Marvel has spent a lot of time tinkering with its past — literally, given the recent time-hopping antics of Loki and Avengers: Endgame. Now, after Black Widow ended the MCU's two-year cinematic drought with a prequel, the studio is fixing its eyes on its future with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Starring Simu Liu in the title role of Marvel's longtime martial-arts hero, Shang-Chi is the first new hero to join the MCU since Captain Marvel introduced Carol Danvers way back in 2019. It's also the first AAPI-led Marvel film, one whose stacked cast includes legendary actors Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung along with Awkwafina and Dr. Strange scene-stealer Benedict Wong.
The film's mashup of Eastern and Western filmmaking traditions has fans fired up to see what Marvel will unleash with the debut of the character, who has been a staple of Marvel's back-catalogue ever since the '70s. And if early reactions following last night's premiere are any indication, Shang-Chi could raise the bar considerably as Marvel enters Phase 4 of its cinema-dominating master plan.
Collider critic Steven Weintraub praised the film as a game-changer for Marvel, opening the door to a much larger world in the MCU.
Critic Drew Taylor called the film an unexpectedly emotional journey, with influences ranging from classic Jackie Chan to Studio Ghibli bringing the film to vibrant life.
So far, the film is drawing universal praise for its MCU-best action sequences, ditching the CGI-heroes-vs.-beam-of-light house style for something more grounded, kinetic and eye popping.
Much of the film’s success is being credited to headliner Liu, who critics say strikes a solid balance between heart, gravitas and badassery, making him a welcome addition to any future Avengers lineup.
Insider’s Kristen Acuna heaped praise on Liu, but also heralded the “badass women” of the film.
And Fandom editor-in-chief Eric Goldman said that while the film has some pacing issues, it avoids the origin-story trappings to become its own distinct thing.
If the film continues to ride this wave of praise once the review embargo is lifted, it could rank among the MCU's best. We'll find out when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits cinemas September 3.