As the MCU continues its foray into new territory with new characters, the built in audience seems to all be holding their collective breath. No one quite knows the direction Feige and company are headed and with so many beloved characters either heading into new directions or being shown on screen for the first time, expectations are at an all time high.
With Black Widow behind us and Marvel’s phase 4 moving forwards leaps and bounds thanks to WandaVision and LOKI we have a *general* idea of where things are heading as far as the multi-verse and parallel universes are concerned. Shang-Chi is the first MCU film to introduce a new hero since Captain Marvel, and with COVID pushing things back so many times, the hype train was moving fast and fans were all but salivating for its release.
Enter Destin Daniel Cretton and Simu Liu, the two people most responsible to breathing life into this new world. Written, directed, and starring an all star Asian cast that bring the representation missing from this characters origins and the whitewashing that Hollywood is prone to doing.
Shang-Chi is a story about family, honor, and facing your past. Simu Liu is instantly iconic as the titular Shang-Chi, his blend of humor and physicality he brings to the character creates a down-to-earth kind of energy that makes you really want to hang out and sing karaoke with him. One of great things about the film is its cast, from Awkwafina to Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, and newcomer Meng’er Zhang. Each bringing their A-game and making this world that much more special. Awkwafina’s comedy chops are on full display and her chemistry with Simu are a highlight.
As a herald of the Asian cinema that has come before it, there is no shortage of homage to the classic Wuxia films. With striking action scenes that are choreographed to perfection and a father-son family dynamic that Cretton deftly navigates, there is more than just fighting that makes this film compelling.
As a familial drama there is enough of the story to show who Shang-Chi is as a person while also filling in important details of his past, because while this is an origin story, there is also a somewhat lived-in quality to the narrative and the audience has to play catch up to a certain extent. As a superhero action film there is more than enough to satiate the ravenous fan base. The existing MCU elements that are seen, whether from easter eggs or as part of the narrative bring a cohesiveness to the existing universe while also establishing its own story.
There are a few elements that are not as cohesive, the end of the film is very CGI heavy and falls into the “messy” category pretty quickly, fortunately it’s just so dang beautiful to look at. Shang-Chi’s hero’s journey is one of the more satisfying origin stories of the MCU, the direction Cretton has taken this character is exciting and this new world is ripe for exploration.
4 out of 5