Director Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy) leads the next entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe,
Shang-Chi and the legend of the Ten Rings. The script of Cretton, Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984), and Andrew Lanham (The Kid) is action-packed and entertaining. Nevertheless, it can be disappointing for longtime fans of the original comic book due to the many subtle and not-so-subtle changes to its backstory.
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) work as parking valets, choosing to live a simplistic life instead of taking advantage of their college degree. This changes when Shang’s father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), sends his hangers to collect the necklace his mother, Ying Li (Fala Chen), gave him before she died. After receiving it, Wenwu counts Shang’s foreign sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) next. Now, instead of hiding his past, Shang must learn to achieve it in order to save his sister, his mother’s people, and his world from his father as well as an overwhelming threat from another dimension.
Even though changes have been made to most aspects of the character piece, the script is not bad. The story has good pace, interesting and believable development, and pleasant closure – while making it clear Shang -Chi is now an essential part of the MCU. As is often the case when the director also had a hand in writing the script, Cretton knew what he wanted from the actors and worked well to pull it off of them. The most enjoyable is the Aquwafina seen as more than just weird relief with nothing more than a series of one-liners. As with Breaking News in Yuma County, she shows acting ability across the tropics. Her idea of an American-born Asian who does not have the accent of her elders is in place. However, the California birth of her character does not quite fit with her native New York Flex.
The martial arts scenes are easy to follow and wonderful to watch; they are as much a dance as a fight. Unfortunately, this is not true for the late battle with monsters as well as humans. The special effects, especially the magical creatures, are visually amazing even for a Marvel movie, but battles with them are chaotic and often difficult to pursue.
All in all, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are a good entry into the next phase of the Marvel Character universe. The story is interesting, the characters are relatable, and the action is fun but at times friendly. The power of its place in the Marvel universe remains a mystery until the arc is further developed. But for now, one thing is clear — Shang-Chi is the master of kung fu.