Directed by : Destin Daniel Cretton
Written by : Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, and Andrew Lanham
Starring : Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeah, Florian Munteanu, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung
Marvel Studios’ first Asian-American led superhero film finally gets a chance to shine. Shang Chi — known as the master of kung-fu in the comics — is one of the first characters that was considered in the MCU roster during the inception of Marvel Studios as an independent film studio.
However — like many prospective projects in Hollywood — they fall through, and then put on the back burner for years… until now.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton — who comes from an indie background (Short Term 12, Just Mercy), Cretton’s fingerprints can easily been seen throughout Shang Chi’s 2 hour and 13 minute runtime with the way he centers the story on family.
At its surface, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings seeks to be a love letter to classic martial arts films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Legend of the Drunken Master. But at its core — it’s a story of family and grief, and how grief can often get the best of us.
Shang Chi’s biggest strength is interweaving those heavy dramatic dynamics between the characters, into the incredibly whimsical — yet awe-inspiring action sequences. Cretton lets the action sequences breathe, utilizing wide shots with minimal cuts — letting the audience feel every punch. The father—and—son dynamic between Simu Liu’s Shang Chi and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung’s Wenwu was truly one of the MCU’s best family drama, in a franchise that is well-renowned for its familial elements in its movies.
Liu and Leung aren’t the only ones who carry this film. The film had great supporting characters from Awkwafina’s Katy, Meng’er Zhang as Xialing — Shang’s sister, and the wonderful Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan. Characters that the audience will look forward to seeing more of in the MCU.
Overall, Shang Chi harkens back to the very first Iron Man movie — you know it’s part of a bigger universe, but it feels mostly detached from the grand scheme of the MCU. it focuses on the dramatic elements, expands the mythos of its world, and zeroes in on the very impactful theme of grief.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now Playing in Theaters.