Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ★★★★
Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Simu Liu, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen
Marvel's first Asian superhero gets his stellar cinematic debut in Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings, featuring enough fresh ideas to shine through the traditional MCU formula.
Our titular hero (Simu Liu) is drawn back into an eternal family battle with his sinister immortal father (Tony Leung) who is hell bent on using the power of the mystical ten rings to conquer the world and bring his wife back from beyond the grave.
It’s clear to see the effort that Marvel have gone to implement elements of eastern cinema into their already fully functioning films. Most notably the fighting, which is by far better than any hand to hand combat scene in the existing Marvel pantheon. The detail in the choreography adds way more than the generic tension you would normally experience in these types of scenes and always appears clear enough to follow.
Simu Liu shines throughout and delivers a layered performance that never feels out of place as the mystery of his character unfolds around the movie’s many flashbacks. But you could argue that the true focus of this adventure is the ten rings, and their menacing possessor: Wenwu aka iconic Marvel villain: The Mandarin.
Tony Leung delivers the cold and formidable character that redeems the fake-out take-out version from Iron Man 3 that still burns fans to this day. His motivations are clear and relatable, providing a deeper connection to the conflict between him and his family.
That’s not to say the film is without flaws, as the story sets up our hero’s tale with a battle across the ages leading to present day where we should have got a bit more time to breath before being dropped into the relentless action almost instantly.
The cracks of the Marvel formula also begin to show as we progress through each scene, adding the comic relief, the lovable creature, the larger than life henchman and the generic army with a few nods to existing material to distract us along the way following the pattern weaved before.
But the new exploration of culture and choreography is a perfect catalyst to combat fears of familiarity, proving that Destin Daniel Cretton was the man to deliver Shang-Chi to western audiences all along.
Marvel once again proves they can make a movie out of any character they have in the draw, and I look forward to seeing where our new heroes venture next.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings available in cinemas now