The MCU welcomes a fresh fun new entry into the world of Marvel with another interesting villain to boot!
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It’s been a little while since we have had a new hero join the Marvel ranks and after a long absence of movies from Covid-19, it felt doubly long since we had something that felt like the next step in the MCU. This summer’s Black Widow while a fun movie felt out of time, and really did not have any sense of momentum of what comes next. Shang-Chi is that next step, and it’s exciting! While it does have the marvel formula stamp on it, this movie has some great surprises, fresh humor, and another villain that feels more developed and interesting.
Shang-Chi continues the MCU’s expansion to include more cultures to their ranks, this film devotes it’s focus on introducing the first Asian superhero, and it’s in exploring that cultures cinema, mythology, and talented actors that leads this movie to feeling like something new and special. It’s not just an origin to a new hero, it has a unique mark, and in my opinion dives far deeper into pure fantasy than any other Marvel movie to date. The magical powers, the fantasy creatures, I sometimes felt like it was pulling from Harry Potter with all the interesting creature designs! It was a pleasant surprise.
In terms of action, I felt like this movie does a great job pulling from all the excellent martial arts films from over the years. I saw splashes of Jackie Chan, and Jet Li throughout the movie. It felt great and the fight scenes had a better flow than many other Marvel moves.
Moving to the cast, Marvel has struck another victory casting a lot of excellent actors in both the lead roles and supporting cast. Simu Liu as Shaun / Shang-Chi is an excellent new addition to the Marvel hero stable. He’s charming, funny, and performs excellently in fight scenes. Partnering him with Awkafina as Shaun’s best friend Katy was a stroke of genius. She is funny as always, stealing every scene, but she also brings additional heart to the journey at large. Another new mainstay to the MCU is Shaun’s sister Xialing played by Meng’er Zhang. Along with Simu Liu, she does an excellent job with fight scenes, and while the movie only skirted the surface of the depth of what the character could become, they planted seeds that are sure to blossom in future movies. Think Rhodey in Iron Man 1.
Finally, the last actor I wanted to mention is Tony Chiu-Wai Leung. He plays Shaun’s father Xu Wenwu, leader of the criminal organization The Ten Rings. Like several of the more recent Marvel villains, there is depth to this character, and honestly a lot of sadness. This movie does a great job of telling a tragic story for Wenwu, while also covering the more standard story of a hero becoming a hero from the Shang-Chi prospective. This is for me what elevated this entry in the MCU above several of the origin story movies. It felt more complex and ultimately more real even with an insanely fantastical CGI spectacle by the end of the film.
I really enjoyed Shang-Chi, and it has me excited for what is to come next from this next “season” of Marvel stories to come!