MOVIE REVIEW: The First Asian Marvel Superhero


Karolena Zhou

In the first in history, Marvel Studios has ventured out of their normalcy, by creating a superhero movie with an Asian lead: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Director Destin Daniel Cretton brings Asian culture into Marvel’s cinematic universe.

The movie starts out in ancient times, where Xu Wenwu, played by Tony Leung, first discovers the mystical Ten Rings, which grants the user immortality and godly power, and establishes the Ten Rings organization. However, he still wants more power. During his journey, he meets Ying Li, played by Fala Chen, and falls in love with her. They have two children, Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, and Xialing, played by Meng’er Zhang. Later, when Shang-Chi is 7, his mother is murdered. This leads to Wenwu forcing Shang-Chi to undergo brutal training in martial arts, in Kung Fu. At the age of 14, Shang-Chi runs away and adopts the name “Shaun”. 

The movie then fast forwards to the present, 2024. Shang-Chi works as a valet with his best friend Katy, played by Awkwafina, who does not know about his past. They get attacked on a bus by the Ten Rings organization. Afraid that his sister Xialing would be attacked next, Shang-Chi decides to meet and warn her. Then, the Ten Rings capture Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy and bring them to the compound. There, Wenwu explains why he captured them, saying that he has heard Li calling to him and believes she has been held captive in Ta Lo behind the Dark Gate, trapping soul-consuming Dweller-in-Darkness. When Wenwu threatens Ta Lo and the rest of humanity, Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past and use his Kung Fu abilities to save the world.

While the plot parallels the other Marvel movies, Cretton manages to show the story with an Asian twist. As an Asian American myself, this movie broke barriers. Growing up, I never had a superhero I could relate to, but now, I can. I can relate to the themes in the film. The themes are much more family-related than previous Marvel movies as they deal with parental death, family pressures and family tradition. Even though the movie has serious themes, it also has a lot of light-hearted humor. 

The best part of the film is the special effects and martial arts sequences. The special effects provided some cool action sequence shots. However, due to COVID-19, certain items were computer-generated such as Macau. Many of the mystical animals were CGI. Yet, Cretton managed to make the fights and movie feel very realistic, in a superhero world kind of way. Additionally, the fight sequences were very authentic, representing real Asian culture. Despite the less than perfect Chinese pronunciation and Chinese-to-English translation, the movie overall is a hit.

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is by far my favorite Marvel film. With the incorporation of real Asian culture, amazing CVI and visuals and an interesting plot, Marvel has elevated the standard of their movies and upped the ante for other superhero films. (Also, all the characters are super hot. From the dad to the mom to the sister to Shang-Chi. All of them.) 10/10