Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a 2021 American superhero film based on Marvel Comics featuring the character Shang-Chi. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian director and a predominantly Asian cast.
Around one thousand years ago, Xu Wenwu discovers the mystical ten rings which grant immortality and godly powers. He establishes the Ten Rings organization, conquering kingdoms and toppling governments throughout history. In 1996, Wenwu searches for Ta Lo, a village said to harbor mythical beasts. He travels through a magical forest to the village entrance but is stopped by guardian Ying Li.
The two fall in love, and when the Ta Lo villagers reject Wenwu, Li chooses to leave with him and they have two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing; having found love, Wenwu abandons leadership of his organization and locks away the Ten Rings and the power and immortality it grants. When Shang-Chi is 7 years old, Li is murdered by Wenwu’s enemies, the Iron Gang. Wenwu dons the Ten Rings once again, massacres the Iron Gang, and resumes leadership of his organization. He makes Shang-Chi undergo brutal training in martial arts, but does not allow Xialing to train with the others so she teaches herself in secret. When Shang-Chi is 14, Wenwu sends him to assassinate the Iron Gang’s leader. However, Shang-Chi runs away to San Francisco and adopts the name “Shaun”.
In the present day, Shang-Chi works as a valet with his best friend Katy, who does not know about his past. They are attacked on a bus by the Ten Rings, who steal a pendant that Li gave to Shang-Chi. Shang-Chi flies out to meet his sister, fearing that the Ten Rings will go after her matching pendant from Li. He reveals his past to Katy, who insists on helping him. They find Xialing at an underground fight club in Macau, which she founded after escaping from Wenwu at a young age. The Ten Rings attack the fight club and Wenwu arrives to capture Shang-Chi, Katy, Xialing, and her pendant.
They are taken to the Ten Rings’ compound, where Wenwu uses the pendants to reveal a mystical map leading to Ta Lo. Wenwu explains that he has heard Li calling to him and believes she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind a sealed gate. He plans to destroy the village unless they release her. When his children and Katy object, he imprisons them. The three meet former actor Trevor Slattery, whom the Ten Rings imprisoned for impersonating Wenwu, and his hundun companion Morris, who offers to guide them to Ta Lo.
The group escapes and goes to Ta Lo, which exists in a separate dimension with various Chinese mythological creatures. They meet Ying Nan, Li’s sister, who explains the history of Ta Lo: thousands of years ago, the village was attacked by the soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness and its minions, but was saved by a Chinese dragon called the Great Protector who helped seal the Dark Gate to the Dweller’s world. According to Nan, the Dweller-in-Darkness has been influencing Wenwu to believe Li is still alive so that he will open the Gate. Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy join the villagers in training and preparing for Wenwu’s arrival, using outfits and weapons crafted from dragon scales.
Wenwu and the Ten Rings arrive and attack. Wenwu overpowers Shang-Chi and forces him into the nearby lake, then attacks the Gate with the rings. This allows some of the Dweller’s minions to escape, and the Ten Rings join forces with the villagers to fight them. Shang-Chi is revived by the Great Protector, which leaves the lake to battle the minions. Wenwu and Shang-Chi fight once more and Shang-Chi gains the upper hand but chooses to spare Wenwu. The Dweller-in-Darkness escapes the weakened Gate and attacks Shang-Chi. Wenwu saves Shang-Chi, bequeathing him the rings before being killed by the Dweller-in-Darkness. Shang-Chi, the Great Protector, Xialing, and Katy manage to kill the Dweller-in-Darkness. Afterward, Shang-Chi and Katy return to San Francisco, where they are summoned by the sorcerer Wong to Kamar-Taj.
Shang-Chi is a better representation of Asian heritage compared to some of the earlier stereotypical representations we have had to endure. However, as a movie, it does suffer from an over-reliance on CGI and that the story is predictable where a young Asian kid was trained from childhood to be a genius martial artist which is a storyline that has been over-utilized in Hollywood. Simu Liu as Shang-Chi is decent if not anything exciting. Awkwafina is basically the same as in all her movies – loud and bewildered by everything around her and somehow despite not being trained since childhood like Shang-Chi and his sister, is an expert archer which is an oddity. Meng’er Zhang is again a good choice playing Shang-Chi’s tough and constipated younger sister (I am guessing she isn’t constipated but it’s hard to tell as the look on her face reminds one of only that). Tony Leung however is great as Shang-Chi’s dad and has a sense of loss and toughness around him, thus, playing his role as the leader of the Ten Rings quite well. What impressed me about the movie, is not the acting but the martial arts scenes which are extremely well-shot and engage the audience. The CGI dragon is a bit over-done and you do crave more for the real-world martial arts rather than the CGI filled fight with soul sucking monsters.
Compared to The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, is worth checking out. The humor is dull but overall if you enjoy martial arts, it is a worthy entry to the MCU.