Did you know that the Marvel Comics’ character, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, first appeared in the pages of the Special Marvel Edition #15 comic in December of 1973? It’s true, he was created by writer Steve Englehart and writer-artist Jim Starlin (the same man who gave us Thanos – by the way.) And now, nearly 48-years later, the Master of Kung Fu is finally making his big-screen appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
This, the 25th film in Marvel’s movie series, is a classic-styled Chinese kung fu flick, but one presented in the uniquely Marvel (MCU) manner. It is fun, it’s crazy, it’s exciting and it is packed with some insane fight and action sequences. Shang Chi also has several surprises I did not see coming; so, as usual, don’t let anyone tell you too much about this movie.
If you are familiar with the comics then you know Shang-Chi is the estranged son of the villain formerly known as Fu Manchu, an old pulp character who was retired when Marvel lost the rights to use the name, which is just as well due to their rather old-school racist portrayal of the Asian bad-guy. In the film, the character is named, Wenwu (played by Tony Leung.)
Wenwu is the keeper of the powerful “Ten Rings” which he uses mostly for nefarious purposes, and when he plans to unleash some mysterious, soul-sucking demon onto the Earth, it’s up to Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina), his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and a few other odd misfits to save the planet.
I loved Shang-Chi when he first came on the scene in the seventies. In fact, Giant-Sized Spider-Man #2 (featuring a team-up of Spidey and the Master of Kung Fu) is one of my all-time favorite childhood comics. That said, I have not kept up with the character over the years and the trailers for this movie did not excite me much at all – but boy did I call it wrong. This is a fantastically fun film!
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has taken one of their lesser-known properties and miraculously turned it into a cinematic treasure that no one could have expected. Simu Liu is perfect as the titular hero, who is updated and modernized perfectly from his “walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu” mode in the seventies; and Awkwafina steals the show as Shang-Chi’s best buddy. Did I say there are a ton of surprises? (And be sure to stick around until all of the credits have ran and the lights have come on.)
Directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy 2019), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings easily holds its own against other Marvel Films like Ant-Man, Black Widow and Captain Marvel, and is probably better than all of those movies (not that I’m ranking anything.) The closest comparison you could make to Shang-Chi isBlack Panther– and I’m not going to say why and spoil any… Did I say surprises already?
This movie left me with an old-fashioned hankering to go dig up some of those old Marvel kung fu comics. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Shang-Chi on the big screen, but I think that aforementioned team-up with Spider-Man is in order. Just sayin’!