Shang-Chi moves Marvel in a fresh, diverse direction

Aleasha Hintz—Staff Writer

Marvel fans everywhere have been wringing their hands in anticipation for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. 

Not only does this movie take place after the events of Avengers Endgame, but it’s the first new Marvel standalone film superhero since Black Panther. Also, Shang-Chi happens to be Marvel’s first Asian superhero, and it only took some 20 odd movies to get there. 

Needless to say, I was nervous walking into the theatre. I had high hopes for the film, as it is supposed to launch the next phase in the Marvel cinematic universe. In fact, it didn’t always feel like a Marvel movie, which is not a bad thing. Shang-Chi is its own entity.

The movie begins by explaining the legend of the ten rings. Whoever possesses the magical artifact is granted god-like powers and the gift of immortality. The Mandarin finds these rings and uses them to conquer the world. 

Shang-Chi is his son.

Basically, it has all the right ingredients for an angsty superhero backstory, and things only get more tragic from there (though punctuated often by quips and jokes). The movie leaned pretty hard into superhero and anime tropes in the beginning, but begins to diverge as the film progresses.

The plot eventually picks up some speed. There are callbacks to old characters in the MCU, the introduction of another dimension, and some really strange CGI creatures (admittedly this has nothing to do with the plot, but Morris’s entrance really threw me). 

One way the movie broke my expectations were through the unique fight scenes. I expected standard tropes: explosions, quips, and guns. While those were present in the movie, I was instead met with an abundance of Chinese folklore, elemental based powers, magic, and some sick martial arts. 

The fight scenes in Shang-Chi are unlike anything I have ever encountered in a Marvel movie. The best fight scene in the film is when Shang-Chi takes down several of his father’s agents on a bus full of civilians. Meanwhile, the bus has lost its brakes and is careening through San Francisco.

Now, fighting in a moving vehicle is not exactly a new invention. This has been in plenty of films before. However, the combination of Matrix-esque slow-mo dodges, Kung Fu, and “your boy Cliff” live streaming the fight coalescence into one adrenaline fueled scene.

The only problem is that this scene was the first fight scene in the film. The fighting that happens after that is still entertaining and still interesting, but it also has a whole mess of CGI in it that leaves the rest of the fight scenes somewhat ungrounded.

Unless CGI dragons and demons are more your thing. 

Overall, the movie is definitely worth seeing. The abundance of Asian representation, the awesome soundtrack, the introduction of other dimensions, and more makes sure of that. But the movie isn’t exactly breaking any ground either. However, it makes me hopeful for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially if Shang-Chi is leading the way.

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