Screencap from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (and the Future of the MCU) — REVIEW

The MCU Learns to Test its Might — ★★★★☆

For starters, this review is coming out long after its planned release, but with that also being said, I have now been able to see the film for a second time, so I stand firmly behind my review! Putting it bluntly… Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings exceeded nearly all of my non-existent expectations for this, which is less a knock on my actual hype for this film compared to previous entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and more so a fact that I simply had no prior knowledge to the character of Shang-Chi, and yet it still knocked it out of the park, so yay for that! Without a shadow of a doubt, this, at least in my book, is Marvel Studios’ best Origin Story film (beating out Iron Man is a hot take, I know, so shoot me), featuring one of the best antagonists in the MCU in the form of Wenwu, played by the great Tony Leung (Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs), featuring some of the most likable characters the MCU has seen to date, featuring a fantastic score, and just being all around escapist fun, this just went way harder than it had any right being.

Author’s Note: The film has been out for over two weeks at this point, and as I said, I planned for this to be out sooner, but that just didn’t happen. That being said, there really wouldn’t be much of a point to waste times with a plot synopsis, so in its place is a link to my review for Annette, the weirdest film of 2021. Check it out if you’re interested!

Going into my first screening of Shang-Chi, I felt similar to when I saw the first James Gunn’s 2014 smash hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, which still feels weird knowing how long ago that was, but that is besides the point. What I meant by that is that how I went into GOTG is similar to how I came into this movie, not knowing anything about the any of the characters, or even what to expect aside from what the trailers showcased, something that is also a very similar situation with Chloe Zhao’s upcoming entry into the MCU, The Eternals. And I like that, I actually like that a lot. After Avengers: Endgame, and now living in this world with Disney+ series’ set within the MCU like WandaVision and Loki, we have officially arrived into a new era within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Gone are Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark (for now), Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers (for now), and Scarlett Johannsson's Natasha Romanoff (for… nevermind), leaving Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Hemsworth as the remaining three original Avengers, leading the way for an entirely new crop of heroes to rise up…

Screencap from The Eternals (2021)

… and by new, it genuinely feels new. Beginning with the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, Marvel Studios showed interest in taking lesser known characters and turning them into A-Listers, and it worked to an insane degree. Whether it be White Vision, Agatha Harkness, and Photon debuting in WandaVision, or USAgent and Val in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, or Yelena Bolova in Black Widow, or nearly every character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, or similarly everyone in The Eternals, Marvel Studios is betting on a lot of risks with establishing these new characters rather than just continuing to give fans the same old, same old… even with Spider-Man: No Way Home likely being fan service to the maximum.

With the MCU willing to take a bit more risks in putting these significantly lesser known characters into prime positions alongside their titular heroes like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Thor, it shows confidence in building these characters into the ever-growing world of the MCU, much akin to the way All Elite Wrestling has shown to thrive with establishing brand new, young talent in the wrestling business by pairing them with old time legends to help boost their name and show importance to the old-school, long-time fans, rather than overshadowing your younger, new heroes with your heavy hitters from the past. But even with that point, we have begun to see a shift within the Marvel Cinematic Universe where we have gotten to a level where it isn’t even required for a character like Shang-Chi to be introduced in another A-List character’s film like Black Widow in Iron Man 2 or Hawkeye in Thor. Instead, we get a solid use of Wong from Doctor Strange, and a few other familiar faces, though they’re saved for the post-credit tease.

In terms of performances, I really don’t know who is going to come close to touching what Tony Leung brought to the table in this movie. It felt as if this man knew this was his biggest platform to date and wanted to just steal the show, and that he did, and then some. Leung managed to bring a nuanced performance, that felt human, down-to-earth, and fully realized in a movie that featured a dragon flying out of the water to fight a space dragon that was being fed souls from tiny flying aliens that were trapped behind a wall in which his character believed he was hearing his dead wife. If anyone ever tries to call Wenwu or Leung’s performance overrated, immediately disregard their taste and opinions on film. They are wrong. However, if anyone is to come close to Tony Leung’s performance here in Shang-Chi, within the MCU, there is only one person I’m even considering based off their only appearance to date…

Gif from Loki (2021)

Just some rapid fire quick thoughts to wrap up this very brief review of Shang-Chi that splintered off into somewhat coherent rambling about the way the MCU is building the future…

  • We got some truly awesome and fun world-building here! I definitely would love to see more of Shang-Chi & Katy, Shang-Chi paired with Wong, Xialing running shit with her Empire, a prequel series detailing Wenwu’s historical exploits, the history of Ta Lo, there’s just so much ripe stuff coming out of this that I pray the MCU eventually decide to explore.
  • The fight choreography and cinematography for the action sequences in the film were genuinely breathtaking and a total change of pace for Superhero movies… you love to see it!
  • The utilization of flashbacks was on point throughout this and didn’t come off as a cheap way to drop exposition when it could have become very stale and very cliché.
  • A number of the bigger CGI sequences and green screen did not look up to par with typical MCU releases.
  • Wenwu’s fate… YES, it works by all means, but again, after the performance that Leung brought to the table, I’d be remised if I didn’t say I wanted more!
  • Tossing in this giant dragon vs alien battle in a movie that featured the undeniably BEST action and fight sequences in the MCU, it just felt like a weird flex, even if it is setting up for Fing Fang Foom.

Author’s Note (again): The Shang-Chi album from 88Rising is on the level of the Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther album, so check that out if you haven’t.

And that’s it. That’s the review! If you haven’t seen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in theaters, be sure to do so in order to show support for a genuinely really solid film and to support a mainstream blockbuster fronted by an all Asian cast. 4 stars out of 5, and there is no looking back now!

Trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

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Entertainment Writer, Sometimes a Film Critic, Avid Disney Villain Song Connoisseur || Follow me on Twitter @NVProfoundFilm