Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (USA, 2021)

The Marvel Comics martial arts hero has arrived and has to face someone very close to him in this exciting and emotional film.

Shaun is a car valet who loves to enjoy karaoke with his best friend Katy. However, there is more to Shaun. A secret Katy doesn’t know, but a confrontation on a bus reveals who Shaun really is. Shaun is a martial arts expert named Xu Shang-Chi. His father, Xu Wenwu, was a martial arts master who has lived for 1000 years with the power of ten special rings. His life changed when he met Shang-Chi’s mother, a Tai Chi expert from the village of Ta Lo, where a great power hides behind a dark gate protected by the villagers.

When Shang-Chi and Katy go to Macau to meet with his estranged sister Xialing, they are found by their father. Their father tells the siblings that he believes their mother is still alive and to rescue her, they all must go Ta Lo. However, the siblings believe something isn’t right. With help from Katy and an unlikely source, Shang-Chi and Xialing head to Ta Lo and soon learn the horrifying truth as Wenwu is planning a war against the village if he doesn’t get the love of his life back.

The martial arts hero of Marvel Comics, Shang-Chi, has been a long-developed project with legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping attached at one point. However, in the age where the MCU has become a house of acceptance and diversity, the producers opted to make the film something in the vein of Black Panther with the cast and most crew being of Asian and Asian-American descent and bring a powerful tale about the internal conflict within family, something we saw T’Challa do with his father in the 2018 hit film. And here, it works even more with Simu Liu in what is a guaranteed breakout performance as the titular character.

Liu combines a bit of the brashness of a character being in his mid-twenties and emotional when it comes to his family. Not to mention he does show some pretty good martial arts skills. Regardless of people either used to or still finding Awakwafina annoying, she does really well here as Katy, who finds herself involved in her friend’s past. Meng’Er Zhang, sporting a look similar to Eriko Tamura’s Mai in the godawful Dragonball Evolution, is great in the role of Xialing, Shang-Chi’s sister who was forced to train on her own to prove herself amongst her male family members, more the father than our titular hero.

Hong Kong film legend Tony Leung is excellent as he makes his Hollywood debut in the role of Wenwu, the father of our hero. Here, he shows exactly why he is a legend in the film industry. He brings the charm of a villain and yes folks, he does get to reference the events of Iron Man 3, which brings us to a major surprise in the form of Ben Kingsley’s returning Trevor Slattery, the one people called “The Mandarin”, but those who saw IM3 know where that went. Kingsley provides the comedic charm necessary to bring a pivotal moment in the film. In Ta Lo, two more legends appear in the forms of Yuen Wah as master warrior Guang Bo and Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan, the aunt of Shang-Chi and Xialing who serve as their mentor in a time of great need.

What about the action? It’s nothing short of impressive! The late Brad Allan served as stunt coordinator with fellow former Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Andy Cheng serving as fight coordinator. Despite his short brief screen time, Andy Le of the Martial Club team (who is in the WorldFilmGeek Hall of Fame) makes the most of his role as the enigmatic Death Dealer, one of the major henchmen of Wenwu as does Creed II’s Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist. There’s even an appearance from Benedict Wong’s character from Doctor Strange as he takes on the returning (and more comic appropriate looking) Abomination in a brief cage fight setup by Xialing. The bus fight is a highlight and while the ifinal battle consists of many CGI effects, it doesn’t take away the essence of the film as a whole.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the best Marvel movies to date. Not since Black Panther and the two-part Avengers arc finale does a film evoke a meshing of fun, emotion, and all-around kick butt action. Definitely one for the fans.

WFG RATING: A

A Marvel Studios production. Director: Destin Daniel Cretton. Producers: Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz. Writers: Dave Callaham, Andrew Lanham, and Destin Daniel Cretton; based on the characters created by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart. Cinematography: Bill Pope. Editing: Nat Sanders, Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, and Harry Yoon.

Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’Er Zhang, Tony Leung, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Wah, Andy Le, Florian Munteanu, Ben Kingsley, Ronny Chieng, Benedict Wong.

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