Family is stronger than fury

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” makes its mark on the Marvel universe

Perris Larson, Staff Writer

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. (Courtesy of Disney)

No family is perfect, right?

Some families fight over the remote, some families fight over what to have for dinner, and some families fight over the front seat in their parents’ minivan. This family fights over decisions that have world-altering, life-ending effects.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Marvel’s first Asian superhero protagonist, grew up preparing to battle his family’s enemies. His father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leong) trained him mercilessly for years, so Shang-Chi chose to step away from the family legacy and live a carefree life as a parking valet. He turned to his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) for comfort and companionship.

After learning of his traumatic and toxic family life, viewers can empathize with Shang-Chi when his life turns upside down and he must deal with the reality of coming face to face with his father.

His father, although a warlord, is also a man burdened with paranoia and grief. He justifies any bit of destruction by declaring that he is avenging his wife’s death. Xu Wenwu wants his children back in his life so they can become a team again, but Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) refuse to rejoin the bloody family business.

Xu Wenwu is a very emotional character, and Leong portrays him flawlessly. Through his gut-wrenching grief over his wife’s death and his attempts to mask his true feelings in front of his children, audiences will have no choice but to sympathize with the heartbroken widower.

Violence, neglect and a lack of compassion are seen throughout Shang-Chi’s interactions with his family and during flashbacks of his childhood. To him, it was a broken family that could never be repaired after the death of his mother. The film does an impeccable job of highlighting both their family tension and their unconditional love for one another at the same time.

For most of his life, Shang-Chi was angry at his father for training him and wanting him to become a killer. Xialing also resented her father for not giving her an opportunity to prove herself. She was kept out of training with the other warriors simply because she was a girl, but eventually she trained herself and became a skilled fighter. Her motivation teaches young female viewers an important lesson about their strength and resilience.

In terms of the film’s cast, Liu is the perfect leading man due to his previous experience as a stuntman. Before the film began, he had to undergo serious martial arts training, and this practice combined with his past experience resulted in Liu impressively performing all of his own stunts.

The film’s supporting cast is just as equally impressive as its leading actor.

Awkwafina usually plays a comedic character in her films. She still provides the perfect amount of sarcasm and laughs, but she plays an ideal best friend who fights at Shang-Chi’s side. As his friend, she remains loyal to him in the midst of his turbulent, troubled life. She plays the character well and proves that she can act in dramatic films as well as comedic ones.

“Shang Chi” is a film that will make viewers laugh, cry, and sign up for martial arts training. As action packed as it is, the film mainly revolves around loyalty and love for family. Their mutual grief for a lost loved one inspired Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Xu Wenwu to come together and fight for a common goal.

The foundation for “Shang-Chi” is that traumatic memories will not stay buried. As painful as the past can be, no one can really move forward with their life until they face their demons. Marvel’s latest box office hit teaches audiences that with the support of friends and family, anyone can fight any battle.

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language.