With the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame I, like many others, had decided that I wasn’t interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next phase, but Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has successfully revitalized my interest in the franchise. A love letter to Hong Kong action flicks, Shang-Chi has solidified itself as my favorite MCU film, as well as being the highest grossing film in America this year.
The first Asian-led film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with several actors being native Chinese, Shang-Chi explores ancient Chinese mythology in a respectful manner, in contrast to its original comics as the source material. For example, the father of Shang-Chi from the comics has been transformed from an offensive racial stereotype into one of the MCU’s most interesting antagonists, Xu Wenwe. Torn between reuniting his family and a misguided quest to rescue his dead wife, Hong Kong’s Tony Leung portrays the only Marvel villain who I wasn’t able to predict.
The plot begins with the backstory of Xu Wenwe, immortal wielder of the Ten Rings. Narrated in Mandarin Chinese, it documents his path from a medieval Chinese warlord into modern times, where he meets his future wife and for a brief time leaves his ruthless ways behind to start a family. This is cut short with his wife’s death, leading his children to flee home and kickstart the plot. The movie begins set in grounded locations such as Los Angeles and Macau, but concludes in a mystical realm inspired by real Chinese mythology.
The film sports the best fight choreography in the entire Marvel franchise, beginning with high octane kung fu brawls and concluding with a giant monster battle. The cast performs well across the board, a pleasant surprise being Awkwafina in a serious role for once.
Overall, Shang-Chi sets up a bright future for the next phase of the MCU, showing that Marvel isn’t afraid to branch out into unknown characters and new stories. Shang-Chi has definitely taken the spot as the best blockbuster of 2021.