This movie, starring Tony Leung, Simu Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley and Akwafina, is a unique addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as part of Marvel’s Phase 4 initiative. Premiering as early as 16th August 2021, it has grossed more than $432 million worldwide and is the ninth highest-grossing film in 2021. The film, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and produced by both Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, has generally received good reviews. Nevertheless, it certainly still has room for improvement.
So What Is The Movie About?
As taken from Wikipedia: Around a thousand years ago, Xu Wenwu discovers the mystical ten rings which grant immortality and godly powers. He establishes the Ten Rings organization, conquering kingdoms and toppling governments throughout history. In 1996, Wenwu searches for Ta Lo, a village said to harbour mythical beasts. He travels through a magical forest to the village entrance but is stopped by guardian Ying Li. The two fall in love, and when the Ta Lo villagers reject Wenwu, Li chooses to leave with him. They marry and have two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing. Wenwu abandons his organization and locks away the ten rings. When Shang-Chi is seven years old, Li is murdered by Wenwu’s enemies, the Iron Gang. Wenwu dons the ten rings once again, massacres the Iron Gang, and resumes leadership of his organization. He makes Shang-Chi undergo brutal training in martial arts but does not allow Xialing to train with the others, prompting her to secretly teach herself. When Shang-Chi is 14, Wenwu sends him to assassinate the Iron Gang’s leader. After completing his mission, a traumatised Shang-Chi runs away to San Francisco and adopts the name “Shaun”.
In the present day, Shang-Chi works as a parking valet with his best friend Katy, who does not know about his past. They are attacked on a bus by the Ten Rings, who steal a pendant that Li gave to Shang-Chi. Shang-Chi flies out to meet his sister, fearing that the Ten Rings will go after her matching pendant. He reveals his past to Katy, who insists on helping him. They find Xialing at an underground fight club in Macau, which she founded after escaping from Wenwu at sixteen. The Ten Rings attack the fight club and Wenwu arrives to capture Shang-Chi, Katy, Xialing, and her pendant. They are taken to the Ten Rings’ compound, where Wenwu uses the pendants to reveal a mystical map leading to Ta Lo. Wenwu explains that he has heard Li calling to him and believes she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind a sealed gate. He plans to destroy the village unless they release her. When his children and Katy object, he imprisons them. The three meet former actor Trevor Slattery, whom the Ten Rings imprisoned for impersonating Wenwu, and his hundun companion Morris, who offers to guide them to Ta Lo.
The group escapes and goes to Ta Lo, which exists in a separate dimension with various Chinese mythological creatures. They meet Ying Nan, Li’s sister, who explains the history of Ta Lo: thousands of years ago, the universe containing the village was attacked by the soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness and its minions, but was saved by a Chinese dragon called the Great Protector who helped seal the Dark Gate to the Dweller’s world. According to Nan, the Dweller-in-Darkness has been impersonating Li so that Wenwu will use the ten rings to open the Gate. Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy join the villagers in training and preparing for Wenwu’s arrival, using outfits and weapons crafted from dragon scales. Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive and attack. Wenwu overpowers Shang-Chi and forces him into the nearby lake, then attacks the Gate with the rings. This allows some of the Dweller’s minions to escape, and the Ten Rings join forces with the villagers to fight them. The Great Protector revives Shang-Chi and bears him from the lake to battle the minions. Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight once more and Shang-Chi gains the upper hand but chooses to spare Wenwu. The Dweller-in-Darkness escapes the weakened Gate and attacks Shang-Chi. Wenwu saves Shang-Chi, bequeathing him the rings before being killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. Shang-Chi, the Great Protector, Xialing, and Katy manage to kill the Dweller-in-Darkness. Afterwards, Shang-Chi and Katy return to San Francisco, where the sorcerer Wong summons them to Kamar-Taj.
In a mid-credits scene, Wong introduces Shang-Chi and Katy to Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers while researching the rings’ origin. They discover that the rings are acting as a beacon to something. In a post-credits scene, Xialing becomes the new leader of the Ten Rings, training women alongside men, despite having told Shang-Chi that she was going to disband the organization.
What I Didn’t Like
Where’s Doctor Strange?
