Following the dud that was “Black Widow,” Marvel Studios was relying on their next film, “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” to have a much better critical and fiscal performance. With the film being an origin story for a character that has never been seen on the big screen before and has a shaky comic history, that was no guarantee. After only one weekend, all those fears were put to rest. Shang Chi grossed $94.6 million dollars on opening weekend in the U.S. alone, the highest domestic opening during the pandemic. After seeing the film, it was easy to see why.
Shang Chi is a refreshing, action-packed, heart-felt epic about family that is the most original film released by Marvel Studios in a long time. The film has a nice balance of humor and serious moments and the pacing is well done. A lot of the comedic moments in the film come from Shang’s friend Katy, played by Awkwafina. She is constantly cracking jokes and providing tension-breaking comic relief during this family drama. It was also refreshing to see the main female character and the main male character not making out at the end of the film and not being forced to be a couple. They just stayed friends and the film was better for it.
Speaking of family drama, that is the main focus of the film. Shang’s father, Wenwu, the leader of a criminal organization known as The Ten Rings, named after the awesome weapons that he wields on his forearms, wants his son back so he can help him find his long-lost wife and bring their family back together. Wait, a villain who’s evil plan is to bring his family back together? It doesn’t sound too evil to me. This was another example of this film being refreshing because the villain is not necessarily evil, instead blinded by grief. You see, Shang’s mother and Wenwu’s wife was murdered after Wenwu went legit out of love for his family, and Wenwu thinks she is still alive and being trapped in the mystical dimension that she is from, Ta-Lo. Shang does not want anything to do with his father because of how his father raised him to be a living weapon and had him kill the leader of the gang that killed his mother when he was only fourteen.
Shang’s stand-offish attitude towards his family is also reflected by his relationship with his sister Xialing, whom he abandoned with their crime lord father after running away from home. He feels guilty for leaving her, and they have several moments of tension throughout the film but ultimately work as a team in the end. The two end up on the same side fighting against their father’s forces that are trying to destroy Ta-Lo in pursuit of their dead mother.
Now you may be wondering, why is Wenwu trying to rescue his wife from the dimension that she is from when he clearly saw her die earlier in the film? It turns out a demon from Ta-Lo known as the Dweller in Darkness, had been feeding off of Wenwu’s grief and infecting his mind with the idea that all he needed to do was destroy the gate in Ta-Lo to free his wife, when it reality, it would set himself free to devour the souls of everyone around. Shang and Xialing know this, and that pits them against their father as they try to stop him from unwillingly unleashing an army of soul-sucking monsters.
The final battle is exciting and still has some comedic moments from Katy as well as Trevor, the fake Mandarin from “Iron Man 3” that Wenwu had taken as his court jester, which was one of the funniest reveals of the film. The emotional climax happens when Wenwu realizes that he was wrong and sacrifices his soul to the Dweller in Darkness to save his son and gives him the ten rings to help him fight the monster. Shang and Xialing defeat the monster, they all go back to our dimension, and the film ends.
This film left me wanting to see more of all of its main characters and excited to see what the MCU has in store for them in the future, I give this film a 9/10.