It’s time to finally take a look at the latest Marvel installment, Shang Chi. This one’s been getting a lot of hype for the hand to hand fights and it delivers on this. It’s got a great balance of action and humor so in the end this movie has a ton of replay value. You’ll have a blast from start to finish as you go through the journey.
The movie starts by introducing us to Shang Chi’s father Wenwu as he wipes out army after army. The opening scene is like something out of Dynasty Warriors as he can use his rings with such speed that it appears to be a forcefield which blocks incoming arrows. That was definitely implemented really well. After that he ends up meeting Wenwu and they get married. Shang Chi and Xu Xialing are born and we then cut to the present.
Shang Chi and his best friend Katy work for a hotel as they drive cars around and enjoy their job. They have a good bond of friendship going for them but Katy’s family want more for her. One day the two of them are attacked by a group of assassins. Shang Chi fights them off but not before they steal his pendant. This means that Xu may be the next target so the two head off to go and help protect her. Can they protect her from this group led by Shang Chi’s father or is she already doomed?
Right off the bat the opening fight scene in the modern day sets the tone well. It’s really good with minimal use of cutaways so you can follow the choreography. Even as someone who did think that the Black Widow fights were really good, it’s night and day compared to this one. The hand to hand is very high energy and the train fight is probably my favorite fight in the film. Likewise, Widow’s first big action scene was my favorite so I guess I just really like the way these films tend to open. they’re doing it right, that’s for sure.
The battles continue to be solid throughout the movie though. Whether it’s the fight on the roof top or the climactic showdown, you can always expect a lot of hype. While this is usually more of an anime movie trend, the movie even decides to go for a little Godzilla type action at the end. It’s not quite as solid as the rest of the fights but it’s always good to see the creatures getting some hype. I’d consider the battle before that to be the true final battle for the combat while this is more of a general climax.
The effects are definitely on point as well. The creatures have really epic designs and lighting for their attacks. I also like the way the rings are used in combat. It’s very much in the style of what you would see in the Tron films. It’s a very versatile weapon and if Shang Chi keeps those to use in combat for future films he is going to be very tough to beat. Certainly none of the street level fighters can handle him.
As for Shang Chi himself, he’s definitely a great lead. I did see some talk about him being too merciless and going for the kill, but I definitely didn’t see that. For the most part each fight is always from a self defense angle. Yeah you’ve got enemies being thrown out of buildings and moving buses but there’s no easy alternative there since he’s in the middle of a huge fight. So just putting my two cents into the ring to say that Shang Chi was definitely a full hero here and I didn’t find him to be going too far in any of the fights.
He does have a moment where he nearly does cross the line and the film’s clear in showing that he was about to, but ultimately he doesn’t. That would be the only true example you can use. His upbringing and origin do explain this fairly well though and he certainly had to deal with a lot. All in all, I thought he handled his past and present really well. Shang Chi’s the kind of guy you definitely want to have in your corner at all times. The movie also did a great job of showing just how good he is at hand to hand combat. Throughout the whole film it’s fair to say that he didn’t lose any fights straight up from the present and beyond. He always had the upper hand.
In the comics he was known as the greatest hand to hand fighter for a long time. I don’t know about currently, but at least in the days when I was reading comics. I imagine the films will be going that route too so this was a great way to show it. I look forward to seeing him interact with the other characters because he has a lot of good banter with Katy in this movie as well. Shang Chi’s very charismatic and that’s why I would put him as the best character in the film. Ultimately he really excels in all of his roles.
Katy is also a solid heroine. She has a lot of fun lines as well and knows not to take things too seriously. In general the film had a really fun script for all of the characters but in particular Katy is one of the characters that stands out. She even gets to contribute towards the end of the movie in an action setting which is nice.
Shang and Katy also have two friends in the film who only appear for two scenes but both are worth mentioning. It’s nice seeing the characters openly talk about their heroic exploits and everything rather than trying to hide them like you would expect. It’s a nice turn of events and it’s such a big contrast to how Peter Parker is handling the whole situation. Yeah the situations are a wee bit different I’ll grant you, Shang has less people he needs to worry about. Still, it’s a very Iron-Man type move which is always fun.
As for Wenwu, he’s definitely a very solid main villain. The movie’s going for more of a sympathetic vibe for him sort of like Thanos. Ultimately he did try to put his weapons away at one point and suffered the consequences for it so you can see why he never takes the rings off anymore. Honestly he probably never should have taken them off but that’s more of a hindsight thing and he was trying to do his best. So in the present you can definitely root for him because if there was even the slightest chance that he was correct then he had to check for himself.
