Marvel’s latest film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, makes its debut in cinemas, and it was a blast to watch. With excellent action, lore, and characters this film is a great introduction to a new character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warning: major spoilers ahead…
Let’s begin with acknowledging how this film has some brilliant characters. Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi and Awkwafina’s Katy have great chemistry together, with both sharing funny dialogue with each other. Both are underachievers in their lives, and are young irresponsible adults, which is relatable for the demographic the film is going for. The film shows their growth in the film in a well and clear way.
There are other strong characters in this film too. Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s villain Wenwu is one of Marvel’s stronger villains. His backstory and the Ten Rings makes for some of the best lore in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and he has clear motivations too.
The film spends some time humanising him, which is often a critique of Marvel villains. His head goons Razor Fist and Death Dealer aren’t quite as good, only being mini bosses for Shang Chi to fight. Razor Fist gets more to do than Death Dealer. Death Dealer dies in an unceremonious fashion in the third act, which is a shame because visually he is more interesting and cool.
This leads to the fight sequences themselves. They feature some extremely good choreography, especially in the first half of the film. The two stand out sequences are the fight on the bus and then the sequence in Macau, which showcases some really good martial arts.
Marvel clearly did their homework.
Towards the end of the film, it’s noticeable how the first half of the film is better than the second half. This is because it is grounded in reality, while the second half overuses CGI. The film reveals that the true villain is the Dweller in Darkness, a dragon type monster which isn’t as interesting as Wenwu. The film swaps a smaller family drama (with better stakes) for another world ending villain. Marvel still needs to work on its third act problem.
The film uses several cameos well, to connect the film to the larger MCU. Abomination and Wong make their appearance, along with Trevor Slatery from Iron Man Three. Abomination is there purely to remind the audience he still exists, (given he was last seen in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk that is understandable).
Wong is used to draw Shang Chi and Katy into the larger universe, and then there is an even more surprising cameo of Trevor Slatery. This ties up a loose end from Iron Man Three, where it was shown he was making a mockery of the Ten Rings Organisation. The film acknowledges and uses the twist in Iron Man Three to its advantage.
Trevor has various comedic moments in the film, which are funny enough on their own (though they do slow the film down and can be slightly annoying), but they were much improved by a cinema full of people, laughing together. However, it is clear that Katy is a much more humorous character than Trevor.
The two post credits scenes have great implications for the MCU. The first one shows that the Ten Rings are calling to someone, but to whom is unknown. The second one shows that the Ten Rings Organisation will still be an active force for good in the MCU.
These are what effective post credits should do, as it brings intrigue to future films.
Overall, this film is one of the better origin stories for a Marvel hero, featuring relatable heroes and a great villain. While the second half is notably weaker than the first, it is still enjoyable nonetheless. It brings more representation to the screen, with strong action and lore.
By Kieran Burt
Feature image: Marvel Studios