, Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed and co-wrote the script with Dave Callaham and Andre Lanham, recreates the tried, tested and successful narratives of typical standalone MCU endeavours which sees Shang-Chi tackling an existential crisis while mixing it up with a fairytale and supernatural aesthetic (there’s even a CGI dragon or two!) and plenty of intricate action interlaced at the seams. At times, the historical elements seem too much and too little at the same time, with the impromptu yet lengthy explanations, and I’d have loved to see more spotlight on Katy and especially, Xialing.
However, for all of us who’s craving for a theatrical experience of epic proportions, especially after the past few years of real-life mayhem, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is just that movie to spend your hard-earned money on, because you won’t be left disappointed, in the slightest. Anything that points in the right direction of diversity as a cinematic spectacle’s heart is a win-win situation.
Nevertheless, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a worthy inclusion in the chaos-driven, experimental Phase 4 of MCU with the two exciting post credits promising a bright future for not just Shang-Chi, but the intriguing supporting cast as well. And to that, I say, legend-wait for it-dary!
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