We are finally getting into Phase Four of the MCU with this film kickstarting the COVID delayed MCU slate. Spider-Man: Far From Home kicked off the post End War MCU and this film along with The Eternals in November and Spider-Man: No Way Home in December are looking to kick the MCU back into overdrive and world domination. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is not quite the knock out punch that we may have been expecting, but it is an entertaining film and one that, while treading a similar path to other origin films in the MCU, carves out a niche for itself in the growing cinematic universe.
NOTE: Minor spoilers ahead, though relatively spoiler-free.
There is no mistaking this film for anything other than an origin film. It starts with an exposition-heavy opening for five minutes explaining who the main villain is, and where his power came from. Kinda. The film goes out of its way to tease you with what the Ten Rings are but never explains anything about them. It's obvious sequel bait so be prepared to be left with some questions once the final credits roll and the lights come up.
Also be prepared throughout the film to be expected to read. There are many scenes where the characters speak Mandarin lending a bit more authenticity to the film and its inspiration in Chinese and Hong Kong cinema. The recent news of the English remake of Train to Busan has led to minor controversy over the seeming unwillingness of many in the west to watch foreign language films. This film unintentionally steps into that argument by essentially forcing the enormous MCU fanbase to watch a film featuring a foreign language prominently.
One of the many criticisms of the MCU is that they have settled on a formula and Shang-Chi doesn’t dispel that criticism. The film starts off with Wen Wu’s origin and immediately introduces us to slackers Sean and Katy - two lost souls with all the potential in the world, but none of the ambition. Him, because he is trying to escape his past, and her, because she’s scared of failing. They are even called out by a high school friend for being supremely intelligent and talented but lazy. But that lasts all of ten minutes or so it seems as Sean and Katy are attacked on a bus (that scene from the trailers). We are then thrust into Sean’s backstory, told in flashback throughout the first two acts, and the fact that his real name is Shang-Chi and he is the son of a terrorist who is attacking Shang-Chi and his sister Xiliang in order to acquire the pendants their mother gave them.
This film unintentionally steps into that argument by essentially forcing the enormous MCU fanbase to watch a film featuring a foreign language prominently.
Tony Leung, a veteran of Hong Kong cinema, brings his decades of experience and talent to the role and turns what would normally be a forgettable villain into someone you can empathize with.
The rest of the supporting cast are sadly not given any sort of room to become fully formed characters.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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3 September 2021
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