When I stepped into the theater, and the Marvel Studios intro played, I expected greatness from Marvel, but not this level of greatness. This level of greatness is so outstanding and over the top, that’s it’s hard for me to consider any Marvel Studios film that can beat it.
Let’s dive into this. This article is solely for the characters, while the mid- and post-credit scenes will be saved for another article, as will the full review of the movie.
WARNING: FROM THIS POINT ON, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Let’s start at the heart of the movie. The characters of this film are all wonderfully portrayed from start to finish, one noteworthy performance being Awkwafina’s Katy, who brings her traditional banter to the movie, cracking jokes left and right.
The title character, Shang-Chi, clearly has a lot of layers to him. Brother, son, BFF, and mainly superhero. However, it seems that there’s also a dark side to him. As Shang-Chi is sitting on the rocks of Ta Lo, Katy approaches him, and he tells her that he isn’t who she thinks he is. Katy asks why, and Shang-Chi admits to killing the man that murdered his mother. He also admits to wanting to kill Wenwu, his father.
As I heard this, I sat there, wondering how a man as caring as Shang-Chi could want to kill someone. And then I realized it. Like father, like son. The same way Wenwu wished to burn down Ta Lo just to get to his wife, Shang-Chi is willing to do anything to protect his family. While this may seem a trivial detail, it creates all sorts of possibilities. For instance, in the post-credits scene, we see that Xialing has put the Ten Rings under new management, her own.
This effectively puts her at the villain stage, as the Ten Rings is a highly villainous organization. If one of the Avengers were to try and deal with the Ten Rings, Xialing could be a target. If that was to happen, Shang-Chi would be faced with a choice. The Avengers, or his sister?
The funniest character in the movie, Awkwafina loses none of her touch when playing this humorous, ass-kicking sidekick to Shang-Chi, as well as his best friend. She brings her traditional humor to the role, cracking jokes left and right. A moment I enjoyed is when she bet against Shang-Chi in the tournament fight, and happily cashed in right in front of him when he lost.
At the beginning of the movie, Shang-Chi (then Shaun) and Katy were best friends, nothing more, nothing less. But by the end of the movie, they’ve become something more, perhaps even potential love interests. That would be a storyline I would personally love to see explored in future installments. Maybe we could also see if Katy becomes even more proficient with a bow and arrow, who knows?
It’s no surprise that Tony Leung is the hit of this movie. The famous Hong Kong actor has finally made his way over to Hollywood, where he once again is smashing records. Leung plays Wenwu like a protagonist (which he should be, albeit a misguided one), emphasizing his love for his children and spouse. Wenwu becomes enthralled by the Dweller of Darkness, which eventually leads to his demise.
It was all a misdirection by Marvel, making everyone think Wenwu was the antagonist, when he was actually almost a protagonist, and the “Soul Eaters” are the bad guys. Before he dies, he passes on the Ten Rings to Shang-Chi, a final act of love for the son he raised. He was a conflicted character, but was one I would have loved to see explored further.
The mother of Xu Shang-Chi and Xu Xialing, Ying Li wasn’t actually around that much. She died pretty early on in the film. To be honest, I felt Fala Chen’s character was wasted, and could have had a better arc had she been kept alive. However, for the limited time she had on the big screen, her performance amazed.
The sister of Ying Li, Michelle Yeoh’s character was woefully underused in the first installment of hopefully a Shang-Chi franchise. She was used as a transition piece, to provide a reason as to how Shang-Chi and Xialing got their suits, but was never critical to the story. However, she was played to perfection, and since she was kept alive, it will be quite fun to see her story explored in future installments.
Perhaps the hardest character to judge, Xialing isn’t a black and white character, but rather a gray. She loves her brother, but also runs a black market fight club. In the end credits scene, we also see that she has taken control of the Ten Rings organization, possibly pitting her against the Avengers, and by relation, Shang-Chi. However, Meng’er Zhang’s performance isn’t hard to judge.
Zhang portrays Xialing in a way that no actress has ever portrayed a character before, in a quite good way. Xialing is equally lovable and hate-able. I am so excited to see her future explored in Ten Rings spinoffs, or maybe even a Shang-Chi sequel!
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters NOW!