Origin stories always have to come correct.
While we can harp on the positive nature of Asian representation on screen here with this newest chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings what’s most important to really draw out of this is just how honest and fun the ride we get taken on really is.
Shaun/Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
OK, we’ll be the first to admit that from a purely story perspective, there’s nothing in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that is reinventing the cinematic wheel because when you’ve seen one origin story…you’ve basically seen them all. Where this film differs as that we really feel like it has been earned and we as an audience are allowed to embrace Shaun’s journey into who he is meant to be in Shang-Chi, we haven’t had an on screen introduction to a character like this since a skinny Chris Evans showed up in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Despite never having done a film on this scale before, Marvel continues their fantastic track record as yet another filmmaker climbs on board who knows to put character before all else. What genuinely surprised this critic is how well Destin Daniel Cretton managed to handle the action sequences, which until the end of the film all felt very kinetic and pulled out of the ‘Hong-Kong’ style of action filmmaking.
The film is a RIDE which looks like a million bucks and it’s all handled very well because we never lose focus on the characters at any moment. Cretton (who also co-wrote the script) allows the characters to have moments of doubt, moments of fear…moments that make them more then super heroes, moments that make them human beings, which is why we fall in love with these characters in the first place.
In the starring role and carrying the weight of the global Asian community on his shoulder, Simu Liu simply does a fantastic job here. He’s not falling into the trap of trying to be a superhero on screen, he’s just being a guy who is thrown into some extraordinary circumstances and he has to look inside himself to see if he is up for the task.
Jumping from the world of Kim’s Convenience to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is daunting challenge to be sure, but Simu handles it with ease and is a movie star and a quality character actor that will be at the top of posters for decades to come.
Awkwafina was a perfect running mate in this journey that these characters are set off on. Playing in-between the lines of a brother/sister, best friends who may end up as lovers down the line is pretty fun to watch as they get introduced to the MCU. As we’ve seen in recent films, Awkwafina is adapt at bouncing between drama and comedy and does so very well here, Michelle Yeoh is bound to play a bigger role in future films while the iconic Tony Chiu-Wai Leung rounds it all out as our bad guy who is opening the door to a whole new world of danger.
Ultimately, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings shines because of excellent execution and character work that gets us invested in the adventures that are yet to come.