Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Tony Leung
The MCU reaches its 25th film, a little delayed but still way ahead of 007, who’s forthcoming 25th adventure has taken the best part of six decades.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe finds itself at a crossroads, looking to move on from the Infinity Saga and establish a new set of heroes in one of the most challenging times in Hollywood history.
Step forward Shang-Chi, a lesser-known Marvel hero who is seeking to move the universe forward, breaking barriers along the way.
Simu Liu (TV’s Kim’s Convenience) plays Shaun, a young man in his twenties living as a valet driver in San Francisco, happy with an unambitious life alongside best friend Katy (Awkwafina).
However, when they are set upon by a gang of criminals on the bus, Shaun admits to a shocked Katy that he is in fact Shang-Chi, a trained assassin from China.
As a teen, Shang-Chi ran away from his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), a crime boss twisted with grief at the death of his wife.
Now the patriarch has returned for him and his sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), convinced that he has found a way to connect with their mother which involves laying siege to her childhood village.
The siblings and Katy must team up to stop him before it’s too late.
Shang-Chi is fun world-building
This is a truncated explanation of the plot, as there are many surprise appearances and an awful lot of back story to wade through.
That said, director Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy) has put together an adventure that balances fun with world-building.
A spectacular bus fight grabs you early on, with Liu leaping from slacker to superhero effortlessly.
It sets the tone for a film filled with mythical creatures, super-powered fight clubs, and car chases through enchanted forests.
While the flashbacks and lore can slow the film down at times, you’re never far from blockbuster fun.
Things are also kept fresh by having a cast that feels involved from top to bottom.
Liu is the focus, but not as much as other Avengers as his allies have their own missions to accomplish.
Zhang cuts a stern figure as the sister still mad at being overlooked by her father, and promises to be a formidable ally in future sequels or even spin-offs.
Awkwafina is essential to the enjoyment – in a world where it feels like everyone has some kind of power, Katy is our focal point, an ordinary person observing all the crazy things that are happening.
She also enjoys a subtle romance with her co-star that feels more natural than most studio movies.
Shang-Chi actually has a good villain
Read more: Shang Chi Star Wants To Be In The Avengers 5
On the dark side, Leung dons many shades of grey as the bad guy.
Unlike Black Widow, which contented itself with Ray Winstone’s horrendously one-dimensional antagonist, Leung has motivations that are understandable, even if they are wrong.
Grief has sent him to a ruthless place, and that’s needed when you are trying to make the 25th movie in a series feel engaging.
Thirteen years and twenty-five films in, one could be forgiven for dreading yet another destiny to fulfil, another climactic battle to win.
However, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings gives us a reason to care, and enough breadcrumbs (stay until after the credits) to prove there are exciting things ahead for the world’s mightiest heroes.
Shang-Chi And The Legend of The Ten Rings is in cinemas now.
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