After Several Disappointments, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings the MCU back in a major way.
By: Kenny Velez
After the disappointment of Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a triumphant return for the MCU. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), the movie is about a man named Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a skilled martial artist who is living a normal life for himself in San Francisco.
His father, The Mandarin (Tony Leung), tries to draw him back into his criminal organization the Ten Rings, forcing Shang-Chi to confront the past that he thought he left behind. Shang-Chi and The Mandarin’s most interesting interaction with one another is when the latter takes his revenge against the triad known as the Iron Gang that’s responsible for killing his wife and he kills a man in front of a young Shang-Chi.
The Mandarin’s decisions had sufficient motivations.
His love for his wife is shown very well in the movie and it makes sense that he is a grieving widower. It also makes sense that he takes his revenge against the triad that killed her.
The flow of the plot makes sense.
Shang-Chi is presented as an everyman at first, but then it turns out that he has an entire life that his best friend Katy knows nothing about. Naturally, she is angry at him for keeping secrets, but at the same time she acknowledges that there are some things that he doesn’t want to talk about.
The settings contribute to the movie in a unique way. If Shang-Chi and say, Iron Man, swapped cities, you would tell the difference.
The story would change significantly because you would be getting rid of the mystical elements as well as the backstory of Ying Li, Shang-Chi’s mother. Visuals contributed to storytelling in a unique way, in terms of showing off mythology that you would usually not see in superhero movies.
For example, where else would you see hunduns in western media?
Shang-Chi executed the mix of martial arts movie, wuxia film, and superhero movie unusually well. I also particularly liked how this movie focused on a nuclear family, as opposed to a found family like in most recent media.
There is no romance in this movie outside of The Mandarin’s romance with Ying Li. Shang-Chi and Katy remain friends throughout the entire movie, which works out since they are better off as friends.
This movie has some of the best protagonist vs. antagonist conflicts in the MCU. The Mandarin added a lot here, and the filmmakers made a smart decision to have the movie focus on him because the other antagonists are just uninteresting.
The closest Razor-Fist comes to having a personality is when he says “That’s my car!” when he sees someone stealing his car. Death Dealer has a cool character design, but he has no dialogue and his storyline ends in a very unsatisfying way.
Protagonist vs. Protagonist conflicts are okay.
Shang-Chi vs. his sister Xu Xialing wasn’t extremely inspired, but it served its purpose well and it made sense from the point of view of both characters. Shang-Chi abandoned his sister and she waited for him to come back before realizing that he was never coming home.
In the beginning of the movie, a narrator describes The Mandarin’s backstory as he is fighting a group of enemy soldiers in the past alongside his army.
The action choreography in this scene is not great.
It consists of The Mandarin doing his thing while the enemy soldiers just stand around. His army did nothing either; they might as well have stayed home that day.
Overall, Shang-Chi is a good movie. This is the first piece of MCU media that’s worth watching since Avengers: Endgame.