Synopsis: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) sees Simu Liu as Shaun/Shang-Chi. His past catches up with him, as he is reunited with his sister and troubled father (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung). Consequently, their father’s plans bring about a serious threat . . .
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings could very easily have been formulaic. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the film was much stronger for it. For example, the mystical Ten Rings could have been the basis for the entire plot. But they weren’t. Instead, what we got was a smartly scripted story that explored themes of family, and the repercussions of actions. Whilst that’s not an entirely original concept in itself, the way it was done was engaging. You really bought into the characters, making for some compelling drama. One of the central themes, grief, was in some ways similar to the most recent Marvel What If episode, which aired this week.
It’s fair to say Simu Liu, as Shaun/Shang-Chi, saw most of the story arc. However, the film also introduced us to the character’s estranged sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang). The way she was brought back together with her brother was well written. And, she ended up having an important part to play in the story, too. That’s also true of Katy, played by Awkwafina, although to a lesser degree.
Hard to pick the best in-movie performance. Everyone did a fine job, with Simu Liu establishing himself as a very likable hero. Michelle Yeoh also elevated everything with fantastic presence. Not that that was lacking, though – far from it in fact. Tony Chiu-Wai Leung had a tough job of depicting the conflicted antagonist. He did a fantastic job, really capturing the lasting damage of grief’s grip.
Earlier this week SciFiPulse published Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Some Thoughts. In that feature, we reminded fans that Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) wasn’t dead. And, he did indeed have a part to play, with some truly hilarious moments for the character in the film. We also got to see Wong (Benedict Wong), of Doctor Strange (2016) fame who added some awesome funny bits.
CGI & Action
To say that this was the film’s strongest aspect doesn’t take anything away from other elements. When you go to see an MCU movie on the big screen you want action, and spectacular effects, too. The strength of them in this film is how they helped to explore and develop characterization, and also build the story-world. Once the action is in Ta Lo, we get to see some truly breathtaking stuff. Watching the ancient magic in the stunning backdrops only makes it seem more incredible, What’s more, the way that Chinese mythology is represented is great. We see Morris the “Hundun“. Yet another example of fusing inventiveness into the cultural tone.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens the MCU to “myth and monsters”. We’ve seen some of that already, but now there are even more possibilities. But what’s vital is that it did so in a way that truly showed how Western-centric so much is. Opening the franchise to other concepts is so important, and reminds us how vibrant our diverse civilizations are, and their fascinating histories. The film also provided an important character in Katy (Awkwafina). The significance of that certainly shouldn’t be easily dismissed . . .
There are many people who feel they’re caught between two cultures, and struggle with that. That was important, and they were represented. On top of that, we got more strong female characters, and that’s always welcome, given Hollywood’s past. The fact that Shang-Chi’s true power came from the love of his mother, and her strength is perhaps the strongest message to take away. We need to appreciate strong women more, and varied cultural heritage, which this film helped to prove, in super cool style, with bags of fun.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released worldwide exclusively in cinema on 3rd September,2021 and is out now.
- CGI & Action10.0
- Incidental Music9.0