SPOILERS FOR A RECENTLY RELEASED MOVIE
A lot of people were prepared for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to underperform. Beyond the chuds who predict any film not starring a white male will fail, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and theaters–enclosed spaces where you and up to a hundred strangers sit for hours, sharing the same air–aren’t as popular as they used to be. But the naysayers can suck it! In addition to having a pretty good opening overall, Shang-Chi is now the highest grossing Labor Day opening weekend box office, earning over triple the previous top film, 2007’s Halloween. Hell yeah!
I really enjoyed and do recommend this movie, so last chance to avoid full spoilers.
Shaun (Mr. Simu Liu) is a valet with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), both of them not exactly living up to their potential. That changes when a dude who goes by Razor-Fist with a razor for a fist tries to murder Shaun and our protagonist busts out some sick martial arts moves. Turns out Shaun is actually Shang-Chi, son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), leader of the terrorist organization the Ten Rings. Yup, the same group that was supposedly led by “the Mandarin,” AKA Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) from Iron Man 3. Wenwu wields the mystic and titular ten rings, which grants him supernatural powers and an enhanced lifespan. He believes his dead wife is calling from beyond the grave for him to free her from a supernatural prison, but it’s really an entity called the Dweller in Darkness using mind tricks so it can be released and cause untold destruction. Shang-Chi and Katy go to rescue Shang’s sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang in her film debut), but she’s a boss ass bitch who can (mostly) fend for herself. Unfortunately for everyone they’re captured by Wenwu, who’s not pleased his kids won’t help him resurrect their mother. Breaking out of Wenwu’s dungeon, the trio are joined by Mr. Trevor Slattery himself, who was broken out of prison in the short All Hail the King that came with the home release of Thor: The Dark World. Hm, maybe I should review those…
Anyway, Trevor leads our heroes to the magical realm of Ta Lo thanks to help from Morris, a faceless creature apparently known as a “hundun.” My cryptid knowledge failed me in this case. They warn Shang-Chi and Xialing’s aunt, Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) that Wenwu is coming to release the Dweller in Darkness, so everyone prepares for a big battle. The ten rings give the grieving widower an advantage in combat against his son, so the Dweller is released! In the comics it looks kind of like Cthulhu, but here it’s a big and nasty dragon. Ta Lo’s own dragon helps the heroes fight back, but the day is saved thanks to a well shot arrow by Katy and Shang-Chi’s ability to unlock the true power of the ten rings. In the end Wenwu is killed, but the Dweller in Darkness is destroyed and Ta Lo–and also our reality–is saved. Shang and Katy return to their lives, but Wong (Benedict Wong from Doctor Strange) shows up looking for them, cementing their place as heroes of Earth.
There are two post-credits scenes. The first continues with Wong as he tries–and fails–to identify what the ten rings are. Not even Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can identify them, but they do realize they’re sending out some sort of signal. Maybe they have something to do with Fin Fang Foom, a giant space dragon with infamous purple pants? Comics are dumb. Then after the credits, we see Xialing taking control of the Ten Rings with a title card telling us this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the organization. Personally I’m hoping for Xialing and Sharon “the Power Broker” Carter to face off, but that’s just me.
I really enjoyed this movie! The action scenes are beautiful, but that’s sort of a requirement for big budget martial arts movies. One relatively minor thing that I completely loved was that the movie started with Shang-Chi and Katy as close, opposite sex friends, and they ended the film without a forced romantic subplot. Yeah, I know, as a gay man my take of whether a heterosexual relationship feels unnecessary or not is probably skewed, but how many movies can you think of where a guy and a girl are the main characters and don’t have a romantic subplot? Harry Potter and Hermoine Granger? I saw Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs on a few lists of platonic opposite sex relationships in film, so that’s a little telling how rare it seems to be. And sure, Awkwafina’s Katy is sort of the “comedic sidekick” who typically isn’t viewed as a love interest, but it was still refreshing that the movie didn’t try to cram in a romantic relationship that wouldn’t really add a whole lot to the story.
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