Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and best friend Katy (Awkwafina), as well as estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), must band together to prevent Wenwu / The Mandarin (Tony Leung) from opening an inter-dimensional portal for what he believes is a quest to resurrect his long-dead wife, but is actually a vent for a soul-eating monster and its army who is attempting to manipulate him in order to steal the ten rings’ authority and wreak disaster on the globe.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings checks all the boxes for a great superhero film: it tells an engaging origin story with a fresh perspective, introduces interesting characters you genuinely want to root for, has a strong emotional connect, features jaw-dropping action scenes, the next thrill is always around the corner, and wraps things up with a bang.
Destin Daniel Cretton’s direction is all about family-friendly appeal — just what a film of this nature should be – William Pope’s camerawork gets the job done, the VFX are captivating, and the background score, although not fantastic, is sufficient to set the perfect cadence. Furthermore, each actor delivers a flawless performance, and we even get some needed comic relief from Awkwafina and a funny cameo from Ben Kingsley. Furthermore, it’s a joy to see Michelle Yeoh, the great female martial artist, performing what she does best on screen after such a long time in a major, commercial Hollywood production.
Shang-Chi has a few flaws, including the fact that it’s a little long in the tooth, and the trio of editors could have easily shaved off 20-25 minutes. Shang’s longing pangs and fixation on their father’s love, as well as their backstories, become a little too much in the second part. A little monster lore, on the other hand, wouldn’t have hurt.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings kicks off Marvel Studios’ phase four with a bang, gives the MCU a kickass, charming new superhero to root for, thanks to Simu Liu’s outstanding performance, and, despite a few hiccups, is mostly everything one could want from an original story, with bonus points for balancing its grand scale with genuine humour. Oh, and don’t forget to stay for the mid-credits and post-credits scenes, just in case you forgot.