The Sunday Mail
BEFORE we get into the nitty-gritty of the marvel that is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, I would like to start off this week’s review with a little game I call ‘what do we know?’
With the “Infinity” saga done and dusted, we are now into unchartered territory with the second release of “Phase Four” of Marvel’s grand storytelling.
Tony Stark/Ironman (Robert Downey Jnr), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are both dead, while Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is retired, which means that three of the big five will need to be replaced going forward.
Of the three, only Black Widow and Captain America look to have found possible replacements. Anthony Mackie has been confirmed as the new Cap and Florence Purg’s Yelena Belova is largely tipped to take up the Widow mantle.
Purg’s further involvement with Marvel will be revealed later this year with the release of the Disney+ series “Hawkeye.”
However, it remains to be seen how Marvel will handle Chadwick Bosman’s replacement following his untimely death last year.
Not even the release of three more Disney+ series “WandaVision”, “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and “Loki” has put us closer to knowing the identity of the next big bad.
All we know is that Krang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) has been introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
But there are hints and clues of Mephisto’s possible exit.
By now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Well, the answer to that is a bit complicated.
There is no visible connection between the aforesaid facts and the arrival of Shang-Chi into the MCU.
However, everything in the MCU is connected. With the release of the next big ensemble movie yet to be announced, all we have are a collection of little stories.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the first Phase Four release that leaves us with more answers than questions.
Shang-Chi and his sidekick, Katy (Awkwafina), are latest editions to MCU and we have a cameo by none other than Wong (Benedict Wong) and a mid-credit scene to thank for confirmation.
Mind you, this is not a spoiler, as Wong was in the trailer.
The film could very well be one of the stronger MCU films to date.
It is an origins story, which follows Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) as he is forced to confront the tremours of his childhood, family heritage and force him to finally live up to his potential.
Trained to be an assassin by his thousand-year-old tyrant father, Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi runs away to San Francisco to start afresh at the age of 16.
However, his past comes calling when a group of assassins attacks him.
This forces the titular character to return home, reunite with his estranged sister Xu Xialing (Mengér Zhang) and finally face off with his father.
In time, you will learn that this is an oversimplification of the actual plot, but it is for a good cause.
The first act of the film is very detailed and chronicles much about the main characters and the mythology of the ten rings themselves and the organisation itself.
Any more information leans heavily into spoiler territory.
And now, for the success.
As critics, we hardly give credit to the men and women behind the camera, and it will be a crime to continue this streak.
First of all, kudos to William Pope (cinematography) and Joel P West, as the camera work and music complimented well with the visuals and locations of the film.
The computer-generated imagery (CGI) was a bit too much, especially during the final fight, but it did not ruin the final product.
The fight scenes were very unique and bring a new edge to MCU. The performances were also up there.
I look forward to seeing more Simu Liu and Awkwafina in the MCU, especially in how they relate to the more sober-minded, chilled and straight-laced characters.
Awkwafina is a breath of fresh air as a comic relief character, while Liu looks to have handled more action scenes very well.
Wong’s appearance is brief but very loaded.
There are a few more surprise cameos to look out for during the film and in the mid-credit scene.
A combination of well-rounded plot, solid performances and Leung’s multi-layered take as the film’s antagonists make this one of Marvel’s best films.