Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings Review
What is the most amazing quality of the MCU? Is it the sheer spectacle of its films? Or the massive, interconnected story it tells? They are good qualities, but if you were to ask me, a hardcore comic book geek, it would be one thing: it’s ability to take little-known characters and turn them into superstars. Before they got their own movie, The Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t in the same league as the Avengers. Now they’re a household name. Black Panther was well-known among those who were familiar with superheroes, but when he got his own film, he became a cultural icon. Now, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel’s trying to repeat the success of both of these films. The result is a stunning, emotional, and action-packed journey into East Asian culture that rarely gets visited on the big screen in the West. And it. Is. AMAZING!
First, Who are the Ten Rings?
Firstly, we should get this out of the way and address just who are the Ten Rings. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen them in the MCU. In fact, they’ve been a part of it since the very beginning.
Those who saw the original Iron Man may remember that the Ten Rings were the terrorist group that attacked and nearly killed Tony Stark, leading to him first becoming Iron Man to escape. Iron Man would fight them both on and offscreen over the course of the MCU, with Iron Man 3 looking like it would cap things off with the reveal of their leader, the Mandarin. However, it turned out to be a bait-and-switch, much to a lot of fans dismay. But now, the real deal is about to take center stage.
The Legend of Shang-Chi
Taking place firmly at the start of Phase 4 of the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tells the story of Shang-Chi, a seemingly ordinary young man who’s just trying to make it through life. However, he’s got a big secret: his father is the centuries old leader of the infamous Ten Rings organization. For years, Shang-Chi’s tried to run from his past and history. But now that past has caught up with him, and one way or another, the Ten Rings will see him fulfill his destiny.
While The Legend of Shang-Chi has that inevitable saving-the-day aspect to the story, at its heart, the film is a story about the importance of family. Many cultures around the world hold the concept of family as sacred. For better or worse, our families can play a role in defining who we are as people. In Shang-Chi’s case, he starts the film out with a very broken family. He left his sister behind when he ran away, his Mom’s dead, and his Dad is a centuries-old conqueror. Besides his sister and late mother, Shang-Chi wants nothing to do with his family. Yet it’s only by acknowledging both halves of himself that allow him to unleash his true potential. Balance.
Some Creative Liberties
The film takes more than a few creative liberties in regards to Shang-Chi’s father, Xu Wenwu, AKA the Mandarin. Firstly, he’s only called the Mandarin once onscreen, and that’s to joke about how stupid the name his imposter used was. It’s not just a title; it’s also a Chinese dish. Secondly, his “ten rings” aren’t really rings, but arm bands that he can mentally control to perform great acts of strength and prolong his life.
Lastly, and this is the big difference, whereas the comic book Mandarin is a would-be global conquerer, this version has a simpler goal: he just wants to find a way to bring his wife back to life.
In the past, Wenwu was indeed a globally-spanning warlord, until he met Shang-Chi’s mother, and she gave him something he never knew he needed: peace. As a result, he fell in love, and the two walked away from their past lives to start a family. Wenwu even shut down the Ten Rings for a time. However, when his past catches up to him and leads to tragedy, Wenwu doesn’t just return to his conquering roots. He does so with the intention of reuniting with his wife at all costs.
As far as motivation goes, the Mandarin’s is not only believable, but very understandable, given what he went through. This may end up putting him right up there with Thanos and Killmonger when it comes to great MCU villains. I certainly hope so, given how his organization kickstarted the MCU in the first place.
Masterful Martial Arts
By far one of the best things about Shang-Chi were the fight scenes. While the fights in most MCU films usually draw notice, the ones in this film are particularly noteworthy. People familiar with Asian Martial Arts will recognize their influence on the fighting in the film. The result is something that somehow blends the action of martial art films with the grandeur that the MCU is prone to give us, and I LOVED IT! At various points, I almost forgot that I was watching an MCU film and instead seeing something akin to a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender. Only difference is that here the people making the film knew what they were doing.
Not to mention the fact that the latter half of the film contains various mythical creatures found in myths and legends. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that there’s one creature that deserves to be made a plushie.
A Must-See Film
Once again, the MCU has managed to deliver a blockbuster hit. Only this time, it’s in the form of a martial art/superhero hybrid that would make the likes of Bruce Lee proud. If you choose only one film to watch this month, then I’d go see this one!