By Sam Acosta
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a brilliant movie that pays homage to the classic Marvel blueprint while also creating something new and exciting. With a brilliant ensemble of actors supported by a well-written script, “Shang-Chi” never lets the audience get bored. Unlike some Marvel movies and shows, I never found myself looking at the time or wondering how much longer was left in the movie. I enjoyed every joke and every fight, and I was sad when it ended.
The story follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the son of the immortal warlord Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), as he struggles against becoming a part of his father’s world. Wenwu wields the Ten Rings, a powerful weapon he used to establish his empire and after which his army is named. Love caused him to give up his warlording ways to start a family, but after the death of his wife, his overwhelming grief drove him back into his former life. He harshly forced Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and to become a part of his army of assassins, which ultimately drove them away. But, when he finds a way to potentially bring his beloved back, Wenwu seeks out his estranged children to help him do just that.
This movie starts off feeling like a buddy-cop film. Shang-Chi and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) are such an amazing pair, playing off each other flawlessly. Whether it be a serious moment or a comedic beat, they have a chemistry that most cinematic duos could only dream of. Their friendship is incredibly believable, building a strong foundation for the story as well as acting as a springboard into the rollercoaster that is the rest of the movie. A lot of superhero movies never establish that foundation, and it ends up being their downfall.
The action is also some of the best we have seen in the MCU so far. I loved the hand-to-hand combat so much. It felt real enough that I was more invested in it than the normal Marvel fights but still retained that feeling of supernatural ability that makes these characters superheroes. I did find the final fight between Shang-Chi and the Dweller-in-Darkness a little disappointing, as it was more of your standard Marvel fight compared to the gritty martial arts in the rest of the film, but even that wasn’t enough to take me out of the action. Aside from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War,” this film boasts the best hand-to-hand combat of any Marvel movie.
There are some brilliant cameos in the movie that made me positively giddy. Seeing Wong (Benedict Wong) and Abomination facing off in the fight club in Macau was an absolute delight; it gave Wong a lot more facetime in anticipation of his role in the upcoming Spider-Man and Dr. Strange movies. Hands down, the best return is Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), who, out of nowhere, finds himself positioned as a major character in this film. Trevor was the face of one of the MCU’s biggest disappointments, advertised to be the Mandarin (the nickname of Wenwu) in “Iron Man 3” but revealed to be just a bad actor hired to play the part by the movie’s real villain. He joins Shang-Chi after being rescued from his cell in the Ten Ring’s hideout. I was shocked to see Trevor return, but it was perfectly executed and made the film so much more fun.
The impact this film has on the future of the MCU is yet to be seen. Two post-credit scenes provide hints but no concrete information on where Marvel is headed. The first was a meeting with Shang-Chi, Katy, Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner as they study the Ten Rings. They discover that once Shang-Chi used them, the rings started sending out a signal, like a beacon. There is no reference to what or who is being signaled, which opens it up to almost anyone, including the new big bad of phase four!
The second end-credit scene shows Xialing taking control of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi says near the end of the movie that she had gone to dismantle the terrorist army. She seems to be doing anything but, now becoming the head of one of the most dangerous organizations in the world. As the scene ends, it tells us that the Ten Rings will return. This tag referring to the magical weapon seems a little too obvious, so I would assume it is referring to Xialing’s new army. Will she now become a villain despite being a hero for the majority of the movie? It isn’t clear when we will get the answer to that question, but unless they find a way to fit into one of the slated phase four movies, it might be a while before we get any answers.
“Shang-Chi” is an amazing start for the new phase of Marvel movies. Brilliant writing, expertly choreographed fighting and well-drawn characters create a film that I could watch over and over. This will definitely become one of my most-watched Marvel movies, and in my opinion, one of the best superhero films of the past decade.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now in theaters.
Sam Acosta is a Junior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays.