Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the Marvel Studios experience you’ve been waiting for. After the success of Black Panther, Kevin Feige and his team bring us the first Asian-led superhero film and the results are phenomenal. Led by Simu Liu, who previously starred as Jung on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience, this movie is unlike any MCU film we’ve seen in the past. Let’s dive deeper into the film and my thoughts on it.
The plot of this film is one of the best in the MCU and has a strong focus on the importance of family, even in this dysfunctional one. Surprisingly, the trailers for this film don’t give anything away about the plot. Viewers may go into this thinking they know what it’s all about but will find it is much different and better than expected. There are many poignant moments in this film and the writers have found the perfect balance of drama and humour.
The film opens with a history of the organization known as the Ten Rings and their conquests. Wenwu is the “Mandarin”, the leader of the Ten Rings, played by the scene-stealing Tony Leung in his Hollywood debut. Leung puts on a masterful performance as THE best villain the MCU has ever seen but he is no stranger to the big screen. He is a very successful Hong Kong actor and one of international cinema’s most critically acclaimed and well-known superstars. North American viewers will be delighted by his performance and mesmerized by this complex character that is both a brutal villain and a sad man at the same time.
In his backstory, we find out that Wenwu and the love of his life Jiang Li, played by Fala Chan, have two children, Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing. Unfortunately for them, their upbringing is anything but normal as their father trains them in martial arts to become skilled and deadly assassins. Flash forward a few years and we learn that Shang-Chi has run away to San Francisco, changed his name to Shaun and is best friends with Katy, played by the brilliant Awkwafina. The connection between these two friends is characterized by clever quips and laughs but beneath all of that is a sweet friendship with a strong, mutual caring for one another. Unfortunately for Shang-Chi, he can’t outrun his past and he gets drawn into the Ten Rings where much drama and violence ensue.
The ensemble cast in this film is incredible and the writing in this script allows every character to have their moment to shine. Simu Liu’s performance was outstanding and has made Shang-Chi my new favourite hero. Shang-Chi’s character is forced to face a past he thought he left behind and Liu does an excellent job of taking this easily likeable character and peeling away the layers to reveal a man weighed down by his past and his father’s expectations. His sister Xialing, played by the compelling Meng’er Zhang, is fiery and strong and the Kevin Feige would be making a big mistake by not giving this character her own movie. The character’s backstory is not only interesting, it is crying out for more development and Meng’er Zhang is just the woman to be the first female Asian lead in a Marvel movie. I have already gushed about Tony Leung as Wenwu, the best of all villains who also solicits our sympathy and compassion…no small feat. The incredibly talented Sir Ben Kingsley reprises his role as Trevor Slattery and his performance is first rate and one of the best parts of the movie. Fala Chen and Michelle Yeoh are also splendid in their somewhat underwritten yet important supporting roles. And don’t forget to stay for the post credit scenes for some more great acting and guest appearances.
The action sequences in this film are topnotch and without a doubt some of the best I’ve ever seen. Simu Liu’s work ethic and dedication pay off in his great stunt-work and amazing action sequences. The bus sequence is the best example of this. Sadly, the film falters slightly in the third act. The whole thing is a bit drawn out and kind of a blur. It could have done with some editing. Overall, it’s not too bad but still something worth noting as it’s my only issue with the film.
Overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an excellent film. The plot is interesting and unique, the performances are outstanding, and it leaves the door open for a sequel and a spinoff.