“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Review: Friendship, Action and Humor in Marvel’s Latest

Meng’er Zhang, Simu Liu and Awkwafina in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Photo Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Rating: 6/10

Call me film buff blasphemous, but I think I would have enjoyed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings a lot more had I watched it from the comfort of my living room. The new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) installment opens exclusively in theaters on September 3. Unlike what happened with Black Widow, Shang-Chi won’t be released simultaneously on Disney+, but it is expected to hit the streamer after a 45-day cinematic run.

I’m not sure I see the rationale behind Disney’s decision. I caught an evening press screening of the 132-minute film and the whole double masking and social distancing from colleagues felt a bit stressful with novel coronavirus cases on the rise once again. Plus, at some point during the pandemic, I became unaccustomed to getting home after 9 p.m.

But platform of choice aside, the movie is a must-watch for those who’ve been following the last 13 years of MCU’s increasingly interconnected features and TV shows. Directed by Maui-born Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy), whose mother is Japanese American and whose father is white, Shang-Chi marks Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero film. It stars Chinese Canadian actor and stuntman Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and rapper and comedian Awkwafina (The Farewell) as his best friend Katy.

They both live in San Francisco and regardless of their promising pasts — he speaks four languages, she has a degree from a top university — they work as valets. They argue that theirs is actually the most challenging of professions: you need people skills, driving skills and the ability to parallel park. I must admit they have a point. They live hedonistically, seizing the day and partying together at karaoke dives by night. It’s suggested their self-indulgent ways may have been caused by the Blip. Also, notice that when an MCU property titles its action as taking place in “Present Day,” they actually mean sometime in or after 2023 — which is when Avengers: Endgame ended and WandaVision took place.

Awkwafina and Liu make for the perfect acting duo; they have great friendship chemistry and comedic timing. Pretty early on in the film, they share the infamous fight sequence aboard a moving Muni bus in San Francisco. They’re an ideal team. She does the hilly driving, he does the kicking of ass. By the end of the ride, all passengers are safe because of their teamwork.