Sign up for our weekly newsletter
NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Film Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

10 September 21 words: George White

Shang-Chi marks 25 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But is it a worthy entry into one of the most beloved franchises of all time?

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Running time: 132 minutes 

Throughout the thirteen years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, the cinematic giants have consistently proven that they can get the most of their, well, less giant properties. Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive risk back in 2014, with Marvel chief Kevin Feige gambling on a group of relatively unknown characters – including a talking tree and Andy from Parks and Recreation – to prove a summer sensation, and it worked. Phase Three of the MCU was built around Thanos, a villain far less popular than the likes of Doctor Doom or Mephisto. Hell, even Iron Man and Captain America, the pair tasked with kickstarting this entire operation, were minnows compared to the global phenomena of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

What is this rambling, convoluted introduction trying to suggest? Well, that Marvel once again took a punt on a lesser known quantity in the form of Shang-Chi – and it has, once again, worked a treat. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a resounding success, bringing the trademark combination of enjoyable comedy, touching emotional beats and high octane action that has made this franchise one of the most popular in the history of cinema. 

After Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi flees his thousand-year-old war mongering father Xu Wenwu (the phenomenal Tony Leung) and tries to reinvent himself in San Francisco, his past resurfaces and drags him into a battle to the future of the Earth as we know it. Blimey. What follows is a fast-paced, fight-heavy yet still largely grounded and sentimental tale of a family torn about by grief and devastation. Impressively, Marvel manages to tread that line between entertainment and emotion better than most others in the game yet again. 

Credit for this should undoubtedly go to writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and his team behind the scenes, who pen one of the sharpest, most effective scripts the MCU has seen since Infinity War. While some recent big screen releases have attempted to ring on-the-nose moments of humour out of actors who haven’t been up to the task, Cretton and co clearly built the script with certain characters and certain actors in mind – and it pays off.

Just like Britney Spears at the turn of the millennium, Feige and his team went and did it again

Awkwafina is a real highlight throughout, her delightful charm providing a constant stream of effective comedic relief, making her the perfect sidekick for Liu’s Shang-Chi. Liu himself seems a fantastic find for the future of this franchise, his ability to bring buckets of charisma all while remaining sincere and vulnerable helping to invest the audience in this story. A special guest appearance from a certain character from Iron Man 3 (if you think that’s a spoiler, Marvel’s Instagram account seems to think otherwise) is also a stroke of genius, offering the first real laugh out loud moments since Drax asked “Why is Gamora?” three years ago. 

Cretton also deserves praise for developing the first MCU movie that can lay a glove on Captain America: The Winter Soldier in terms of action. Reportedly inspired by the classic kung fu flicks of Jackie Chan, this globe-trotting caper has our heroes battling on buses, scrapping on bamboo scaffolding and going head-to-head in mystical forests – and it is an absolute blast from start to finish.

Sure, by the final act any sense of grounding has gone out of the window as something approaching a CGI Jackson Pollock comes to the fore, but even that remains relatively easy-to-follow and immersive for the viewer – a feat the likes of Godzilla: King of the Monsters have failed to manage in recent years. 

So, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings proves another risk well taken from those scrappy underdogs at Marvel. All sarcasm aside, though, this was a big deal for the franchise – a brand new character, the first film since Avengers: Endgame to move the overarching plot of the franchise forward, and a massive (and overdue) step for representation in Hollywood – and it’s worked like a charm. Just like Britney Spears at the turn of the millennium, Feige and his team went and did it again.

Did you know? This is legendary Hong Kong film actor Tony Chiu-Wai Leung's first role in an American film and his first English-speaking role, even though he has always spoken it fluently.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in cinemas now

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now