By Clint Tsao
An Asian cast and director (Destin Daniel Cretton) begin a new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the film adaptation of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a rousing, action packed adventure that focuses on family ties and legacy.
‘Shaun’ (Simu Liu) leads a normal life with his friend Katy (Awkwafina), but his past catches up to him in the form of his powerful father (Tony Leung). Forced to confront his destiny that involves the powerful ‘Ten Rings”, Shang-Chi begins a journey of self-discovery and a battle with a mystical evil that threatens the world.
There are strong connections to Dr. Strange, and the superb martial arts set pieces recall fond memories of Hong Kong actioners and the magical aura of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Indeed, there are vibes that echo the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings films. Striking the right balance of sentiment and action, the film is about embracing one’s identity and family whether it be brother and sister or son and father. It also represents female empowerment as exemplified by a number of strong actresses (including Michelle Yeoh in fine form).
Aside from Liu’s terrific turn as a new superhero, the supporting cast (and a welcome cameo from the past) is excellent especially the veteran Leung, who etches one of the very best Marvel villains. The narrative is told with cultural authenticity (as portions of the film are in Chinese with subtitles), and although it finishes with a battle royale that leans heavily on visual effects, the film’s inclusivity expands the scope of Marvel much as Black Panther did. It’s a splendid origin story. Two portentous scenes are in the end credits.
Clint Tsao is a noted film and pop culture historian and critic. He may be reached at seaview1@AoL.com
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