Movie Review – Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

It’s official, 3.5 readers.

The first Asian avenger is here.

BQB with a review of the latest Marvel flick.

Post Endgame, it felt like Marvel might have hit a bit of a slump, story wise. SPOILER ALERT, certain big characters were written out of the narrative (Iron Man died, Captain America traveled back in time, lived his life in his time period, then got super old, Black Widow died.)

And while it’s not impossible in a comic book-verse to bring back the deceased (Black Widow came back in her titular movie via a prequel, Loki came back in a Disney Plus show via an uber complicated, I still don’t understand plot involving time travel and the multi-verse) it looks like Marvel’s lesser knowns, like Captain Marvel, Dr. Strange and company will be carrying the franchise’s water for a while.

(Yes, I know this is where comic book nerds throw a shoe at my head and tell me Captain Marvel and Dr. Strange aren’t lesser knowns but I mean, to the general, non-comic reading public at large?)

Long story short, Marvel flew this one under the radar. Not a ton of promotion unlike their others. Not a lot of hype. I thought by the trailer I see a couple months ago it was going to be good and low and behold, I was not disappointed.

The plot? Awkafina! I kid, but seriously, she serves as a tres adorbs plot device. Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) have been friends since junior high school and now as young adults, they act a lot like a couple though they have yet to admit it.

One day, their seemingly normal lives are upended when Shaun is attacked by a band of kick-ass baddies with mad kung-fu skills. When he breaks out some skills of his own and defeats them with ease, Katy becomes that character many movies have, the one the audience follows down the rabbit hole as all the rules of this new world are explained.

Turns out Shaun is really Shang-Chi and has hidden a secret life from his BFF/Possible GF for years. His father is the legendary Wenwu, an immortal figure who, with the aid of his super awesome ten rings, has secretly run the world for over a thousand years. Together, Shang and Katy must travel to China, confront Shang’s old man, save the world and yadda, yadda, yadda. I won’t spoil the rest.

There are some pretty great martial arts fight scenes, special effects, and tie-ins to the Avenger-verse that surprisingly hit the mark and aren’t clunky (i.e. they are good and not like the TV shows where someone will pretend that Thor just walked by and sorry you missed him.)

Overall, I do think Iron Man and Captain America were the two big draws of the Avengers films (though Spiderman is doing yeoman’s work as of late) but with Shang-Chi, Marvel is succeeding in breathing new, exciting life to the lesser knowns. Keep in mind as of 2008, the general non-comic reading public was only semi-familiar with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor (everyone knew the Hulk) but they were built into powerhouses with rich back stories. For Shang-Chi, this was a great first shot across the bow and I have a hunch the next one could totally be a summer blockbuster that will put a lot of butts in seats (assuming the pandemic is over by then and we aren’t on the sigma variant or the epsilon variant or the woobie doobie variant or whatever.)

Bonus points for Awkwafina. I think she’s great in everything she does and is a prime example of how social media has given rise to a lot of stars who may never have had their chance to shine without this new technology. (Google her “My Vag” song for uproarious laughter even if you are a decade late to the party on that one.) To the film’s credit, they did’t make her outrageously wacky here, but still capitalized on the humor that would ensue if one day you discovered your BFF was secretly hiding a double life as a kung-fu master.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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