At no point does Shang-Chi prove himself to be a hero we should root for, outside the bare minimum requirement of defeating the antagonist.
Superhero films have a new king if Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed.
The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” sits at a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is the highest audience score for any superhero movie to date, and despite only being out for two weeks, audiences are praising it as the genre’s best.
Not only is this movie unworthy of the title, I didn’t even like it.
“Shang-Chi” has several flaws, including a lack of direction, glaring character flaws, plot holes and a painfully slow third act that will make you wish Shang-Chi would jump out of the big screen to knock you out. However, its worst flaw is that it fails to establish Shang-Chi as a worthwhile hero.
At no point does Shang-Chi prove himself to be a hero we should root for, outside the bare minimum requirement of defeating the antagonist. Characters like Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man or even the annoyingly overpowered Superman experience character development, and they act heroically in moments of need. Shang-Chi never has that moment and is awkwardly sidelined in his most important moments that would otherwise develop him into a hero.
Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, is a more compelling hero. Having been neglected by her cold and distant mob-boss father after her mother’s mysterious death, she learned martial arts by herself, promising to take over the Ten Rings and rebuild it in her vision. A story about Xialing overcoming her neglect and trauma to ultimately put aside her goal for vengeance would’ve been far more satisfying.
Although I don’t get the hype behind the film, “Shang-Chi” deserves praise for cultural representation within the predominantly white superhero genre. Seeing superheroes that share your identity and issues feels empowering. As a Black man, I was enthralled seeing “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” and “Black Panther” represent me and my people, and for Asian and Asian American people, “Shang-Chi” gives much-needed representation in the MCU.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is far from the best superhero film, but I can only imagine how awesome it feels for Asian and Asian American people to have heroes like Shang-Chi and Xialing – heroes that 98% of audiences enjoy, no less.