'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' - Spoiler Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has released its second film of 2021 in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Marvel is often referred to as a safe movie studio, they rarely take chances or make controversial films. I think when they announced they were going to make Guardians of the Galaxy into a movie, which was their first big risk, but with Shang-Chi, I think Marvel is taking its biggest risk to date. Shang-Chi is a fantastic film and is a great addition to the MCU. The film features a very international cast and a lot of subtitles, but to me it is great, and I look forward to the sequel. Shang-Chi stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Awkwafina plays Shang-Chi's friend Katy, Tony Leung plays Shang-Chi's father Wenwu, Michelle Yeoh plays Shang-Chi's aunt Ying Nan and Meng'er Zhang plays Shang-Chi's sister Xialing. Based on the cast it is obvious that the main cast is all tied directly to our main character, the film is very focused on family. The strong focus on family is one of the main strengths of the film, the director Destin Daniel Cretton also co-wrote the screenplay and I think he nailed the emotional beats in the film.  

I am not going to spoil anything yet, but I will say there are two post-credits scenes, and there are some MCU characters who make appearances in the film. The fight choreography was another strength of the film, and I also thought the cinematography and visual style were great. The chemistry between Simu Liu and Awkwafina was great, but the standout performance was Tony Leung as Wenwu. Wenwu was the main antagonist, but he was also a very sympathetic character. Leung may not be entirely familiar to North American audiences, but he has had an incredible career in the Asian market. I remember when he was cast, I was very excited because I knew his name even if I have only ever seen a few of his films. The film is about family, the core theme about the film hit me at a few points in the film, it affected me as the story played out. There are also some mysteries introduced into the MCU from Shang-Chi which I will talk about once we get into the spoilers. I did not realize how much I missed the MCU until watching Shang-Chi and seeing the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home. In my review of Black Widow, I gave the film a 7/10, but I had a lot of issues with the film. I did not think Black Widow worked as a story; it might have if it was made before Avengers: Endgame, but Black Widow was made too late for the story it was telling. After my disappointment with Black Widow, Shang-Chi has restored my full confidence in Marvel, Shang-Chi is probably the best introduction since Guardians of the Galaxy.


The film opens with a telling/showing of the legend of the ten rings which also serves as an introduction to Wenwu. The legend says Wenwu might have come into possession of the ten rings by finding them in a crater, they have bestowed him with great power and immortality. Wenwu has endlessly craved power, over the centuries he and his organization the Ten Rings has amassed power, but when Wenwu goes looking for a mystical city his life is forever changed. The mystical city is called Ta Lo and it is home to mythical beasts which Wenwu is seeking to increase his power base. Wenwu encounters a woman named Ying Li who is a guardian of Ta Lo, she fights Wenwu and is easily a match for him even with his powerful bracelets. Wenwu becomes enraptured by Ying Li, and he starts to spend time with her, they fall for each other and Ying Li leaves Ta Lo to start a family with Wenwu. Wenwu was denied entrance to Ta Lo so if Ying Li wants to be with him, she must leave home. Ying Li and Wenwu have two children, Wenwu puts away his bracelets and disbands the Ten Rings organization. Eventually, the crimes Wenwu committed in his past come back to destroy his life, Ying Li is killed by an enemy of Wenwu. Wenwu enraged at his loss once again wears the bracelet and restarts the Ten Rings. Wenwu then starts training his eldest child Shang-Chi to help him avenge the death of Ying Li. 

We then jump forward ten years, and we see Shang-Chi living in San Francisco as Shaun, he works as a valet with his friend Katy. Shang is living a normal life, he works and has fun with Katy, but eventually, he is confronted by men who work for his father. The men demand Shang give them his necklace, the necklace was given to him and his sister by his mother.  Shang fights off the attackers, but one of them called Razor Fist (dude has a sword for a hand) is able to take the necklace and escape. Shang is now concerned for his sister's safety heads to Macau, Katy now knowing about Shang's past is determined to help him. They locate his sister who is now running an underground fight club where she is the champion. When Shang and Katy arrive, they see a fight happening between Wong (Benedict Wong) and Abomination (Tim Roth), Shang is then forced to fight his sister who knocks him out. Xu Xialing has been holding a grudge against Shang since he abandoned the family ten years earlier.  Before they can work out their issues the Ten Rings arrive and attack the club, one of their father's henchmen Death Dealer is able to take Xialing's necklace. Shang chases down Death Dealer and defeats him, but his father arrives and stops him. The family is now reunited (along with Katy) heads back to the family/Ten Rings compound. Wenwu tells his children why he has brought them home, he has been communicating with Ying Li and to save her he needs to go to Ta Lo and set her free. The two pendants on the necklaces form the eyes of a dragon which will reveal the path to Ta Lo. Shang and Xialing disagree with their father's plan, so he has them imprisoned in the compound. 

Another prisoner of Wenwu is actor Trevor Slattery (played again by Ben Kingsley), who was imprisoned because he impersonated Wenwu during the events of Iron Man 3. Trevor has a pet named Morris; Morris is one of the mythical creatures of Ta Lo that Wenwu found. Morris tells them he can get them to Ta Lo, Morris wants to go home. Xialing gets them free, and they escape in Razor Fist's SUV. Morris leads them through to Ta Lo where they meet Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) who is their aunt, Ying Nan welcomes them, and they assist the residents of Ta Lo to help fight off their father and his men. Ying Nan informs them that their father is being tricked by the Dweller-in-Darkness who is imprisoned in Ta Lo and is manipulating Wenwu into freeing him. Ta Lo has a Great Protector who helped defeat and imprisons the Dweller-in-Darkness (DiD), the great protector is a dragon who resides in the lake. Shang and Xialing visit a shrine for their mother, and they prepare for battle against their father and the Ten Rings. Ying Nan teaches Shang the techniques that are trained in Ta Lo, the same moves his mother used to stop his father. Katy gets trained in archery; the arrow heads are made of dragon scales that were gifted to Ta Lo by the Great Protector. 

Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive, Wenwu instructs the Ten Rings to "burn it all down" while he makes his way to his wife's shrine. Shang confronts his father and makes a final plea to get him to stand down, Wenwu does not want to stop so they begin to fight. Wenwu using the rings and Shang using some of the dragon skin weapons. The fight becomes more intense and eventually Wenwu uses the rings and blasts Shang into the lake. Wenwu then uses the rings to cross the lake and make his way to the mountain and the gate that is keeping his wife imprisoned. Wenwu starts attacking the gate using the rings, the gate starts to break, instead of his wife coming out flying creatures come out. The creatures make their way to the battle between the residents of Ta Lo and the Ten Rings, the creature then attacks Death Dealer and sucks out his soul and carries it back inside the mountain prison. Ying Nan informs everyone that the creatures are bring the souls to the DiD who is feeding on the souls and getting stronger. The Ten Rings and Ta Lo agree that the enemy is now the creatures, and they start fighting together. Shang is at the bottom of lake, and he encounters the Great Protector which is a dragon. The dragon comes out of the lake and starts killing the creatures, Shang is riding on the back of the dragon, and he jumps off to once again confront his father. Shang and Wenwu fight again but this time Shang is using the techniques of Ta Lo like his mother did. Shang is successful in fending off the rings, but the DiD breaks out and we see it is a gargantuan creature. Wenwu realizes he was wrong, but before he can do anything he is taken by the DiD and his soul is eaten. Wenwu is able to manage one last meaningful glance at his son before he is gone, Wenwu's last act is to pass the rings to his son. Shang now in possession of the rings starts trying to fight the DiD. Shang's attacks do little or no damage, but Xialing arrives riding the Great Protector. Shang jumps on the Great Protector, and they battle the DiD, but the Great Protector is in danger of getting it's soul eaten but Katy shoots an arrow that pierces the DiD's throat. Shang then shoots the rings down into the DiD's stomach wear he manipulates them into a fireball that explodes killing the Dweller-in-Darkness. 

We now joining Shang and Katy who are back in San Francisco, while at a dinner with a friend they explain their adventures. Their friend does not believe them until Wong opens a portal in the middle of the restaurant and he invites Katy and Shang to follow him as they have important work to do as the credits roll. There are two post-credit scenes, the first one features Shang, Katy, Wong, Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner (no longer Hulk but his arm is still in a sling). They are examining the ten rings, the origin of the rings is unknown, but they are very old, and they are emitting some sort of signal. The second scene focuses on Xialing who is according to Shang taking apart the Ten Rings, but instead she is rebuilding it and she sits on her father's throne as the film comes to a close.


