Do dreams come true? Sometimes they do. Back in 2018, Simu Liu tweeted at Marvel asking if they were going to talk. Almost three years later, Liu is in commercials and on billboards around the world as Shang-Chi in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, Just Mercy), Shang-Chi follows Shaun (Simu Liu) a mild-mannered valet attendant living in San Francisco. He spends most of his time with his friend Katy (Akwafina). When they aren’t at work parking cars, they’re spending their nights singing karaoke until the morning hours.
After Shaun is attacked by a gang of goons, we learn who Shaun really is and more about his father Wenwu (Tony Leung), and the Ten Rings organization. Fearful the goons are going after his sister (played by Meng’er Zhang), Shaun, along with Katy, try to find her and stop whatever evil business their father is up to.
To prepare for Shang-Chi, it would help to have seen a few of the previous 24 MCU films. For those that haven’t, Shang-Chi works very well as a standalone origin story. Because Shang-Chi is the second film in MCU’s Phase Four, it builds on the previous films and lays groundwork or future MCU projects.
Simu Liu is fantastic as Shang-Chi. He feels made for the role the same way Robert Downey Jr. was made to play Tony Stark, or the way Chadwick embodied his role as T’Challa in Black Panther. It was incredible to see Liu fighting as a skilled martial artist. What is more impressive was Liu’s non-fighting scenes. He delivers a few touching moments and is great during the comedic scenes.
The real star of the show is Tony Leung as Wenwu. Leung has the most to do in this film. He’s playing different versions of Wenwu during flashbacks. Leung is also having the most fun playing the villain. He’s intimidating as a father, evil as the leader of the ten rings and terrifying when he’s using the ten rings. Leung is a legend with almost 100 acting credits. He’ll be an even bigger household name after this performance.
Speaking of legends, Michelle Yeoh graces the screen as Ying Nan. Yeoh continues her streak of flawless performances.
Meng’er Zhang is a newcomer but you couldn’t tell from her performance. From the martial arts to the acting, you would think Zhang is a seasoned actor. She gives an electric performance as Shaun’s estranged sister. This won’t be the last time audiences see Zhang on the big screen. I anticipate her phone will be ringing for a long time.
Fans can be assured Shang-Chi is full of the big beautiful action set pieces they’ve become accustomed to. It has ninjas , close quarter fights, and big sprawling battles. It also has some great cameos and callbacks to reward fans that have sat through all 24 MCU films.
The final act includes a beautiful battle. It’s a colorful ballad of hand-to-hand combat, magical rings, old school weapons, new age technology, and magic. The sequence something that needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. It’s the kind of spectacle that gigantic theater screens were made for.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is technically an origin story. It’s also the perfect bridge into the next phase of Marvel films. It’s a balance of new and old with a twist of “I’ve never seen that before.” Shang Chi is everything you’d want from a superhero film. It’s a story with heart told through a star studded ensemble cast. It’s a launching pad for young actors like Simu Liu and Meng’er Zhang and recognition of legends like Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh.