Yes, it's true, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is top-tier Marvel. An excellent cast (Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung), well-developed characters, amazing choreography throughout, a worthy story with heart, and strong representation of Asian culture.
While the third act of Shang-Chi does walk back to more familiar Marvel-CGI territory — overall — it's a solid superhero origin story expanding the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). This is a superhero flick that I highly recommend. Shang-Chi helps thicken MCU's growing story with a fresh perspective and superhero flare. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle), Shang-Chi is one of the brightest entries in the Marvel franchise. Shang-Chi also became the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian-American director and a predominantly Asian cast — showcasing the importance of representation. The MCU extravaganza is chop full of dazzling choreography and splendid action sequences throughout. We also get a phenomenal cast; that helps propel the movie to extraordinary new heights. Our story follows Xu Wenwu (the great Tony Leung), who discovers the mystical ten rings, granting him immortality and godlike powers.
For thousands of years, Wenwu's reign grows stronger as he topples governments and vanquishes kingdoms; with his Ten Rings organization. Until one day, when he meets a village guardian Ying Li (the wonderful Fala Chen) and falls in love. Together, they start a family, which includes Xu Shang-Chi (a strong Simu Liu). I won't spoil what happens with Wenwu and Shang-Chi, but I will say there is a fallout between father and son. Let's quickly talk about our protagonist and antagonist (Liu and Leung). The dynamic between the father and son storyline excels thanks to the tremendous acting chops of both Liu and Leung. I remember first seeing Liu in an episode of Awkwafina's Is Nora from Queens (season 1, episode 8, "Grandma & Chill"). Liu played the hunky 'Garbage Boy' in that episode and was hilarious. Liu as also played as a series regular (Jung) in the hit-TV-show Kim's Convenience (2016-2021), which I have gone on to watch. Looking over at Leung — a veteran actor who has been in the acting business for almost 40 years now. However, this was Leung's first crossover into a Hollywood blockbuster.
The Hong Kong actor is one of Asia's most successful and internationally recognized actors. He's been in masterful films like Chungking Express (1994), 2046 (2004), Lust, Caution (2007), The Grandmaster (2013), and In the Mood for Love (2000) — which was the first film I saw him in and it's also one of my personal favorites. Leung's character is complex and complicated. He blurs the lines between good and bad, giving us one of Marvel's most well-rounded villains. Leung steals every scene he's in. Jumping to the present day, we follow Shang-Chi, who now goes by 'Shaun.' Shaun lives in San Francisco and works as a valet with his best friend Katy (a fantastic Awkwafina). It was also nice to see Awkwafina in a well-developed role throughout the movie. Yes, she is there for comedic appeal, but her character was so much more than that. Something I appreciated, and I am excited to see her in future MCU films. Shaun keeps his life on the down-low until one day, his past demons catch up with him. From there, Shaun and Katy are on a mission to hunt down and stop his father. Along the way, we also meet Shaun's sister Xu Xialing (an excellent Meng'er Zhang), who runs her own underground fight club. I would love to see a spin-off TV series with Zhang on Disney+ in the near future. Yes, she's that great.
Shang-Chi transcends to great heights with top-notch martial arts sequences, dazzling action, a compelling story, and characters that we care about. Cretton's movie also completely crushed its box office expectations for its opening weekend. Marvel's newest superhero feature set a Labor Day Weekend record with $94.4 million for the 4-day holiday weekend. Shang-Chi had the second highest-grossing weekend box office (behind Black Widow) of the year thus far. This is great news for movies because we are still battling a pandemic and are trying to get out on the other side. PSA, get vaccinated. In addition, it's exciting to see a film with a predominantly Asian-led cast do so well. So, if you feel safe going to the theaters (like I do), I highly recommend seeing this movie on the big screen. I was able to experience this superhero sensation on the IMAX. Since it opened, Shang-Chi has grossed $363 million worldwide and has reigned as No. 1 for four straight weekends. Wow! After its fourth weekend superiority, Deadline Hollywood has projected that the film's final domestic gross would be around $250 million. In the end, Shang-Chi is top-tier Marvel. "A Marvel legend will rise" and risen it has.
Want to hear more of my thoughts about this fantastic Marvel film? I spoke with my good friends, Matt and Ashley, on their podcast, Mashely at the Movies | Listen Here.
Shang-Chi is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Sequences of Violence & Action | Language.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung.
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