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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Josh Reviews Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

October 18th, 2021

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) are happy working go-nowhere jobs together, parking cars as hotel valets.  But when Shang is attacked on a bus, the past he’d tried to bury comes rushing back.  It turns out his father is Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), a crime lord who has lived for thousands of years thanks to the power of the mystical ten rings he’s been using to assemble a vast criminal empire.  Shang and Katy set out to find Shang’s estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and stop their father from finding and destroying the mystical home of their deceased mother.

2019’s Avengers Endgame brought to a close the incredible, unprecedented 22-movie saga of the MCU to that point.  Spider-Man: Far From Home served as a lovely epilogue to the events of Endgame, and Black Widow was all about filling in some missing pieces from earlier in the saga.  Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings feels like the true beginning of Phase Four of the MCU, as we’re introduced to a wealth of new characters and we venture into unexplored corners of the MCU.  While of course there are some fun MCU connections to be found in this film, it’s a completely satisfying stand-along adventure with these new characters.  This is exciting!  And it’s one of the most impressive aspects of this film for me.  I’d worried these early Phase Four films would feel like a step backwards into the early days of Phase One, when the MCU was new and the films and characters weren’t that well-connected.  How could we go back to that after the magnificent depth of continuity in Infinity War and Endgame??  It turns out, when done as skillfully as it is here, it feels absolutely great.  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels delightfully fresh, while still containing the balance of adventure and fun that has been so critical to the MCU’s success.

Shang-Chi has a long history in the Marvel comics, but despite that he is for sure the most obscure Marvel comics character to headline a film to this point.  (Yes, general movie-going audiences might not have known anything about, say, Groot and co. in Guardians of the Galaxy, but those characters were well-known to modern comic-book fans.)  But (despite some attempts to revitalize him over the years) Shang-Chi’s most successful comic book run was back in the seventies.  The character and his world have been substantially reinvented for this film, and I’m very pleased with what they’ve come up with.  Once again, Marvel’s brilliance with casting shines here, as Simu Liu is perfection as Shang-Chi.  Mr. Liu is able to nail both the “loser everyman” aspect … [continued]