The fourth phase of the MCU started mostly by looking back on previous phases, but with the premiere of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we’re officially in new territory. So, how does it feel?
1. What is your tweet-length review of Shang-Chi?
Ben Lindbergh: The MCU successfully swallows another genre and expands to reflect more of the makeup of its audience. The writers from the first scene of The Player would probably pitch Shang-Chi as Black Panther meets Crouching Tiger meets Pacific Rim. And you know what? Those three good things go together well.
Arjuna Ramgopal: Shang-Chi isn’t a home run, but it sets up a great new player in the MCU while adding in enough Easter eggs to have most Marvel fans wondering what’s next.
Steve Ahlman: Even if it goes a tad off the rails at the end it’s well worth the time and so, SO exciting to see new auditions for the Avengers team.
Tunde St. Matthew-Daniel: Marvel just showed it’s still capable of introducing new characters and worlds in a post-Blip universe. The movie’s tonal shift halfway through might startle some, but it’s impressively bold, and refreshingly authentic.
Andrew Gruttadaro: CAST TONY LEUNG IN YOUR MOVIES.
Aric Jenkins: Amusing, refreshing, and genuinely compelling at times—though in the end, Marvel Marvel’d, which I can’t help but find a little tiring.
Neil Francisco: Simu Liu kicks ass in Jordans. What’s not to love?
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Charles Holmes: The moment when Simu Liu transforms from mild-mannered valet to murder machine kung fu artist on the runaway bus is electric. It’s the birth of a new action star, which is something that seems to be increasingly rare in Hollywood.
Ramgopal: The bus fight was an action-movie throwback that felt wholly unique to the MCU—it was breathtaking, thoughtful, and everything I wanted to see in a Shang-Chi movie.
Jenkins: Awkwafina’s comedic quips somehow suiting the bus scene perfectly, despite a man named Razor Fist nearly killing everyone on board.
Jomi Adeniran: It reminded me of my favorite Jackie Chan scenes, between the close-quarters combat, the mid-conversation fights, and the use of random objects. Also, the guy livestreaming the fight had me crying laughing.
Ahlman: When Wenwu seeks revenge on the gang that killed his wife. The perspective of young Shang is unforgettable—a terrified boy, incapable of understanding what’s going on and fearful of his father and the rage that consumes him.
Gruttadaro: The introduction to Xialing’s underground fighting ring and the first few moments in Ta-Lo were transportive sequences that efficiently established Shang-Chi as its own world and inspired actual wonder. The MCU doesn’t make you want to live in its movies enough, but these two scenes did.
Francisco: That moment when Shang-Chi and Katy are deciding whether to go home after a night with friends. Let’s be serious, who hasn’t found themselves in that situation before?
St. Matthew-Daniel: “Best” is debatable, but the Trevor Slattery reveal was by far the most delightful moment in the movie. Like Jonathan Majors in Loki, Ben Kingsley was a one-man show whenever on screen. The Planet of the Apes bit oughta make even Taika Waititi and James Gunn jealous.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Lindbergh: I know it’s kind of a cliché to complain about the CGI spectacles at the end of Marvel movies … but, well, the CGI spectacle at the end of the Marvel movie. Not because it was one of the least kinetic or comprehensible of Marvel-movie last acts—far from it!—but because the character work, the human-on-human, hand-to-hand combat, and the Kung Fu Hustle–style humor that held sway for most of the movie were better than battling a horde of hellspawn could ever be.
Adeniran: I wish the final climax were solely between Shang-Chi and Wenwu. That was the emotional crux of the film and the CGI soul-suckers took away from what should have been the focal point of the movie.
Holmes: Awkwafina shoots and mortally wounds a dragon that’s supposed to be one of the most powerful creatures we’ve seen in the MCU thus far, despite picking up archery less than 48 hours beforehand.
Francisco: I wish we could have seen more of Death Dealer. He played a pivotal role in Shang-Chi’s development as an assassin, but ultimately became just a sacrificial pawn.
