Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi, the master of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.

Table of Contents

A young man must confront his legacy as the heir of a group of martial arts assassins in . Xu Shang-Chi () is a young Chinese man trying to escape his past as the son of Xu Wenwu (), the leader of a group of assassins, who possesses the mystical Ten Rings that gives him immortality and great power. Living in San Francisco under the adopted name of “Shaun,” Shang-Chi lives a relatively normal life with his best friend Katy (). However, Shang-Chi is tracked down by his father, who wants pendants worn by both Shang-Chi and his sister Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang). Wenwu wants to use the pendants to help him find a way into the mythical village of Ta Lo and free his long-dead wife Ying Li (Fala Chen), who is supposedly trapped behind the village's gates.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a film written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), which is notable for being the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a story focused entirely on Asian characters. The film stars Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu (Kim's Convenience) as the titular Shang-Chi, who has been spending the last decade trying to live a normal life away from his father Wenwu, who began training Shang-Chi to become an assassin as a child. However, Shang-Chi's past eventually catches up with him and along with his friend Katy and estranged sister Xialing, have to stop Wenwu from opening up the gate in the village of To Lo and unleashing a great evil into the world.

Following in the footsteps of Black Panther, it can be said that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continue the efforts of Marvel Studios to diversify its superhero offerings, though it can also be argued that Shang-Chi has much more in common with martial arts films than a typical superhero outing. While featuring a relatively stand-alone story, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does connect to the past somewhat with the Ten Rings organization, which was originally referenced way back in the original Iron Man. More specifically, the first does suggest that the film's antagonist of Wenwu is the real Mandarin, unlike the imposter seen in Iron Man 3, though it is not a name that he personally appreciates.

At the very least, I can feel proud as a Torontonian that local actor Simu Liu was able to make the jump from co-starring in the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience to taking a leading role in the first predominantly Asian Marvel Studios film, acting alongside legends such as Tony Leung and . However, I felt that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings didn't have the same immediate impact that Black Panther did in 2018. While Shang-Chi undoubtedly has its moments, particularly its well-choreographed martial arts fights, the film doesn't quite settle on whether it wants to be a modern action film or a more fantastical story with a lot of CGI creatures. In fact, it is probably the very CGI-heavy climax of Shang-Chi that held my interest the least.

Overall, while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an accomplishment when it comes to Asian representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it ends up being merely a fine film instead of a great one.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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