Marvel redefines itself with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the second of four Marvel films releasing this year, but it is the fifth (sixth if you count the What if…? series) Marvel property to be released this year.

Marvel is racing against the clock in an effort to catch up after losing so much time during COVID. Now, more than ever, the term “Superhero Fatigue” is starting to become a real thing.

To combat this, Marvel has had to start telling different stories.WandaVision and Loki are two of the series that have taken Marvel in a more unique direction and allowed the films to still feel as fresh and original as ever, while projects like Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, while still very good and extremely watchable, felt like the same Marvel we’ve been seeing since 2008’s Iron Man.

What Shang-Chi has going for it, is that it is the first Marvel property of Phase 4 to be completely new. Even if shows like Loki and WandaVision were able to be different than the MCU, they still are the same characters that we have known for so long.

Shang-Chi is Marvel’s first origin story since Captain Marvel

The character of Shang-Chi is a completely new one into the MCU, and has never been introduced into the Marvel universe before in any way. Not only does this make Shang-Chi Marvel’s first origin story since Captain Marvel in early 2019, it also makes it Marvel’s first brand new hero since then as well.

Since there is nothing known about the character within the MCU, director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) had the luxury of telling the story that he wanted. Of course, Shang-Chi still has to fit into this expansive universe, but the crew behind Shang-Chi had an opportunity to make a Marvel movie that’s entirely original.

Cretton took this opportunity given to him by Marvel and never looked back as he was able to create one of the most original and magical films in the entire MCU. Marvel has had a formula that worked for 24 films, but just as Thanos was finally snapped to dust, the MCU as we knew it had to be as well.

There needed to be a shift in the MCU if they wanted their films to continue to work, and we got glimpses of that in the shows Loki and WandaVision, but it was Shang-Chi that really differentiated itself from the rest of the MCU.

The cast is the heart of Marvel’s Shang-Chi

Much of this film worked because of the lengths it was willing to go to tell its story. Shang-Chi got weirder and much more different than a lot of the MCU, but it worked because of how focused the film still was able to be. Between the incredible visuals and action, there was still a heart to this film that was able to beat loud.

A lot of that heart in Shang-Chi was the cast. Whether it is the great Tony Leung Chiu Wai, or newcomer Florian Munteanu, there wasn’t a bad performance given in the film. Awkwafina was one of the standouts of this film, as her style of comedy really lends itself well to this universe. She fits into her role as well as anyone who has ever played in one of these movies, and had me completely entranced with how natural she felt in this movie.

But we also knew Awkwafina had this kind of work in her. Her counterpart, and the star of this film, Simu Liu, was one of the biggest finds in all of the MCU. Liu might be one of the best action stars working, and his ability to carry a film with the action and performance proved his abilities as a true star on the rise.

Jackie Chan is undeniably one of the most influential martial arts action stars who has ever lived. I wasn’t able to live through prime Jackie Chan, but I, like most people, have seen some of his work and understand how Chan carries a film. The same feeling I get watching Chan carry action within a film is the same I felt watching Simu Liu carry the action in Shang-Chi.

You can tell the influence Chan has on Liu’s action style, and I really think Simu Liu can be that sort of martial arts action star of this generation. His moves always felt precise, and it was never just punching and kicking. There was a full understanding of the surroundings at all times, and Liu would use every bit of it to his advantage.

He didn’t just do the action well, but was able to tap into the dramatic side in a really strong way. The story in Shang-Chi is one of the better origin stories in the MCU, and the rookie Liu carried this on his shoulders in such a way that made him feel like a seasoned vet in the Marvel universe. I have full faith that whatever comes of Shang-Chi down the line, as long as Liu is playing him, he will be in perfect hands.

Shang-Chi introduces audiences to more mystical worlds

The third act of this film is what really sold it for me. Cretton gave us as Marvel fans one of the best third acts in some time. Nothing felt rushed or misdone. The final fight was given enough time to really let us as an audience fully take in the spectacle that was shown on screen. This third act gets different than most of the MCU, and the “villains” seem to be at a larger scale, but it works because of how Cretton lets the film really build up to this moment. I had chills and really appreciated that they were willing to go in a different direction than most Marvel films, and especially origin films.

Shang-Chi wasn’t afraid to get a little off the beat and path. They introduced us as an audience to more mystical worlds within this massive universe we have come to know and love, and proved that there are still some secrets they have hidden up their sleeves.

Whether it was the heart racing action, the beautiful set design, or the expansion into the ever growing MCU, Shang-Chi is filled with countless moments to combat “superhero fatigue.” Marvel understands that to stay relevant they had to start doing something different, and Shang-Chi is the right amount of different they needed. The story is emotional, funny, and one of the absolute best origin stories we’ve seen from the blockbuster studio.

A-. Marvel redefines itself with <em>Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings</em>. . . Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Go see Shang-Chi in theaters only.

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