I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed the film, after watching Black Widow I think I lowered my expectations for Shang-Chi. I am not going to say it is a perfect film, but I would argue it is one of the more enjoyable first films. Iron Man blew audiences away when it was first released, and I think Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark was a big reason why. I think Simu Liu was fantastic as Shang, and Awkwafina was great as Katy, I look forward to seeing them together again. The chemistry between Katy and Shang gave the film a fun feel that made it such a great watch. I was not expecting the return of Ben Kingsley, but he was a great addition to the cast. Kingsley's presence allowed him to take on the role of comic relief which led to Awkwafina having a more dramatic presence in the last act of the film. If fans did not watch the Marvel short film All Hail the King, they would never have expected to see Ben Kingsley again. The short-film was a series of shorts that Marvel made that they would put as an extra on the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of the films of the MCU. The series was called Marvel One-Shots, they only ever made five, but All Hail the King was one of the better ones. All Hail the King followed Kingsley as he was being interviewed about his pretending to be the Mandarin. The interviewer it would turn out was a member of the Ten Rings and the real Mandarin wanted Kingsley to pay for his crimes. The interviewer kidnaps Kingsley with the intention of bring him to the real leader of the Ten Rings. Kingsley's presence allowed

The scene involving Shang and Katy speaking with Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel was also surprising. I did not expect to see Shang meet Avengers; I was also not expecting to see that Bruce Banner is back to being human. Banner will appear in the She-Hulk Disney Plus series, I have to think we will learn more about what has happened with Bruce in that series. We never learn the origins of the rings or even how Wenwu came into possession of them. The end credit scene confirms that the origins of the rings will be important and will have significance for the MCU going forward. I also liked that Xialing instead of dismantling the Ten Rings she is expanding it; I am not sure if she intends to use them for bad or if she will be more of anti-hero in the future. I really enjoyed Wenwu, and I thought Tony Leung did a great job. Leung has often played a romantic leading man; he commands the screen whenever he is on it. I am not sure what other actor could have done such a great job with the character as Leung did, he did a great job with showing Wenwu's tender side. The look on his face as his soul is being sucked out was one of peace and love of his son. 

I did have a few issues with the film, no film is perfect, and Shang-Chi is no different. My gripes are small and did not keep from enjoying the film, but there are still issues to be talked about. My biggest gripe was the Dweller-in-Darkness, the main antagonist in the film did not speak and showed no personality at all. I never believed Wenwu was the villain, he did bad things, but we got to see a loving side of him, and I never felt he was the true antagonist. When the Dweller-in-Darkness was revealed, I thought the design was interesting, but I had wished it was a villain with a personality. Another complaint I had with the film was that while I enjoyed the bus and skyscraper fights, I felt the film went away from that. After the fight on the skyscraper, the martial arts fighting kind of disappeared from the film. I had hoped they could have incorporated that into the entire film, also Death Dealer was such a cool looking character that nothing was done with. I had thought that Wenwu would be the leader and Razor Fist and Death Dealer would be given more to do. Death Dealer, much like the Dweller-in-Darkness was given no personality; it is reminiscent of Captain Phasma in the new Star Wars films. 

I am going to give Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings a 9/10, it is an amazing new entry into the MCU and a must watch for fans. The film has a story centered around family which delivers some great emotional moments and has given the MCU three new characters that matter. I did not talk too much about the humor in my review but that is because I was blown away by some of the other elements in the film. The MCU has consistently delivered humor in all of it's films and series, and Shang-Chi is no different. One of the funniest scenes was when there was the fight on the bus and one of the passengers was recording, that passenger needs to appear again in the MCU. There are a lot of subtitles in the film, but I thought the decision to not make the film exclusively in English was a brave choice. While I did find some flaws with the film, I overall think it is one of the best first entries into the MCU and I can't wait to watch the film again. 

Thank you for reading my review of Shang-Chi, let me know your thoughts on the film.

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