This movie is filled with mystical elements. The Ten Rings are mystical artefacts themselves and we see that Xu Wenwu, together with his men, fought his way through the ancient village of Ta Lo to open a portal to the world of the Dweller-In-Darkness, a soul-consuming dragon which would become stronger the more victims it claimed. If the other-worldly creatures were to succeed, they would surely become unstoppable. One might argue that Ta Lo exists in a separate dimension parallel to that of Earth’s. However, wouldn’t the evil creatures eventually find a way to exit Ta Lo and so invade Earth? The fact that conventional weapons do not work on the aforementioned creatures further shows how dangerous they would be if not kept at bay. It was a job for the Masters of the Mystic Arts, who swore to protect Earth from extradimensional threats. Surely there must be a codex or record about Ta Lo at Kamar Taj. Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, who technically does not hold the title anymore due to his 5-year absence after the Blip (he lost it to Wong), is nowhere to be found. The only times we see Wong, the current Sorcerer Supreme, is when we see him sparring with the Abomination in a fighting ring in Macau and after the battle of Ta Lo.
Why Didn’t They Hide The Portal?
Well, if you don’t want anyone to open a gateway, don’t proudly display it for everyone to see. Though the villagers of Ta Lo knew that they would be doomed if the portal was opened, no one bothered to cover it. They should have just covered it with boulders and rocks. That way, if anyone outside of Ta Lo wanted to open the portal, the villagers could just deny knowledge of it and so avoid unnecessary trouble. Instead, they left it bare for everyone to see above a mountain.
Xu Wenwu’s Death Was Too Superficial
The title says it all. Wenwu died by just having his soul sucked out of him by the Dweller-In-Darkness, which was in my opinion too quick a death for a main character and a loved one of Shang-Chi. He never got to say any last words or any words of affirmation to his son. Marvel clearly missed the opportunity to highlight the bond between father and son or show how important Wenwu was to his son.
Most Of The Film’s Second Half Took Place Only At Ta Lo
Some people may not consider this a negative, but the fact that from the middle of the film, almost all events took place at Ta Lo bothers me. The small size of the fictional village also confined the battlefield to a small area and I didn’t like seeing the same environment over and over again.
The Film Was Too Reliant On CGI
We don’t see much CGI until Ta Lo comes into the picture and that’s where things start to go wrong. This movie was marketed as a film that would mainly focus on martial arts while incorporating superhero themes. However, we see the final duel between Xu Wenwu and Shang-Chi become a CGI battle with the mystical rings flying everywhere. The use of CGI here is still acceptable but things get worse after the duel. Right after the duel, the film straight up becomes a CGI dragon fight, with the village’s protector dragon going up against the Dweller-In-Darkness, the opposing dragon. In the end, Shang-Chi defeats the opposing dragon by using the rings to blow it to pieces – essentially CGI destroying CGI. Oh yes, before I forget, the entrance to Ta Lo, which is essentially a maze, is CGI and Ta Lo is littered with CGI creatures. The quality of the CGI can also be improved.
What I Liked
Perfectly Executed Choreography
The Film Shows What It Means To Inherit A Legacy Or Heritage
At the beginning of the film, we see Shang-Chi working in San Francisco as a hotel valet to hide from his father and thereby detach himself from his family heritage. From a young age, Shang-Chi was trained to become a deadly assassin by Wenwu and his men. After he was sent on a hit by his father to kill the person responsible for his mother’s death, he began to view his father’s legacy as one filled with corruption and evil. It was only after his father “captured” him that he returned to him. His father implored him and his sister to return to his side, as well as to join him in his quest to free their captive mother, who was already long dead. Shang-Chi, knowing that his father would employ violent means to accomplish his goal, escaped from his father’s compound together with Katy, his sister and Trevor Slattery to warn Ta Lo of his father’s plans. Again, it shows Shang-Chi actively rejecting his father’s tyranny and oppressive actions, essentially his legacy and embracing that of his mother, who was merciful and kind. Later, he was able to defeat his father by embracing his identity as his mother once taught him in his childhood, finding inner peace and using the rings’ power against his father. In the end, we see Wenwu passing and entrusting the rings to Shang-Chi just moments before his death. The rings, the centrepieces of his father’s legacy, were used for warfare, revenge, conquests and power throughout its history. However, we see the rings eventually being used for mercy, good and justice by Shang-Chi. Furthermore, even though he had the opportunity to slay his father with the rings, he resisted doing so. Preserving and embracing the legacy of one’s ancestors is important, but shaping them to serve the greater good and to serve others is equally or if not more important. The legacy of your ancestors is dead and forever locked in the past. What you do with it now and in the future matters more than its history.
Considering the above points, I would rate this film a 6.5/10. It’s not that bad, but not that good either. I personally find the film vastly overrated, especially due to the fact that it relies too heavily on CGI. I was also upset that we didn’t get to see Dr. Strange or Wong get involved in the events of Ta Lo. What do you think about this movie? Did you find it enjoyable? Why or why not? Comment your thoughts in the comments section below.
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