Out of all the Marvel Phase 4 releases so far, my favourite without question has been Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. And yes, that means it beat Spiderman: No Way Home (2021). Because this movie released one year ago during Labour Day weekend, I thought it’d be fun to give this one a revisit. There was just something very refreshing and different about this movie. It’s a well-crafted origin story that expertly balanced world-building, character development, and action. The movie also had a tremendous cast including Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, and international legends Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh. By blending together elements of classic Asian martial arts films with modern day technology, director Destin Daniel Cretton was able to create something truly magical.

The Mandarin and Yi Ling meeting for the first time and fighting outside of Ta Lo.

I’m going to start off by saying, as an Asian Canadian, of course I was excited to watch the first Asian superhero (in a lead role; don’t worry I’m not forgetting Wong) take center stage. Am I a little biased because of this? Possibly. It’s always fun for me to watch movies that include Asian culture because I love all the references and seeing my culture represented (in a good way!) on screen. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings definitely wasn’t shy about throwing in fun cultural references and that made me love it even more. The biggest surprise was hearing how much Chinese was actually spoken throughout the film – I felt like it added to the authenticity of the genre. 

One of my favourite parts of the movie might be the first ten or so minutes. Not only was the entire introduction spoken in Chinese, I appreciated how efficient they were in telling Wenwu’s history. It was a quick recap, but it revealed a lot about his character. In doing so, it really captured my attention and got me interested. But my favourite part during this intro was when they featured the beautifully choreographed fight between Wenwu and Ying Li. I absolutely adored this scene. Very few words were spoken during the fight, but there was so much storytelling being done – not to mention it was accompanied by an amazing soundtrack. This gave the audience a little taste of how exciting the oncoming fights will be, which was a smart thing to do on the director’s part.

Shang Chi preparing to fight in the bus.

The CGI was mostly pretty good, but of course with Marvel movies being a CGI fest, it’s never completely perfect. There were definitely a couple of awkward shots but nothing that bothered me too much. With the entire third act involving a CGI dragon and CGI monsters, you kind of have to just let your criticisms go and enjoy it for what it is. 

The fight sequences were definitely a major highlight of this movie. I’m sure many people who went to watch this movie were hoping for excellently choreographed fights which they delivered. In my humble opinion, some of the fights in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were some of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes in the entire MCU. The action was so on point and it never felt like it was unnecessary or just action for the sake of action. We also haven’t really seen martial arts in the MCU yet so it was kind of refreshing to see a new type of superhero. 

Shang Chi and his best friend Katy looking for his sister, Xia Ling.

To be honest, the third act is what I had the most problems with. The first time I watched this movie in theatres, I was honestly so confused when the dragon and the monsters were revealed. It seemed…overwhelming? There was something about these mythical creatures that didn’t quite fit or sit well with me. Thinking back, I feel like the third act seemed out of place and kind of random. After watching it a second time and knowing what I was in for, I enjoyed the final battle much more.

The final battle was definitely the messiest sequence out of the movie though, maybe because it was a little too grand given the first half of the movie. There were some inconsistencies and issues that did take me out of the movie a little. For one, how the heck is Xialing’s rope dart so long that it can a). reach as high up as the dragon’s eye and b). completely wrap around the “Dweller-in-Darkness” so that she can hold him back? Here’s another one: how the heck did Katy learn to shoot an arrow so quickly? Look, I get it’s for the plot but having her shoot the final arrow that pierces the monster’s neck just seemed so unlikely I thought to myself, “yeah right like she could’ve actually shot that arrow”.

Xia Ling enters the arena.

But a big reason why this movie succeeded was thanks to the solid performances of the cast. Simu Liu knocked it out of the park in his breakout role as Shang-Chi. I hadn’t seen anything he was in before (namely Kim’s Convenience (2016)), but I felt that he did a pretty good job as the lead in a Marvel movie. While he certainly shined in all the action sequences and did well in delivering the comedic lines, his acting did feel a little stale at times. It was mostly during highly emotional scenes where he wasn’t able to fully capture the proper expressions or feelings. I’m sorry to say, but whenever he was acting side by side with Leung, he just lacked charisma. For me, Leung completely stole the show. The amount of emotion he captured just with his eyes was breathtaking and he really commanded every scene he was in. Leung was extremely charismatic and was able to create a “villain” that was worth sympathizing with. He brought a level of humanity to the character that made him one of Marvel’s most well developed villains yet. I was truly sad when I saw that they killed him off.

Shang-Chi fighting in the bus.

While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings wasn’t able to completely escape the formulaic storytelling of Marvel, it still succeeded in creating something fresh and unique. With expertly choregraphed fight sequences that were exciting and bold, this movie lived up to the action movie genre. Another great thing about this movie? No unnecessary or forced romantic relationships – god bless platonic friendships! In writing Shang-Chi and Katy as best friends, the movie was able to instead properly explore Shang-Chi as a character and his personal growth (I think a forced romance between the two would’ve killed the movie for sure). As my favourite Phase 4 entry, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is getting a 7.5/10 from me. Exciting, funny, and action-packed – it’s all you could ever want in a Marvel movie. With such a great first movie, I’m excited to see what this character will bring next to the table. If you’re looking for a solid modern day martial arts movie, this one’s for you. You can find it streaming on Disney+!