My biased take on the MCU continues as another entry ticks all the boxes, and I once again have fallen in love with the cast, the characters, and the movie. Director Destin Daniel Cretton brings Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), breathing new life into the ever-expanding MCU. Fans of Kung Fu movies will have many great moments and visuals in addition to some very well-choreographed and shot fight scenes. There was just a lot of great stuff in this movie, and the crowd at my screening all seemed to approve over and over again.
In many ways, Shang-Chi is an origin story – but the movie does us a favor by mixing up the plot structure so it isn’t forty-five minutes of the movie before it gets to the action. Shaun (Simu Liu) and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) are just on the bus to go to their simple jobs as valets, when Shaun’s past comes to kick his ass. Shaun – well “Shang-Chi’s” – father (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) has sent his warriors (members of the mysterious Ten Rings organization) after him and his sister to bring them back home.
Liu and Awkwafina have great chemistry, but – and possibly more importantly – Liu owns this role. Every emotion and every punch comes across with such earnestness and care that it is clear that Liu wanted to do for this character what so many of the other actors have done in this epic universe they’ve created. Liu is Shang-Chi. The energy and comedy brought forth by the duo of Shang-Chi and his dynamic partner Katy make it impossible not to root for them. Their imperfections are relatable, and each stop along their journey only makes you love them more.
Marvel now has another great villain for fans to love. Xu Wenwu ( Leung Chiu-wai) is so great in this performance. Wenwu is empathetic, whilst remaining completely terrifying. He is able to flip his feelings in such subtle ways that it is often hard to know which version of the character the others are currently dealing with; the loving father and husband, or the ruthless criminal warlord. His physical command of the performance only adds to the intrigue of the character, as the story unfolds and the divide between father and son is further revealed.
Of course, there are other tremendous performances from Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, and a surprising returning character who I’ll leave off, as to not spoil the moment for those who don’t check casts lists before seeing the movie. All of them just adds to the experience and make this an easy standout for the single-character-focused MCU films. This is especially true when one considers the gorgeous visuals and CGI that are much better than some of the other films that have come before (Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther both had some issues in that area).
Again, I’m clearly an MCU fanboy – but that won’t stop me from saying how much fun I had watching this movie. It was easily the largest crowd that I have seen a movie with since before the pandemic. We were all feeling it, and that only made the experience all the better. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) earns the Must See rating from me.