“You can’t outrun who you really are”Wenwu
The real start to Phase 4 of the MCU, Shang-Chi provides a new lens through which to tell a familiar superhero origin story. Like Black Panther, Shang-Chi fully embraces its ethnic roots through not just casting but the underlying mythology and martial arts as well as the costuming and visual style, with contrasting elemental powers. It is not quite so successful a package but it demonstrates that Marvel is (belatedly) fully committed to a diverse roster of characters. Perhaps the film’s greatest assets are Eastern cinema veterans Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh. Although Wenwu is an antogonist driven by a single purpose, Leung’s performance provides nuance and pathos, even if the end of his arc is underwhelming. Awkwafina’s role will be divisive, but it provides a helpful grounding presence amidst characters already familiar with what is unfolding. A surprising attempt is also made to rehabilitate one of the MCU’s more controversial villains and I will be curious to see how it is received. With superhero action becoming increasingly formulaic, the martial arts choreography feels genuinely fresh (particularly in the beautiful opening sequence) and it does not devolve into CG monsters and blasts of power until the very end. Where Black Widow‘s attempt to tie up loose ends underwhelmed, Shang-Chi shows far greater promise for Phase 4.
MCU Phase 4: Black Widow | Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Eternals | Spider-man: No Way Home | Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Thor: Love and Thunder | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever