Shang-Chi breaks new ground whilst staying loyal to the Marvel formula


By James Magee, Politics & Spanish, First Year

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The 25th entry in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hit cinemas in September as the first in the franchise’s new phase to be set after 2019’s hugely successful ‘Avengers: Endgame’.

Here, we’re introduced to Shaun (Simu Liu) – a new hero with big daddy issues – who, at the start of the film, is living under the radar in San Francisco. Accompanied by his best friend Katie, played by the hilariously witty Awkwafina, he enjoys a happy, peaceful existence away from the painful memories of his childhood when he was trained by his warrior/terrorist father (martial arts and acting legend, Tony Leung) to be an assassin for the Ten Rings, an organisation which has connections going back to the Iron Man trilogy. However, after being hunted down by his past, he finds himself suddenly drawn back into his old life, leading him on a journey to confront his demons and put a stop to his father’s evil shenanigans.

Courtesy of IMDB

This marks the first time Marvel movie to be fronted by a character of Asian heritage, thus giving it a cultural significance easily comparable to that of ‘Black Panther’, which drew worldwide attention in 2018 for being the first major Hollywood blockbuster to feature an almost fully black cast.

Shang-Chi at first does a brilliant job of blending traditional martial arts with modern action sequences which grip the audience. Fight scenes on a tram trawling through the streets of San Fran and from skyscrapers in Macau are among the highlights. Yet, as the plot unfolds it leads to a conclusion that gives way to some of the cliches of the genre and feels very much like the type of ending we see time and again in many other superhero flicks.

Courtesy of IMDB

Without doubt, the film works best when Liu and Awkwafina are sharing the screen. Their chemistry is terrific and keeps the narrative grounded; hence it feels disappointing when the story focuses more on action set pieces in its final stages and abandons a lot of its character development.

If you love the MCU because of how its individual storylines interweave, you might be left a bit disappointed. Despite teasing links to ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Doctor Strange’, it leaves fans with plenty more questions than answers to the wider path of the franchise. In other words, it puts us exactly where Disney wants us: itching to find out what happens next and ready to book tickets for the next instalment in the series, ‘Eternals’, which is released on 5th November.

Courtesy of IMDB

Nevertheless, the film serves as a decent origins story for Liu’s hero and takes a step in the right direction in the post-Endgame era. Even though it falls into old habits towards the end, Shang-Chi does enough to feel original, tuning into a largely excluded demographic and so definitely worth a trip to the cinema in these trying times.

Featured Image: IMDB

Do you feel Shang-Chi lived up to the hype?