Phase 4 starts here.
Okay, maybe not technically, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels like the first full leap into new, original territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame.
Recent Disney+ series entries WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have capitalized off of existing characters, relationships and story arcs, and the upcoming Black Widow semi-prequel will do the same, but Shang-Chi is a fresh introduction for the MCU and, quite honestly, for most of its fans who’ve only come to Marvel properties via the successful film and TV franchise. Its lone connection to the past appears to be the villain of Iron Man 3, The Mandarin, but in a different carnation.
Based on this first tease, the gist of Shang-Chi is a Prodigal Son story about a young man (the title character) who, after a decade of excessive, irresponsible, vice-driven living, is drawn back to his original calling as the heir to a criminal organization known as The Ten Rings — led by, it would seem, The Mandarin.
Asian-Canadian actor Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi, and Hong Kong acting legend Tony Leung co-stars as Wenwu, the Mandarin mentor. Awkwafina also co-stars as Shang’s friend and comic-relief partner Katy. Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) rounds out the primary cast.
As nice as it is to see some new blood (and culture) injected into the MCU, this first look is, unfortunately, aesthetically monotonous when compared to the lackluster digital palette that Marvel honcho Kevin Feige has branded the franchise with. Shang-Chi simply looks like a bland ripoff of Zhang Yimou‘s epic (and eye-popping) Chinese films.
From director Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will open Labor Day weekend on September 3, 2021, exclusively in theaters (as of now), two months after Black Widow and two months before Eternals.
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