Shang-Chi Brings Compelling New Heroes and Awe-Inspiring Action to the MCU

Home Technology Shang-Chi Brings Compelling New Heroes and Awe-Inspiring Action to the MCU
Shang-Chi Brings Compelling New Heroes and Awe-Inspiring Action to the MCU
Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Shang-Chi stands ready to face his destiny.
Image: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a blend of opposites: otherworldly martial arts grounded by slacker humor. From fast-paced split kicks to lyrical dance-fights, the film deserves to be seen on the big screen. But of course, even if you didn’t feel it was safe to do so, that’s the only way you can see the Phase 4 MCU film—Shang-Chi is the first Disney movie to screen in-theaters only after a series of hybrid releases on Disney+ due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

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Based on the Marvel Comics character, Shang-Chi was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, with a script by Dave Callaham, Andrew Lanham, and Cretton. The film follows the titular character (played by Simu Liu), a Chinese American millennial who must confront his past to fulfill his destiny. When we meet him, he’s a valet driver in San Francisco, California, working alongside his carefree bestie Katy (Awkwafina). He’s kept his martial arts skills hidden until now, but Shang-Chi has secrets—family secrets that date back a thousand years. Our hero begins a journey of self-discovery in Macau after receiving a mysterious letter from his sister, Xiaoling (newcomer Meng’er Zhang) about their common enemy: their father Wenwu (Tony Leung), also known as “The Mandarin” (a name already familiar to MCU fans).

While the original comics depicted Fu Man Chu as Shang-Chi’s father, the film thankfully scraps the racial stereotype and presents a complex—even sympathetic—villain in Wenwu. This is also a huge improvement to the whitewashed casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has since acknowledged the casting of Swinton as a mistake while prioritizing more respectful adaptations from now on. Cultural authenticity abounds in Shang-Chi. First, it has a majority Chinese cast from the diaspora—many of whom speak a natural mixture of Mandarin Chinese and English dialogue depending on the speaker and context. In addition, the costumes seem to be a blend of eastern and western influences, reflecting the culture of the Chinese American heroes. Finally, the fantasy elements appear to be inspired by Chinese wuxia films, not exotic Asian stereotypes.