HOLLYWOOD—Marvel is back again with its latest superhero flick, one that is different and unique in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” This tale is fun because it brings Asian representation to the Marvel universe, a new focus in a franchise that we have not seen up till this point. The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi/Shaun. Shang-Chi has dealt with some trauma as a child.
He was forced to become a mercenary at an earlier age thanks to his father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung). In addition to the intense training he endured as a child, he was witness to his mother’s death, as a direct result of his father’s enemies, the Iron Gang. That trauma leads to Shang-Chi fleeing his father’s presence at a young age to San Francisco where he becomes ‘Shaun.’
When we meet Shaun, he works as a valet with his pal Katy (Awkwafina). Let me be clear I thoroughly enjoyed Awkwafina in this role as Katy; she brings the humor and a bit of levity to the film that I do believe is needed. Her chemistry with Liu works to perfection. They click and that energy spreads throughout the entire movie. Now that I think of it, I could not imagine another person in Katy’s role besides the actress and that is scary to realize.
One prominent theme that the movie places in the spotlight is family. Make no mistake, this is a superhero movie and it has all those elements which we will indeed discuss, but at the core it is about a family broken in the midst of tragedy and how they find a way to come back together to fight off a bigger threat. Wenwu was driven by power, especially after getting his hands on the ten rings which provides immortality and extraordinary powers as a result.
That greed of power posed a threat to his family he didn’t expect after he tossed his destiny aside when he fell in love with Shang-Chi and Xialing’s (Meng’er Zhang) mother, Ying Li (Fala Chen). When his true love is lost, that dark side of Wenwu emerges once again and as a result he scolds and shuns his children. Teaching his son to be an assassin and shunning his daughter to the point where it is almost like she doesn’t exist. She didn’t get the attention from her father that her brother received. As a result Xialing feels like an outcast and has lived her life to that degree. I mean Shang-Chi and Xialing have been distant between one another even though they live in the same state. That danger comes into their present life, which forces them to reunite as siblings.
Now let’s talk a bit about the superhero element that director Destin Daniel Cretton delivers as the man behind the film. There is an epic fight sequence on a Muni bus involving Shang-Chi and his father’s followers. As a viewer we almost forget that Shang-Chi was trained as a child to be a fighter and he has put that part of his life behind him, but is forced to face it when a special motif his mother gave him is threatened to be taken. It is a great sequence and the use of slow-motion action to heightens that fun. There are other well-choreographed fight sequences that will salivate the taste buds of action fans throughout the film as well.
The big climax which takes place at the village of Ta Lo, where Wenwu believes Li is being held against her will delivers some stunning visuals for the audience and a strong supporting role by Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, Li’s sister. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has some really great character development. Yes we have our lead character, but the supporting players are not forgotten here like so many other films where you sometimes ask yourself why certain characters were even in the movie.
The ending and mid-end credits scenes tease more stories to come as we know Marvel is planning more entries into the franchise in the coming years. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is absolute popcorn fun and a treat for all ages.