Chin: I loved seeing all of the Chinese folklore being woven into the creation of Ta-Lo, and I appreciated how dragons became integral to the film’s conclusion. But the final battle sequence felt like a very familiar pitfall for the MCU, as the storytelling was deprioritized in favor of the CGI Spectacle™.
Ahlman: There were a few times when I thought to myself, “We should be shown what this character went through rather than have it explained to us.”
St. Matthew-Daniel: Shang-Chi features scenes from 1996 all the way through the present. In MCU timeline speak, that means the movie spans from just after Captain Marvel all the way to post-Endgame. In order to cover that much storytelling ground, the movie is filled with numerous flashbacks that interrupt the film’s pace, especially on rewatches.
Gruttadaro: Morris was funny, but I was also acutely aware that he’d been manufactured in a Disney lab to become the MCU’s Baby Yoda (and sell a boatload of toys).
4. Who was the MVP of Shang-Chi?
Ramgopal: Trevor and Morris for saving the third act of the movie.
Ahlman: Obviously Trevor for not understanding that there weren’t actual monkeys in Planet of the Apes.
Jenkins: Xialing—incredibly competent fighter who played her part in the climactic battle. She also saved Katy from falling from the scaffolding above Macau and Katy in turn pulled off that 1-in-1,000 arrow shot to slay the soul-sucking dragon.
St. Matthew-Daniel: Before a single frame was shot, Simu Liu had already cemented himself as the movie’s MVP and an MCU legend for this 2018 tweet (which led to his casting as the titular character):
Lindbergh: Simu Liu had to convincingly play a valet and be a badass ex-assassin, but also had to help undo decades of previous storytellers’ racist tropes. Liu had a heck of a supporting cast, but when a movie named after its titular character turns out to be good, the person who played that character usually deserves to take home the hardware.
Gruttadaro: The performances of the core trio of Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and Meng’er Zhang bring a gravity that this movie desperately needs. It’d just be a weird episode of Nora From Queens without them.
Holmes: Tony Leung deserves all the flowers. The MCU has always had a villain problem, but Leung’s Wenwu is one of the rare villains that’s as interesting as the heroes he’s trying to defeat. Also, there will never be another man who can pull off a suit like Leung.
Chin: Leung is just so captivating every time he steps on screen. There’s a reason he’s known as “The Man Who Can Speak With His Eyes” in China.
Adeniran: I’m zigging where everyone is zagging; nobody’s—and I mean NOBODY’S—stock rose higher than Trevor Slattery’s.
5. Finish the sentence: “Wenwu was _______.”
Francisco: … a Certified Lover Boy.
Gruttadaro: … absolutely crushing the suit-with-rolled-up-sleeves look.
Jenkins: … a shining example of how to craft an effective villain. I didn’t necessarily think Wenwu was right, but I sympathized with him and understood his motivations.
St. Matthew-Daniel: … so good that he now lands on the Mount Rushmore of the MCU’s most compelling human villains with Baron Zemo, Vulture, and Killmonger.
Lindbergh: … way too complex, magnetic, and intriguing a villain to lose so soon, especially for a franchise that historically hasn’t excelled in the bad-guy department. Good thing this is a multiverse, which means there are other worlds than these. Another good thing: There are many more Tony Leung non-Marvel movies to watch in our world. (Word to the wise: Hero is streamable on HBO Max.)
Holmes: … robbed. How is the movie’s most interesting character, capable fighter, and best actor downgraded to fodder for a CGI creature named “the Soul Sucker”? Wenwu might not be the dad of the year, but he didn’t deserve to go out like that.
6. You’ve got 24 hours in Ta-Lo. How are you spending your trip?
St. Matthew-Daniel: I’m becoming an expert-level archer.
Ahlman: I’m just certain they’ve got a killer hot tub setup—that’s first on my list.
Francisco: I like a nice relaxing vacation, so I’m probably going to sip some mai tais in the sun, hit up the archery spot, and go on a long hike to photograph some of that wildlife.
Gruttadaro: Assuming the gate to hell or whatever is closed, I’m probably taking a nice early-morning swim. Then I’m grabbing lunch with Michelle Yeoh and spending the rest of the day blissing out in the gardens with all of the fantastical animals.
