Rivaling previous Marvel films like “Avengers: Endgame,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” delivers a fresh, unique take on heroism.
Long ago, there existed 10 rings, relics capable of giving the wielder unimaginable power and causing great destruction.
A terrifying warlord came to possess the rings, using them to build his empire over the course of centuries. However, he eventually fell in love, putting an end to his villainy, and had a son — Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu.
Weeks before its debut in movie theaters, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” had already amassed a big reputation and high expectations.
As a trailblazer in the film industry, featuring Marvel Studios’ first Asian superhero and an all-Asian cast, the movie reached my expectations through its characters and stunning visuals.
Shang-Chi has quickly risen in my list of favorite Marvel heroes because of how easily the audience can sympathize with him.
Being heroic isn’t intuitive or simple for San Franciscan Shang-Chi, making him relatable compared to the other Avengers, who have never doubted their purpose.
His journey from loneliness, loss and desertion to accepting the demons of his past and stepping up to his role to protect people was admirable.
Plus, Shang-Chi’s dynamic with Katy, played by Nora Lum (Awkwafina), is hilarious. Their banter and sarcasm are always amusing to watch.
Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend and the female lead of the film, was my favorite character. Her wit and humor always brightened the mood, no matter how dire the situation was for the protagonists, and brought some much-needed lightheartedness to the overall darker story.
For example, when Shang-Chi opens up about his past, she jokingly berates him for changing his name to “Sean” after deciding to go into hiding.
She’s also a steadfast and loyal friend, an anchor in Shang-Chi’s chaotic life storm. It impresses me how little hesitation she showed when deciding to accompany Shang-Chi on his quest.
Katy serves as one of the primary reasons Shang-Chi refuses to give up and flee and tries to change instead, and I enjoyed seeing how often and comfortable the two are with relying on each other and the trust they share.
The sets and costumes were also impressive.
The majority of the film was shot in Australia, including the realm of Ta Lo, the homeland of Shang-Chi’s mother.
Ta Lo was absolutely stunning — it looks more like one of the worlds depicted in “A Wrinkle in Time” or a Disney movie than any place that could exist at the same time as ordinary San Francisco.
My favorite parts of this movie by far were the fight scenes. The choreography was spectacular, and it honestly made me want to learn martial arts, too!
Rather than use fights like those in other superhero movies that are dominated by weapons capable of causing massive explosions and carnage, or powers that control elements and devastating natural disasters, this movie focuses more on simple hand-to-hand combat.
In the beginning of the film, each attack feels more planned out and deliberate compared to random and senseless large-scale destruction.
The fighting was enhanced by the unique and dynamic camera angles that the production team chose — like when Shang-Chi and Katy fought against his father’s lackeys at the risk of falling off the side of a building.
However, toward the end, the movie takes a turn from the classic, boots-on-the-ground fighting inspired by earlier iconic martial arts films to a CGI-full, heavily edited, basic Marvel blockbuster finale.
Another negative aspect of this movie was the absurd number of flashbacks filled heavily with exposition. This technique produced an unfulfilling experience. I was constantly waiting for the next battle scene to occur, which made large sections of the movie unenjoyable despite it being necessary for context and to understand the character motivations.
Another small issue was the creators could have cast different actors and actresses instead of using Hollywood’s token Asians, like Awkwafina. Three of the actors also played characters in “Crazy Rich Asians,” one of the only successful Hollywood movies featuring an all-Asian cast.
I think Marvel cast them knowing this film would be more successful when using familiar faces, but there are a lot of other Asian actors who are just as talented.
For any superhero fans looking for a more emotional tale focused on family and redemption, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a great movie.
The production quality, costumes and martial arts choreography make the film aesthetically pleasing while the character growth and relationships add depth and make Shang-Chi’s journey personal and intimate.