Shang Chi reboots the Marvel universe

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Flickr

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a bit of a weird spot right now. On top of a year-plus long hiatus that ended this January with “WandaVision,” narratively it is essentially starting from scratch. Most of its mainstay superheroes are either dead or have moved on from the franchise, and most of this year’s output has been focused on introducing a new array of lead heroes to bring the universe into a new start.

While most of its efforts have been TV-focused recently, the first new superhero movie for the MCU has finally risen with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

Despite naysayers believing the film would be a flop, “Shang-Chi” proved to be a breath of fresh air for the MCU. With the best action scenes to come out of the franchise, charming performances all around the cast, and gorgeous visuals, “Shang-Chi” is a great watch for MCU veterans and newcomers alike.

Shang-Chi is a protégée of a gang organization known as the Ten Rings, and after years of working under his father, Xu Wenwu, runs away in order to distance himself from his life of combat and assassination. Now going under a new moniker, he and his best friend Katy Chen are dragged back into his old life when the Ten Rings come after him. Realizing that his father is up to something, Shang-Chi and Katy must travel to Macau in order to reconnect with his sister, Xialing, and stop his father before he dooms the world as we know it.

Though the plot has been dumbed down in this explanation in order to avoid spoilers, the story is engaging for the entirety of the two hour and twelve minute runtime. At the heart of the story is Shang-Chi himself, played with great success by Simu Liu who is known from the show “Kim’s Convenience.”

Balancing the perfect amount of grounded realism and extreme skill in combat, Shang-Chi feels like the type of person you could see yourself hanging with who just so happens to be one of the best fighters the MCU has to offer. The whole cast has quality to them as a matter of fact, with Meng’er Zhag’s Xialing and Michelle Yeoh’s Ying Nan being particular standouts.

In addition to an enjoyable story and a strong cast, “Shang-Chi” has arguably the best action scenes in Marvel history. Kung-fu movies are not so common nowadays, having a Marvel film focus so much time on hand-to-hand combat was a delight. Unlike most other Marvel films, this movie’s fight scenes were fast-paced, intense and easy to follow without an excessive amount of jump cuts. The movie is worth seeing for the combat scenes alone, but luckily all of the other factors back up the stellar choreography nicely.

“Shang-Chi” serves as both a great re-introduction to what the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do while also being a great precedent for the franchise’s future. On top of a great story that expands the world further and introduces a charming new lead, it is a spectacle to watch for action buffs and beauty seekers alike. It is one of the better Marvel films to come out in recent memory, and one can only look forward to seeing Shang-Chi himself gain more prominence as this new era of the MCU unfolds further.


5 out of 5 stars