Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
Martial arts training and fighting
Underground fight club
Father and son conflict
Fleeing from one’s father and later having to face him
Assassins / training to kill people in many different ways
Perseverance, bravery and courage
Shrines to dead people (ancestor worship)
The pagan idea that people’s spirit’s can be held prisoner by others after their death
Supernatural, god-like powers
Fantasy demon-like beings and creatures who can suck people’s souls
DRAGON LEGENDS AND DINOSAURS—discover how they are connected
About DRAGONS in the Bible
Simu Liu … Shaun / Shang-Chi
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Tony Leung) … Xu Wenwu
Awkwafina … Katy
Meng'er Zhang … Xialing
Fala Chen … Li
Michelle Yeoh … Ying Nan
Wah Yuen (Yuen Wah) … Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu … Razor Fist
Andy Le … Death Dealer
Paul W. He (Paul He) … Chancellor Hui
Ben Kingsley … Trevor Slattery
Tim Roth … Abomination
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|Director||Destin Daniel Cretton|
Walt Disney Pictures
Fox Studios Australia [Australia]
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Shaun, or Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), has been living his own life for the past 10 years. Little does anyone else know, he’s doing so to hide away from his family. Why? Well, his Dad is an immortal being thanks to harboring a mystical object called the “Ten Rings,” and he’s gone on to commit various crimes over the years with these objects.
As a child, Shang-Chi was trained to be an assassin, and was sent on a mission to avenge his mother’s death, only to wind up running away in the process.
When a mysterious postcard arrives, Shang realizes he might have been found. Thinking the card is from his sister, he flies to find her alongside his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Following a heated reunion in a wrestling ring, both end up accosted by their Dad’s fighters.
Why? Apparently Wenwu (their dad) has plans to open up a mysterious door to the underworld, thinking that an answer to a major problem is behind it. But is it?
“Shang-Chi…” checks off the boxes that help make a Marvel movie work as well as they do. The visual effects are top-notch, with some pretty impressive moments in the third act. The characters are likable, and some carry a tone that don’t take themselves too seriously. The connecting dots to the overarching storyline are there, without overwhelming the core story itself. The action sequences are great (the opening bus scene, WOW). There are a lot of great, humorous moments (courtesy of Awkwafina, of course).
Speaking of Awkwafina, her comedic timing here works incredibly well. She’s hilarious and also has strong chemistry with her co-lead. As the lead, Liu makes for a likable, yet emotionally subtle protagonist. Tony Leung does a wonderful job creating a sympathetic yet dedicated villain of sorts. A couple of moderate MCU characters return with solid moments. And Michelle Yeoh has a couple of strong moments in the third act as well.
The only real downside to “Shang-Chi…” is that it does have too much exposition, especially in the first act. I found myself a little bit lost early on, and feel like it may take more than one watch to fully understand. However, there is an attempt to fix this in some way as we go through the movie, and the overall motivation and thinking of the characters becomes more clear. A little more digestible of an approach in the first act may have been more helpful, however.
The main positive themes I picked up from “Shang-Chi…” are familial love and redemption. Despite his mixed feelings for his family history, Shang-Chi longs for his family to be whole again, and his father to come to his senses. When he thinks about how he may have to kill his father in order to protect the whole world, he understandably breaks down emotionally. Yet, he perseveres in bringing his father back to the light, and never quite gets to the point of taking his life.
I saw a parallel here to Jesus’ persevering love, even to those who we would consider to never deserve it. But, in the bigger picture, it’s important to remember that we all never deserved His love and redeeming grace to begin with. After all, we are all sinners and fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Jesus yearns for all of us to find the light, and a relationship with Him. Sometimes that means giving multiple chances for everyone to find Him.
Shang-Chi’s love for his father in spite of all the drama and chaos is a moving example that we can all also learn a thing or two from, especially when it comes to difficult friends or family members.
Shang-Chi and Katy also do some maturing of their own in this story. Instead of living a life of survival every day full of irresponsible choices, they find purpose in their lives for a bigger cause. Katy willingly and instantly puts her life on hold to support her best friend. They (and most other characters) also willingly (sometimes reluctantly for humorous effect) risk their lives to save the world.
Language: A little on the strong side. A minor character gives Shang the middle finger once. “Oh my g**” is interjected a handful of times (sometimes in shock, sometimes thoughtlessly), and Katy utters “g*d d**n” at one point as well. (see complete list below)
Adult Content: At the beginning of the film, Wenwu and his wife-to-be have a poetic fight that has some romantic tension (they end up marrying). Shang-Chi is shirtless in a couple of scenes. There’s a crude comment about something coming out of “her mother’s v*gina.”
Violence: PG-13 level violence is to be expected, and there’s not much here that differs too much from other superhero films. We see a brief intense battle at the beginning. There’s a handful of martial arts-style battle sequences that lead to serious injury or death. A fighting ring is introduced in the first third where Shang and his sister get into a serious fight. Another fight takes place outside the building where a handful of fighters fall to their deaths.
The ending action scene involves a couple of giant mythical creatures battling each other and a large body count. There are also some scary underworld characters in this climactic scene that could prove to be very scary for younger children. Meanwhile, the Ten Rings are used to murder someone and kill off (somewhat viscerally) an evil creature at the end. They also break through walls and cause other harm on many other occasions. An arrow slices a creature’s throat.
Drugs/Alcohol: Katy and Shang find themselves in a karaoke bar a couple of times singing, obviously drunk. We see them passed out on a couch a couple of times as well. Wine and beer bottles are seen as well.
Other: Eastern spirituality plays a role here as well. We see shrines for deceased loved ones. We hear about characters becoming immortal thanks to the Ten Rings. We see underworld creatures drain the souls of many in order to strengthen their “queen bee.” Other mythical creatures are shown. A lantern funeral service for those who have fallen is seen, along with comments about “resting with our ancestors.”
Katy recklessly drives a fancy car at her job. A couple of characters mislead. Characters act mercilessly out of vengeance.
Despite “Shang-Chi…” following the Marvel formula pretty closely, it is also a moment in history for the superhero genre. An Asian superhero and a focus on Eastern culture provides plenty of reasons to get hyped up here. And despite having a lot of exposition early on, “Shang-Chi…” succeeds in entertaining in the way the best Marvel movies do. It’s exciting. It’s funny. It has good characters. It leaves viewers wanting more with great post-credits scenes. And there’s also a pretty solid emotional undercurrent that hits its mark as it goes.
That being said, I advise some caution for families with elementary-aged kids looking for something to see together. The violence, while expected, can be intense and scary at times. The language, while less frequent than some superhero films, is still a little on the strong side for a movie aiming to bring in all ages. And the Eastern spirituality, while a strong part of the culture it represents, may be a turn-off for some families.
In the end, for MCU fans and older movie fans knowing what to expect, “Shang-Chi…” will probably deliver a satisfying thrill ride.
Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.