Movie Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings Highlights Asian Representation and Empowering Female Characters

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings” is an action-packed movie featuring Chinese culture and female empowerment. Released in theatres on September 3, 2021 the Marvel film is set after the infamous “Thanos snap,” where half the universe’s population was snapped out of existence, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and follows main character Shang-Chi, played by Simu Liu, as he travels back to his hometown in China to confront his father (Tony Leung), who is plotting to destroy an entire town. He brings along his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) and they team up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) as they seek revenge on their father, who possesses the ten rings and is motivated by his denial of and grief surrounding his wife’s death. Spoilers ahead.

Firstly, as one of the only movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature an Asian superhero and a majority Asian cast and production, this film provides much-needed Asian representation in Marvel movies. It weaves Chinese culture into its narrative, with elements of traditional Chinese culture featuring prominently in its plot. In a breath of fresh air, characters are unabashedly Asian, with no one’s heritage or culture demeaned. However, although its Asian representation was abundant and groundbreaking, there were a few stereotypical angles portrayed. Additionally, smaller details surrounding Chinese culture could have been highlighted in the movie. This would give viewers a nuanced view of the culture instead of repeating broader aspects, like eating dumplings or practicing Kung Fu, that have been seen in movies before.

The film also fostered a space for strong female characters such as Xialing and Katy. When Shang-Chi and Katy first arrive in China, Shang-Chi is reunited with his sister, almost a decade after he ran away from his family. But his sister Xialing is no longer the little girl she once was; she has built a business empire on her own and certainly knows how to defend herself. Having taught herself martial arts, even when she was barred from doing so as a child, she challenges her brother to a fight and wins. Katy is another powerful female presence in the movie. She starts out lost in her life and not having a direction in regards to her job. Through the trip to China, she develops as a character to start thinking for herself and searching for her passion. She even ends up saving both Shang-Chi and Katy in the final battle scene.

Ending with the siblings defeating their father, Shang-Chi is now the new rightful owner of the ten rings. In the final scene, someone calls Shang-Chi to a mission, which sets up the film perfectly to have a possible sequel. However, one weaker part of the movie was that the escalation of the rising action felt like it happened too suddenly and could have been stretched out over a longer period to build more tension and to be realistic. This film secures 5/5 stars for its compelling story, Asian representation, and well-written female characters.