The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a new hero, and he brings all the force of 2008’s “Iron Man” in a package that highlights the great talents of Asian-Americans.
The film, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, stars Simu Liu as the titular hero Shang-Chi, a seemingly mild-mannered valet with a secret past and a talent for the martial arts. Alongside Liu, the film also features a cast made up almost entirely of Asian actors, including comedian Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s best friend Katy, Meng’er Zhang as Xialing (Shang-Chi’s estranged sister and fellow expert in martial arts), Michelle Yeoh as Nan (Shang-Chi’s long-lost aunt), and Tony Leung as Wenwu (Shang-Chi’s father and the leader of the Ten Rings, a criminal organization responsible for political movements throughout history). Shang-Chi must confront the past he has been running from after his father sends the Ten Rings after him to bring him back into the fold.
The film is quite easily one of the best films in the MCU since 2016’s “Doctor Strange.” “Shang-Chi” is an origin story which has become somewhat passe in the superhero film genre, but this take on the origin story is quite refreshing. It doesn’t feel like an origin story because Simu Liu is such a natural on camera. He is both a trained martial artist and a charming actor. He truly carries this film. That isn’t to say that other actors are not great in this movie as well. Liu merely shines so bright throughout the film.
Liu began his career as a stock photo model, only paid $120 for his most popular gig. Now, he’s in a film that broke 150 million at the box office. This film is big for the simple fact that nearly everyone who is cast in this movie are Asian. The film industry is markedly white, or one might say, Asian-deficient. The superhero genre is completely devoid of Asian-led films, except now for “Shang-Chi.” The movie doesn’t beat this point over the head either. It doesn’t feel like Marvel is merely checking a box in their march forward. It’s clear that “Shang-Chi” is a film that belongs in the MCU and that the masterminds of the franchise have some great plans for.
Another aspect that is often overlooked in many films, not just the MCU, is fight choreography. This concept is a central part of “Shang-Chi.” This of course comes from the talent in the film. Many of the actors in the film, not the least of which Leung and Yeoh, come from a background in martial arts films. This kind of experience and expertise allows for a wealth of beautiful movement to be utilized. The film’s intensity in the martial arts was something of a workout for Simu Liu who had virtually no martial arts training before securing the role. Liu delivers the movements of kung fu expertly despite this lack of experience.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is an excellent film that is quite worthy of its MCU shoes. Any fan of Marvel should enjoy the fresh take on the hero origin story. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” receives an A-plus rating.