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Review: ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Marks Another Turning Point for Asian Representation on the Big Screen

August 23, 2021Ben MK

Asian representation in Hollywood has taken major strides in recent years, with the release of such movies as Crazy Rich Asians, the live-action version of Mulan, and most recently Snake Eyes. Now, it's Marvel Studios' turn — and with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, they're not only bringing one of Marvel Comics' most storied characters to the big screen. they're also proving that there's plenty of room in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for more heroes that are as culturally diverse as the fanbase itself.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the film tells the story of the legendary ten rings, an ancient and mystical weapon that has granted its owner — a man named Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) — eternal life and god-like abilities, allowing him to use it to secretly conquer and change the world over the course of the past one thousand years. As the leader of the shadow organization known as the Ten Rings, Wenwu has never met an opponent he couldn't overcome. However, when he sets his sights on finding the fabled realm of Ta Lo — a place rumored to be home to mythical beasts and magical powers — he finally meets his match, falling in love and starting a family with a female warrior by the name of Jiang Li (Fala Chen).

Fast forward to the present day, and Wenwu's son, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), and his daughter, Xialing (Meng'er Zhang), find themselves estranged from their father, who has once again become obsessed with ruling the world in the wake of their mother's death. Now a San Francisco valet attendant and a major player in Macau's underground fight circuit, respectively, Shang-Chi and Xialing haven't spoken to each other in years either. Little do they realize that the jade pendants they each wear together form the key to unlocking Wenwu's next conquest, and when their father sends his agents after his two children to retrieve them, it leads to a family reunion unlike any other. For when Wenwu becomes fixated on opening the Dark Gate — a supernatural prison for creatures capable of destroying all life on the planet — it's up to them and Ta Lo's finest warriors to stop him.

What follows isn't just another story of a superhero trying to save the world, even though longtime fans of the genre who choose to accept the movie at face value will certainly find no shortage of jaw-dropping action set-pieces and eye-popping visual effects to keep them entertained. On the contrary, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is, at its core, a touching story about family that's deeply rooted in Chinese culture. It just happens to also feature incredibly choreographed martial arts sequences and fantastical creatures derived from Asian mythology, not to mention some fun and surprising cameos from the MCU's present, as well as its past.

Of course, it's impossible to view Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings without drawing some comparisons to Black Panther. And much like that film, the result is another watershed moment for on-screen representation that's as joyful and moving to watch as it is awe-inspiring. Suffice to say, moviegoers won't be disappointed. And with Shang-Chi poised to play an even larger role in the MCU going forward, we can only wait and see how Marvel's big screen franchise will evolve with the character in the years to come.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings releases September 3rd, 2021 from Walt Disney Studios Canada. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 12 min.

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