By Rena Ketelsen– Shang-Chi, directed by Destin Daniel Cratton, is part of the so-called fourth phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short. It follows a recent trend in Marvel movies and shows to have more representation and tackle controversial topics.
Shang-Chi has a largely Asian cast, with Simu Liu playing the main character and Awkwafina playing his best friend. On top of that, this is the first MCU movie since the beginning of the pandemic which was released only in theaters and the studio spent much less money on advertising it than most of their other movies. A combination of those led to a lot of speculation and doubt about the success that the movie would have, especially during the first few days and weeks. However, those were eliminated very quickly with the movie grossing $71.4 million within the opening weekend, making it the second-biggest three-day debut of this year so far. Only MCU’s Black Widow (2021), which had a female lead and an underlying topic of human trafficking, grossed more than Shang-Chi with $80.3 million.
The first part of the movie introduces the main character, Shang-Chi, or Shawn, and his best friend, Kate, who both work as valets. Kate is a loud, adventurous character, whereas Shawn, which is the name that Shang-Chi goes by in the US, is much calmer and more grounded. However, Shang-Chi gets attacked in a bus and has to defend himself, revealing his fighting skills to Kate and the rest of the world. In that fight, his mother’s necklace gets stolen.
Shang-Chi, Kate and his sister, Xialing, are captured by their father, Xu Wenwu, a.k.a. the real Mandarin. The two friends go to check up on Xialing after Shang-Chi had received a message. Xu Wenwu tries to convince his children, especially Shang-Chi, to join him in his quest to find a mythical town called Ta Lo to get their mother back, who is supposedly being held captive. However, they refuse, and he locks them up. That’s where they meet Trevor Slattery, who has previously appeared in Iron Man 3 (2013), and Morris, a mythical creature with six legs and a pair of wings but no face, both of whom had gotten locked up, too.
With Slattery’s and Morris’ help, Shang-Chi, Kate and Xialing escape and find Ta Lo. Xu Wenwu arrives soon after that. Xialing and Kate help the village fight against the intruders while Shang-Chi tries to keep his father from freeing a powerful, evil dragon. By the time he beats his father, the cage is too weak, and the dragon breaks free. He fights the dragon in an epic battle with the help of the Great Protector, another dragon.
In true MCU fashion, the movie has two post-credit scenes, one of which ties the movie into the rest of the MCU after most of it was a stand-alone film.
Overall, the movie has a rather simple, but fun and entertaining plot. The visual effects, cinematography and postproduction in general are of very high quality, as can be expected of a Marvel production. While the cast is not typical for these sorts of movies, the performances were convincing and entertaining to watch. It seems to be very evident that this new trend of taking risks is working in the studios favor.
In conclusion, the film lives up to its fellow MCU movies in every aspect and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it did well in box-office.