The newest Marvel Studios movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, premiered in theaters this Thursday (2). The film cast big names like Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung.
This is the twenty-fifth film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Produced by Marvel Studios, introducing a new hero. He is expected to have an essential part in the future of the MCU.
“That’s what the world needs, another Marvel movie!” said one person ironically in some corner of the internet, in a discussion already forgotten by time, when the first trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released.
That comment stuck in the back of my mind for some reason, not because it was important or even remotely original. However, with 25 films, people still criticize and complain about the infamous “Marvel Formula.”
Clichés have always been part of cinema, but they have acquired a bad rap for a while now. Reading any “review” across the vast internet, you will find those who firmly believe that if a movie uses clichés, it is terrible, not original, and cannot be good… Nonsense.
If something is a cliché, it is because it works in many different narratives – or should Agatha Christie have stopped writing her mysteries and focused only on novels and comedies after writing three books in which a detective investigates a murder, has several suspects, and a big twist at the end?
If you are the kind of person, who believes that a cliché is the worst thing a movie can do, that everything has to be original and something never thought of before in the history of humankind (which well, I am sorry to inform you, is practically impossible at this point), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is not for you.
Marvel‘s new film, unsurprisingly, does follow the formula established in all the studio’s previous titles. But it also manages to be much, much more than that.
In the film, we see a festival of tropes and references to oriental productions, from Wuxia and Xianxia to Jackie Chan movies, going through different types of fights, scenarios, and a lot of fantasy.
Indeed, the primary references are “House of the Flying Daggers” and “Tiger & Dragon.” Not only when the characters are fighting but also in the stories and family drama that moves the whole story.
But before talking about the drama, it is important to remember that we are talking about Shang-Chi, the “Master of Kung-Fu” in Marvel comics, a character created in the 1970s after the fever of movies and series about Kung-Fu and other martial arts styles from China and the East.
So yes, the film is full of fights and elaborate choreography. But they are not in the movie just to be amusing moments where characters show off their skills. Here, each confrontation tells a story and has an apparent reason for being there.
From the moment Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) reveals himself to the world in the bus fight – which is, by the way, the funniest MCU choreography in years – every time we see the character fight, there is an obvious reason for it. They are not fights just for the sake of fighting.
Another breathtaking moment is when we see Wenwu (Tony Leung) fighting Ying Li (Fala Chen’s character), totally inspired by Wuxia movie fights.
The choreography, the colors, the photography, and all the elements are fantastic and breathtaking. The way the encounter unfolds is more than just a fight.
It is almost like a dance, a dialogue. It may even push away those who like dark and violent action, but here it matches perfectly with the film’s proposal.
Speaking of Wenwu, the character easily enters the ranks of Marvel Studios‘ best villains so far – and Tony Leung‘s charisma makes it so that for most of the movie, you even forget that he’s a villain.
After all, he is the leader of one of the biggest criminal organizations in the world!.
Wenwu is such a well-built character throughout the film that it would be very easy not to root for him at every moment. However, this is not possible because Simu Liu manages to bring a gigantic charisma to his protagonist.
Another interesting factor is how clearly Kevin Feige “apologizes” for Iron Man 3 and Ben Kingsley‘s characterization. As a Marvel Studios film and as a major blockbuster, time and time again, it is noticeable the moments where the studio’s interference was made.
But overall, the film – and its best moments – are a credit to director Destin Daniel Cretton. He manages to reconcile these studio demands with his creative vision for the story very well.
And this is where we get to the point that makes this one of the best when talking about Marvel origin films: the film’s amazing and daring fantasy.
At no point is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings afraid to be a colorful, full-of-life movie, with characters flying and leaping through the air, fighting while flirting, and learning to shoot a bow and arrow in just one day.
When discussing fantasy, a phrase often heard is “suspension of disbelief,” which occurs every time you watch a fiction movie or series or play a game in which your character has unique abilities.
Your mind is taken out of reality, and you focus only on what is happening at that moment. In most parts of the Shang-Chi movie, this is precisely what occurs. It is at its best when the story is all fantasy and full of emotion, drama, and exaggeration.
In the other moments, when the film tries to be “set in the real world” and bring a more personal connection to the audience, it declines in quality, not because it is terrible, but because the more make-believe moments are excellent.
To bring more of that connection to reality and set a comedic tone that is the hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have Katy, played by Awkwafina, Shang-Chi‘s best friend.
She might well have stolen the film for herself had Simu Liu not been able to keep up with the excellent actress so well.
The two actors have gigantic chemistry on stage. Every dialogue between them is fast, insightful and full of nuance. They convey the feeling of being best friends, and at the same time, you can see all the affection they have.
Another great highlight is Xialing, Shang-Chi’s sister, played by Meng’er Zhang. The character has a unique charisma and manages to have as interesting a story as her brother.
Zhang‘s screen presence is felt whenever she appears, and it is impossible not to root for her, which makes it all the better that we should see more of the character in the future.
The relationship between Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Wenwu is excellent, and the film works very well on the family concept and how grief can destroy a person.
In its most dramatic moments, we have a show coming from Tony Leung‘s acting. However, Simu Liu does not let the game drop and keeps the level, proving that he can vary between comedy and drama very well.
We have the biggest problem with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as a film in the final battle.
Without giving spoilers, after an exciting and outstanding fight between Shang-Chi and his father, we get another battle, this time involving giant monsters that, unlike all the other fantasy elements in the film, doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work so well because clearly, this was one of the studio’s “little demands,” and the whole sequence feels out of place from everything the film was doing up to that point.
In the end, Shang-Chi has everything to become one of the most beloved heroes in Marvel’s future, especially if he keeps on showing up in other productions – as is expected.
Simu Liu and Awkwafina are a duo with plenty of charisma and can easily carry a franchise on their backs, whether fighting side-by-side or singing at a karaoke bar.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings an original story and is not afraid to dare by bringing in different and bold ideas than what we are used to in other superhero movies.
A great formula to be followed in Marvel’s future.
Shang-Chi Becomes Marvel Studios’ Highest Rated Film on Rotten Tomatoes
Shang-Chi is not doing poorly! The film has impressed with an enviable opening box office. The public response looks pretty positive: Marvel Studios’ work with the highest viewer rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Shang-Chi has a 98% audience approval rating on the site, an average taken from over five thousand verified viewer reviews.
This puts the film ahead of Spider-Man: Far From Home (95%), Guardians of the Galaxy (92%), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (91%), and even Avengers: Endgame (90%).
On the other hand, the critical rating is slightly lower, averaging 93% among 254 reviews.
In this respect, Shang-Chi is on par with Thor: Ragnarok, but behind Iron Man (94%), Avengers: Endgame (94%), and Black Panther (96%).