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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings adds an Asian hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it enters the next phase after the events of Avengers: Endgame. This origin story is partially an ode to wuxia with beautiful fighting scenes with bright and colorful backdrops, but it also features breathtaking action scenes as well in buses and buildings.
Shang-Chi is played by Simu Liu and he brings an engaging presence to the screen throughout the movie. He is living in America as Shaun, which is very close to the pronunciation of Shang. The movie drops backwards and forwards to tell the story of why Shang-Chi ended up in America as a car attendant where he works with his friend Katy played by the wonderful Awkwafina.
Shang-Chi’s father, Xu Wenwu is the keeper of the 10 rings and he’s played by Hong Kong box office legend Tony Leung in his first Hollywood appearance. Wenwu is a warrior that has lived for centuries using his powers for evil while building his own army. He has conquered governments and toppled just about everything he can using his powers and army.
That’s where Shang-Chi’s mother. Ying Li played by Fala Chen, enters the picture when Wenwu tried to conquer Ta Lo, which is the last territory left for him to conquer. When he gets there, he encounters Li, who is protecting the village hidden by a maze in the forest. They have a fight where Li gets the better of him and Wenwu falls in love and gives up his rings, which make him mortal.
The movie tells a story of a fractured family. Wenwu and Li have two children and they are both excellent fighters. There’s a rift between Shang and his sister Xialing. They don’t talk in the present day. Shang is a valet in America and Xialing runs a fighting ring in Macau.
The plot advances from this point forward showing how Shang-Chi deals with his family issues and comes to grips with who his father is as a person and how that affected him. Wenwu sees Shang-Chi and trains him to be the heir to his ten rings. Xialing on the other hand grows up ignored by her father and learns to fight on her own.
This movie does a great job of not only detailing the drama in Shang-Chi’s family, but it also keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace with action scene after action scene. I don’t want to give away all of the details, as the movie does a great job of telling the story here. Shang-Chi eventually sets out to find his sister and it turns out that Wenwu has his eyes set on Ta Lo again and they have to set aside their differences and stop him.
There are some amazing fight scenes as the movie unfolds. A fight on a bus early in the movie gives the bus scene in Nobody, which was released earlier in 2021 a run for its money. There’s another fight scene on the outside of a building in Macau that had me on the edge of my seat. There’s some amazing martial arts fighting and training scenes as well. Director Destin Cretton did an amazing job of making a visually beautiful movie for the martial arts scenes and also pulled off some incredible action movie scenes as well.
Shang-Chi is a hero I want to see more of and most of that is due to how likable Liu is portraying the character. Given the serious nature of the movie Awkwafina deserves mention for her valuable role of providing comic relief in the movie, as does Ben KIngsley in his supporting role as Trevor Slattery.
The extras for the home release made for an interesting watch. I really liked the Building a Legacy featurette, which featured the various actors in the movie talking about how much it meant to them to have asian representation in a Marvel movie.
Liu is also shown briefly in this featurette talking about how the original source material for Shang-Chi from Marvel wasn’t the greatest and the character had to be reimagined for the movie. I would have loved to hear more about this process, but I can see why it was shied away from.
The bonus features also include a number of deleted scenes. One features a surprise alternate narrative for one of the supporting characters and another shows a much darker side of Wenwu. Other than that the deleted scenes were largely skippable.
The best feature is the audio commentary from Cretton and writer Dave Callaham. It’s worth another watch of the movie just to hear Cretton and Callaham go into so many behind the scenes details and explanations of why certain decisions were made.
Overall thoughts: (9.0) – Shang-Chi is an incredible action movie that also tells a great origin story. I didn’t have high hopes for this release based on the trailers I saw during the theatrical release. The acting is fantastic and the movie features some gorgeous martial arts training and fighting scenes as well as some incredible action sequences.
The action is tremendous across the board. I was especially impressed with Liu, Awkwafina, and Leung’s performances. This is one of my favorite movies of 2021 and I would give it the highest recommendation for purchase.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is out now on digital, 4K, and Blu-ray.
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