‘Shang-Chi’ masters the artwork of the Marvel origin story

That asterisk would not detract from the movie itself, but it surely does underscore the load “Shang-Chi” carries, each as an unique (that’s, non-sequel) title and a film launched completely into theaters with out the at-home possibility that is been provided to gas subscriptions to Disney+.

Fortuitously, the movie comes armed for battle with a particularly interesting lead in Simu Liu, properly abetted by Awkwafina as his greatest pal and plucky comedian aid.

Shang-Chi and Awkwafina’s Katy are moderately aimlessly meandering by way of life in San Francisco when future knocks, and she or he’s understandably gob-smacked when he will get attacked on a bus by muscled henchmen, exhibiting gorgeous martial-arts expertise within the film’s first and greatest motion sequence.

Because it seems, her pal since highschool has hidden a secret, having fled his upbringing as a skilled murderer beneath his father (Tony Leung), the possessor of the paranormal Ten Rings, a supply of huge energy. The sudden intrusion means not solely that dad has discovered him, however that Shang-Chi should hunt down his sister (Meng’er Zhang), launching the Bay Space buddies right into a world of magic and thriller.

Having made their debut within the Nineteen Seventies, the Shang-Chi comics at all times possessed problematic underpinnings, rooted as they have been within the literary character of grasp villain Fu Manchu, who was Shang-Chi’s father.

Beneath director Destin Daniel Cretton — stepping up in scope after the drama “Simply Mercy,” and collaborating on the script with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham — the story basically (and correctly) makes use of the comics as a tough define. Whereas there are echoes of “Black Panther” within the character’s super-heroic future, the tone extra carefully resembles “Physician Unusual” as Marvel origin tales go.

The film additionally cleverly weaves in characters from the bigger MCU, including playfulness to a legendary narrative full of difficult household historical past and the near-Shakespearean relationship between father and son.

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Marvel Comics was seldom bashful about borrowing from popular culture, and the comics — titled “Grasp of Kung Fu” — drew on the recognition of the TV present and Bruce Lee films within the ’70s. One shock, provided that, is simply how superhero-like “Shang-Chi” feels, together with the seemingly inevitable barrage of computer-generated mayhem earlier than it is over.

Whereas visually spectacular, these sequences really ship much less pleasure than Shang-Chi’s shut encounters of a extra earthbound sort, which showcase dazzling stunt work and kinetic motion. It is maybe cliched to say much less is extra, however on this context it is certainly the case that the extra magic the story employs, the much less magical the motion turns into.

Quibbles apart, “Shang-Chi” is one other well calibrated extension of the Marvel secure amid its endeavors to turn into extra various. Previous an onslaught of sequels within the studio’s fastidiously plotted subsequent part, this film and the upcoming “Eternals” additionally mirror maybe its greatest gambles on lesser-known titles since “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which clearly paid off handsomely.

Marvel’s may has solely grown since then, and virtually talking it is arduous to not admire the meticulous method the corporate weaves one thing like “Shang-Chi” right into a cinematic roster whose prospects have additional expanded with Disney+.

Regardless of the headwinds movie-going faces, “Shang-Chi” ought to thus profit from the truth that offered an thrilling new character, the Marvel trustworthy will not need to danger lacking the bus. And on this specific case, you actually do not need to miss the bus.

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“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” premieres in US theaters on Sept. 3. It is rated PG-13.

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