Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Series: Marvel Cinematic Universe: #25

Series: MCU Phase 4: #2

Well that was a surprisingly delightful movie. It takes a character I’ve at least barely heard of1 with a cast pretty much unknown to the western world2 and turns it into a wonderful combination of human drama, Lovecraftian baddies, and awesome action scenes. It’s well among my favorite MCU movies to date (only Captain America beats it out among introductions and a few others overall) and well worth the watch. After how big the MCU has gotten recently, it’s kind of nice to see a movie that almost completely stands on it’s own3. It’s a big world, with parallel/pocket universes and gates to worlds chock full of truly alien baddies, but at the same time, it’s a story about family, about legacy.

Characterwise, Simu Liu as Shaun/Shang-Chi is absolutely delightful. It feels like the role was made for him, a la Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool. And … well:

He’s undoubtedly a ‘good’ guy. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to seeing him stepping into the moral equivalent of Captain America going forward.

On top of that, we have Awkwafina as Katy, ‘mundane’ best friend/wingwoman who is absolutely there for Shaun whenever he needs her and hilarious to boot. We have Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Xu Wenwu, Shaun’s birth father / big bad of the piece. I don’t even have to spoiler that, given how obvious it is in the intro. But oh does he ever nail the combination of man twisted by power after living a thousand years with a potential redemption arc. Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist… was something you only see in comic books. A man with a sword for his arm? Absolutely insane, but he sold it.

And then of course… one of the absolute gems of the movie was the return of Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery. We haven’t seen him since Iron Man 3, where he played a fake ‘Mandarin’, terrorist warlord of the Ten Rings. Now of course, we get the real Ten Rings and the real inspiration for the Slattery’s character: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Xu Wenwu. Meng’er Zhang as Shaun’s sister Xialing was a little un-emotive for my tastes (I wonder if that’s a cultural thing?) but her fight scenes were wonderful.

[Morris discovers Trevor’s still body, and mourns]

Trevor Slattery: Calm down, mate! I’m not dead, it’s just a performance! Now get down here and play along!

[Morris rolls over and plays dead]

Plotwise, it’s not really unexpected. Ancient artifact confers great power and long life, great power and long life twist those who wield it, redemption arc, death of a loved one, big fight scene (this time with squiddly beasts and a dragon), and the rise of a new hero. But oh, it’s so very pretty. The fight scenes alone make it well worth watching on a big screen.

Overall, like I said, near the top of my movies for the year. Catch it if you get a chance. Even if you haven’t watched the rest of the MCU, this one mostly stands alone. If you have, I fully expect it to be one of the stepping stones for things to come.

  1. And that only obliquely because of Iron Man 3. ↩︎

  2. Oh Ben Kingsley is a treasure. ↩︎

  3. Oh Wang is also a treasure. That’s a perfectly acceptable cameo. ↩︎