Another year, another milestone reached for the MCU with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings being the twenty-fifth film of the ever expanding franchise that has certainly made 2021 the year it made one hell of a comeback after an overly long absence as a result of the pandemic. Shang-Chi also has another important role to play in the MCU with it being the first film to feature an Asian lead and they sure as hell knock it out of the park with one of the better origin stories of the franchise so far.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the master of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
Shang-Chi, rather incredibly, feels insanely fresh for the 25th film of a franchise that has been going for well over a decade now. Phase Four of the MCU has been a real delight to witness so far in 2021, taking the franchise in a bold new direction that it had to after the Infinity Saga. While Shang-Chi doesn't really lean into the whole multiverse idea that is really prominent in the MCU right now, it's setting and exploration of the Chinese culture as well as the martial arts aspect offers up a new angle for them to approach the storytelling side of things.

This really is one of the better origin stories we've been treated to in a superhero film and not just within the MCU, the family dynamic crossed with the lore of the culture making it such a compelling watch. Surprisingly, Shang-Chi is a very emotional film thanks to the screenplay from Destin Daniel Cretton, Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, who utilise the family aspect of it all to great effect. The final act is where Shang-Chi may lose a lot of its audience to the usual MCU crash-bang finish however, bringing the lore to the fore and making it drive the mind-blowing finale forward works wonders for the film, leaving me watching in awe from my seat.

With Shang-Chi, director Destin Daniel Cretton proves he can deliver the action, something the MCU relies upon heavily, in spades. With the help of some truly stunning fight choreography, Bill Pope's breathtakingly vibrant cinematography and top-of the range visual effects, this film offers up some of the most thrilling fight sequences the MCU has ever seen. The bus fight, the scaffolding fight and the final act are just a few of the action sequences that will live long in the memory within the franchise, Joel P. West's score accompanying the sweeping narrative and epic action with such grandeur.
Simu Liu introduces himself to worldwide audiences with such a confident and charismatic performance as Shang-Chi, who instantly becomes one of the favourites in such a stacked roster. It always speaks volumes about an actor's portrayal of a character in these films when you can't wait to see them further down the line again. Awkwafina brings a lot of the humour to proceedings but not too much for it to make it overly distracting from the rest of the film while Benedict Wong threatens to steal the whole film with his brief appearance that could set up something potentially huge for the future of the MCU. It's great to see Michelle Yeoh kicking ass again in such a major film and Meng'er Zhang does herself no harm with a wonderfully badass turn as Shang-Chi's sister, Xu Xialing. Tony Leung is the film's secret weapon though, his villainous turn bringing about such an emotional conflict between father and son yet his actions being driven by grief make him such a sympathetic villain. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RIngs is a very welcome addition to the MCU, exploring culture and offering a diverse hero and cast in the same way Black Panther did back in 2018. What I loved most about Shang-Chi though is that it gave me the feeling of knowing I was watching something special.

Verdict: ★★★★★


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