So I don’t blame him for going as far as he did and that’s what makes him a high quality villain. He can also fight really well which is also nice to see. Old age hasn’t really hurt him in a lot of ways, he’s thousands of years old and still kicking. His wife Ying may only appear in flashbacks but she definitely looks really good as well. I liked her fighting style and the powers she used were quite impressive. It’s a shame that the powers can’t follow you out of the village because with them she would have been extremely hard to defeat. Her meeting/battle with Wenwu was a great way to introduce her.
Then you have Xu who is also solid. She did well to build her own empire for underground fights. I question how she is able to get in some heavyweights like Wong and Abomination but maybe there are a lot of benefits to being in the tournament. As a slight power levels issue, I do think the Abomination looked way too weak here. I’d like to say it’s a different Abomination to be honest. That’s my little head canon in case he never appears again because otherwise that scene did make me shake my head a bit. There are a lot of ways the fight could have had the same outcome but I wanted to tell the film to check it’s route at that moment.
It’s the only scene I questioned in that case though. All of the fights were presented well and everyone got their time to shine. Back to Xu, she definitely proved herself very well in a fight. Her skills may be a touch below Shang’s but they’re still quite formidable. She’s definitely not an opponent you want to underestimate.
In general the film had a fairly stacked cast and that’s definitely a big part of why the film is so solid. Even the side characters are fairly memorable like one of Wenwu’s main subordinates who is missing a hand. He’s definitely a solid minion. There’s also Trevor who does have an effective opening scene but I will say that he’s best in small doses. I don’t think you really needed him in the film after a little while.
All right, now these next 3 paragraphs will quickly be for spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film yet or the recent MCU shows then definitely skip these three paragraphs. It’s going to be time to do a little speculating here. All right, so I’ve noticed a bit of a trend here. In Wandavision we saw Scarlet Witch as the main villain as she knowingly tortured a whole town of civilians and by the end of the show she’s getting sucked into the DarkHold. In the Cap & Winter Soldier show, we found out at the very end that Sharon is actually compromising the U.S. intelligence for money and is a fairly reputable information broker in the under world. Finally in the Loki show we see Sylvie turn to the darkness at the very end and set course for a new timeline. (At best you could say she just made a dubious call and isn’t as downright evil as the first two but it’s a tough case to make) Here, we end the film with Xu taking over the 10 Rings instead of disbanding them for presumably shady reasons.
You can cut Xu some slack but if this trend is anything to go by, she will be a villain soon. So, what is going on here? Are these all isolated incidents or is something going on here? Personally, I think it’s going to be something like the MCU version of the Sinister Six. It’s going to be a group of 6 female villains who band together to take over the world or something. Wanda brings the power, Sharon has the intel, Xu has the manpower, and Sylvie has more magic which is never a bad thing. For the trend to continue, we’ll need to see if some other players are introduced in Eternals, She Hulk, Spider-Man, or Dr. Strange. Still, it does seem like something’s going on.
Also, while Nick Fury was the main figure head for the first few phases as he connected everything, it seems more and more like that will now be the role for Dr. Strange. He’s going to have a role in the Spider-Man film, Wong is here in Shang Chi setting up some future elements, and you’ve also got the Dr. Strange film coming up. Seems like the Sorcerer Supreme is going to have to start earning his paycheck as the ultimate sorcerer with everyone messing around in the universe. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how that unfolds. End spoilers
I can’t close out the review without also mentioning that the soundtrack was really solid. There were a lot of great tunes here and so I thought the music selection was absolutely on point. The scene of the guy stepping out of the car only for us to see that it wasn’t Shang Chi was also a good fake out. Again, the film’s humor was always on point so even when there weren’t big fight scenes you were having a lot of fun.
Overall, Shang Chi definitely lives up to the hype here and is a great film in this phase of the MCU. I really didn’t have any issues with it and I’m certainly ready to see him start appearing in more of the films going forward. Shang Chi could easily work as one of the central figures going forward since I can see him having good banter with just about anyone. There’s still a whole lot you can do with the Ten Rings as well and we’ll see which film is the first to connect to this one. It’s the MCU so you can bet that there are a lot of plans in the works. If you haven’t seen this film yet then you’ll definitely want to change that.