Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Marvel’s best origin story in years

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an excellent introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest hero and a welcome step forward for representation on the silver screen. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in a state of flux since Avengers: Endgame concluded the story it spent 11 years telling as Marvel Studios now sought to build up new heroes (while also setting aside some time for some overlooked fan-favorites).

After a slew of critically-acclaimed Disney Plus shows, Black Widow was the first theatrical release, explosively kicking off the summer with the MCU’s return to the big screen. Now, the newest entry, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, gets to close it out in style. And does it ever.

The 25th film in the MCU, it introduces us to a brand new hero in Shang-Chi and with that comes a welcome exploration of Asian culture – the beginning of the franchise’s promise to diversify in its fourth phase. This aids in setting it apart from the saga’s other origin stories and goes a long way in setting the stage for a unique, vivid and captivating adventure.

A new hero for a new era

The story revolves around the titular character, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), who is essentially on the run from life he left behind, living in San Francisco as a directionless millennial after leaving China. But as these types of movies often remind us, your past has a way of catching up with you. That’s exactly what happens for Shang-Chi and it comes in the form of his father Wenwu (Tony Leung) and the Ten Rings organization that made the ancient criminal stop being his father the day that his mother died.

But that’s only the beginning of the story, as Shang-Chi’s mother was from a mystical dimension and managed to, temporarily, purify that ancient criminal’s heart. Her death, however, forced him back into his treacherous ways as he used his power to gain revenge – and thus, his driving force of lost love makes him an incredibly compelling villain… if you can even call him that.

That complexity, in many ways, is reflected in the protagonist’s journey because Shang-Chi wouldn’t necessarily consider himself a hero, and yet he embarks on an enticing quest to find himself and stop his father, overcoming the demons that have haunted him throughout his whole life. He may not realize that in the film but he’s very much the hero of his own complex story and he will no doubt be a hero to many very, very soon.

There are many people comparing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to Black Panther and that’s a comparison that holds up because, like the latter, the 25th MCU movie is a unique origin story as rich in its own culture as it is in story, producing a tale that not only succeeds in the story department but one that will be seen as a game-changer in terms of representation for decades to come.

Shang-Chi is a vivid mix of action and heart

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Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Shang-Chi‘s story is a compelling one but it’s aided in its grandeur by everything that surrounds it. The visuals are vivid and the CGI second-to-none. What really stands out, though, and this won’t come as a shock to many, is the sheer quality of the action sequences.

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The many martial arts-heavy showdowns are executed in such a seamless fashion, with flawless choreography that flows so beautifully it might as well be dance choreography and impressive direction from Destin Daniel Cretton that innovatively captures each fight from different angles to highlight their own individuality, all ensuring that you never tire from it. This is a fighting movie, yes, but it’s a fighting movie with heart and that comes across in all of the scenes, even the fighting ones.

Speaking of heart, one of Shang-Chi‘s greatest aspects is its cast, who single-handedly turn the characters into the larger-than-life figures they ultimately become in the third act. We’ve discussed Leung’s wonderfully multi-faceted portrayal of Wenwu but he is matched by Liu’s hero, with the latter solidifying himself as one of the many new faces of the MCU by turning in a performance that was every bit as powerful as it was charming.

The supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked, either, with Awkwafina shining as Shang-Chi’s quirky and reckless best friend Katy and Meng’er Zhang delivering an inspired performance as the emotionally complex Xu Xialing.

Shang-Chi is an adventure through and through, paving the way for a more diverse MCU – one that will hopefully have Simu Liu at the heart of it for a long time to come. A thrilling watch and all-round enjoyable movie, it’s one of Marvel’s finest origin stories and its best “solo” movie in years.

Grade: A

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Are you planning on watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? If you have, what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!