Chin: You already know they’ve got some otherworldly cuisine in Ta-Lo.
Holmes: Call me Naruto, because I’m all about them nine-tailed foxes. I’d implore those furry, white creatures to teach me their ways, share their wisdom, and, most importantly, their friendship.
Jenkins: I’m throwing as many Poké Balls as it takes to catch that nine-tailed fox thing. A couple dozen Ultra Balls might get it done but I’ll use the Master if needed. (Side note: What a blatant rip-off this creature is lmao.)
Lindbergh: Just, like, looking at the beautiful foliage, gazing at the serene waters, and breathing the pristine, unpolluted air. If all that peace and stillness got to be too boring, maybe before bed I’d take a few whacks at the wall plugging up the Dweller-in-Darkness, just so I could say I saw a Soul Eater while I was there. But I wouldn’t skip straight from the visitor’s center to releasing the seal.
Ramgopal: First of all, I’d recommend the Ta-Lo Fast Pass so that you don’t have to wait in any of the lines.
7. Where does Shang-Chi rank among MCU origin stories?
Jenkins: Certainly not above the likes of Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, or Black Panther, but it’s a solid debut for the character and I’ll watch his follow-up out of interest rather than obligation.
Francisco: Shang-Chi has to be in the top five, if not top three for me. The only origin stories that have absolutely been better were Black Panther and Captain America: The First Avenger. But as an Asian American, this one really hit home.
Ramgopal: It’s somewhere in the middle. It’s better than Thor, Captain Marvel, and a few others, but it fails to pass Iron Man, Black Panther, and Guardians of the Galaxy (if we’re counting that) due to a messy third act.
Ahlman: I would say in the high middle. While it’s not reaching the heights of Iron Man or Dr. Strange, it has a lot of good moments and enough stellar action to put it on the good side of the ranking.
Lindbergh: It’s in the Black Panther/Guardians of the Galaxy tier right below the MCU’s origin story, Iron Man. Not only was it largely a blast, but it made a character I knew next to nothing about going in feel like a full-fledged future Avenger.
Chin: I am admittedly biased because, as an Asian American and a big Marvel fan, I’ve waited years for Marvel Studios to focus on an Asian superhero. But more importantly, I’ve really been waiting years for any Hollywood film to produce a movie that made me feel seen as an Asian American. (I loved Crazy Rich Asians, but I cannot relate, unfortunately.) This movie did that. So with all that said, it ranks right alongside Black Panther, Iron Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
8. What was the biggest takeaway from the end credits scenes?
Gruttadaro: That I’m still the biggest sucker for sitting through so many credits to watch these things.
St. Matthew-Daniel: That both a “Wong does karaoke” series and a “Ten Rings does Cobra Kai” series are in play for Disney+.
Chin: Wong seems like an incredible hang. I’d love to do some karaoke with the guy.
Lindbergh: That Marvel knew this movie would be big enough to turn Shang-Chi into instant tentpole material—both as a member of potential megablockbuster team-up movies, and as a star of his own series of semi-stand-alone films.
Ramgopal: The scene with Wong, Carol Danvers, and Bruce Banner makes it seem like Shang-Chi could show up in any of the next three MCU movies (Eternals, Spider-Man, or Doctor Strange).
Francisco: Xialing built her own underground empire from the ground up at 16 and now she has infinite resources. This is like giving Theo Epstein an unlimited budget.
Jenkins: Biggest? Obviously Shang-Chi is about to get tied up with the Avengers. Most intriguing? Whatever Xialing is up to. Also … I pray Marvel keeps their relationship platonic, but did I detect a hint of romance between Shang-Chi and Katy? We already know her grandma ships it, right?
Adeniran: Besides the fact we need a solo Wong series? The 10 rings are way, way more powerful than we could have imagined. Think about it: The 10 rings fit around human wrists, so imagine the size of a being that wears it on its fingers.
Holmes: Either those rings are sending a beacon throughout the multiverse for no good reason, or the Eternals are coming.