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Film critic Lisa Johnson Mandell explains why SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS could be one of the brightest stars in the Marvel Universe.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to think when I first heard about Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Is it a martial arts film? Is it a superhero film? Is it a Mulan hybrid? Being partial to all of the above, I was eager to see it, if I could just get the name right.

What I realized once it started blazing before my eyes is that not only is it a rollicking addition to the Marvel Universe, but it’s one of the better ones! Dare I say one of the best?

This multi-heroes’ journey tale of a couple of lazy slackers reluctantly being pulled into a world of Chinese legends where the fate of the world is at stake, adds fresh energy to the genre.

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has all the things we love in action fantasies: irony, comedy, drama, surprise, ancient myths, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon type sparring, and, speaking of dragons… well, more on that later.

Suffice it to say that this is a real cinematic treat, and in particular, I wanted to point out five things I loved about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and I think you will too. The trailer, below, however, just may be enough to entice you.

5 Things you’ll love about SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

1. Awkwafina

Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 ringsThe Marvel Universe now has its latest greatest female superhero, and her name is…Awkwafina? Wait a minute! How did that happen? Awkwafina plays Katy, the very mortal, quick quipping buddy of Chinese Canadian star Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi. She doesn’t appear to have any super powers other than mad driving skills and the ability to learn archery really fast. Her real super power, however, is the capacity to steal every scene she’s in, and elevate what is already an upper echelon Marvel movie into the stratosphere.


2. That bus scene

Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 ringsWhen it comes to the big reveal that Katy’s fellow parking valet BFF is a lot more than she thought he was, they’re on a city bus, with some really big and brutal baddies threatening to turn everyone within a mile’s radius into collateral damage. It hearkens back to the seminal scene in Bob Odenkirk’s Nobody, and while Katy takes the wheel, her friend who is soon to be revealed as the gifted Sheng Chi unleashes a lot of pent up fury, in a scene that leaves us breathless.


3. The first Marvel animal sidekick


Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 ringsAt the risk of mixing too many franchises (they’re all in the Disney wheelhouse, what the heck?) I’m almost as obsessed with Morris as I am with Baby Yoda. Morris is a furry little winged creature from the mystical kingdom our heroes are seeking. He shows them the way. I found him infinitely charming without being saccharine, partially because he doesn’t have a face and looks a little like one half of a derriere.


4. Dragons!

Shang Chi and the Legend of the 10 ringsSpeaking of mythical creatures, who doesn’t love a well rendered dragon, or seeing warrior princes and princess riding on them? Admit it, those were among your favorite Game of Thrones moments, weren’t they? After seeing the film, my husband asked me, “Why do girls like dragons so much?” There are probably a million Freudian reasons, but who cares? Don’t analyze it, just enjoy director Destin Daniel Cretton’s remarkable work.

5. Sisters are doing it for themselves

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGSAwkwafina isn’t the only one in this raucous tale who takes the reigns in her own hands. The incomparable Michelle Yeoh plays one of the greatest warriors (and cool aunts) we’ve seen on film, and Meng’er Zhang, who appears as Shang-Chi’s take no prisoners sister Dialing, is sublime. Fala Chen, as the siblings mother, is no shrinking violet either. I’d love to see them team up with the female warriors of Wakanda, and banish evil once and for all.

And who knows? Some day, they just might. You’ll want to stick around through all the credits for some hints as to where all these fresh new characters might turn up in the Marvel Universe. It will take you at least that long to catch your breath after all that intense action.

BTW, If this Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feature leaves you yearning to see it ASAP, you’ll have to visit Fandango to get times and tickets, because, in an unusual move, it won’t be showing up on Disney+ for six weeks.

Film critic Lisa Johnson Mandell explains why SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS could be one of the brightest stars in the Marvel Universe.