Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an American superhero action-adventure film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and based on the Marvel comics character created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin. Our story analysis will closely examine the plot and characters of the film and will contain spoilers.
S P O I L E R S
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is essentially an origin story for the Shang-Chi character. Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung), a criminal overlord who has lived for a thousand years with supernatural powers granted to him by the Ten Rings, an artefact Wenwu discovered centuries ago. Shang-Chi’s mother Ying Li (Fala Chen), was originally from the fabled city of Ta Lo, and when she was murdered by Wenwu’s enemies, Wenwu trained Shang-Chi to take revenge on Ying Li’s killers. However, after taking vengeance, Shang-Chi renounced his father’s ways and ran away to the USA to hide from Wenwu.
Shang-Chi bears the weight of guilt for his mother’s death and the shame of his father’s criminality. This fear prevents Shang-Chi from reaching his full potential. Wenwu is deluded into believing that Ying Li is alive and being held captive in Ta Lo and the narrative drive of the film is provided by this quest. However, of course, Wenwu has been deceived by the real villain of the piece – the vampiric Dweller-in-Darkness – who uses Wenwu’s grief to help it escape Ta Lo’s imprisonment.
The characters of Shang-Chi and Wenwu provides the core conflict of the film. The father-son dynamic gives the narrative deep power and allows the audience to easily identify with Shang-Chi’s dilemma. Leung delivers the role of Wenwu with gravitas, menace and sympathy. Up to the point, when he is killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness, Wenwu is the protagonist of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. However, when Wenwu hands over the Ten Rings to Shang-Chi, the latter truly becomes the hero of his own story, a powerful moment.
Thus, in this way, the plot and characterisations are interwoven to present a seamless whole that is at once engaging and moving. Much hype has been thrown our way for the Asian representation that the film is focused on and this time, the hype is justified. For most of the film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does not come across like a MCU solo film, and is the better for it. But of course, as the film is set in the MCU, the fan service is expected but done in a satisfying manner. A pleasant surprise is the re-appearance of Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) who of course masqueraded as “The Mandarin” in Iron Man Three. Also fun is the cameo of Wong (Benedict Wong) from the Dr. Strange franchise, with the Abomination (from the Incredible Hulk) to remind us of the MCU links.
In final analysis, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an enjoyable MCU film that rises above the average and brings Phase 4 of the MCU into new directions, driving expectations for Eternals even higher. Essential.
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