Facing old foes and home truths, Shang-Chi And The Ten Rings manages to be funny, moving and beautiful, combining Asian culture and Marvel flair seamlessly.
Forced to confront a past he thought he had left behind, San Francisco-based Shaun is drawn in to the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organisation in Shang-Chi And The Ten Rings, the latest big screen adventure from Marvel Studios. Armed with his martial arts skills and best friend Katy, he returns to his old home in a bid to protect it from a dangerous old foe.
This not an origin story we get here then, but instead a hero’s return. The film doesn’t waste too much time explaining the whole backstory, instead utilising well placed emotional flashbacks to tell us all we need to know.
Picking up at this point in Shang-Chi’s life (or Shaun as we first meet him) is one of the best things about the film. He knows his powers and abilities but has chosen not to use them. In superhero movies we so often see our protagonists run towards the danger, but not every person wants to choose greatness or darkness. Some just want to get drunk and sing karaoke with their best friend. It’s exciting to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest phase continue to explore expectation versus responsibility in the face of grief. The films and shows so far this year seem to pose the question ‘what do we owe to the world and what does it owe us?’ with Shang-Chi being no different.
Simu Liu is superbly cast in the lead role, switching between casual nonchalance to stoic and reluctant hero easily throughout the film, guiding us through his abandoned former life. Alongside Liu’s performance is an impressive debut from Meng’er Zhang who commands the screen as Xialing in her first credited film. Easily powerful enough to hold her own against the myriad of men that surround her, she provides balance to Shang-Chi’s hesitance, the pair becoming a seamless duo in some of the larger fight scenes.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton makes good use of the signature Marvel flourishes throughout the story, whilst still ensuring Shang-Chi stands out on its own terms.
There’s some fun cameos, an adorable creature named Morris and enough one liners from Awkwafina to leave MCU-heads satisfied. But also gorgeous fight choreography and grand landscapes that make Cretton’s visuals stand out above the rest.
There’s a smidge of questionable CGI towards the end of the third act which is, as often is the case, the weaker part of the film, but it’s still a fulfilling and satisfying conclusion that will comfortably hold your attention.
In all, an unexpectedly moving and fun outing that celebrates Asian film and culture, it’s more than a worthy addition to the MCU.
Shang-Chi And The Ten Rings is in cinemas from the 3rd September.
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