Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (PG-13)
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A woman named Ying Li tells her young son, Shang-Chi, the legend of the ten rings, which she says has been told for thousands of years, but really she only tells him about one man, Xu Wenwu, who wields the ten rings for 1000 years, so I was a bit confused on that point. I suppose there must have been other wielders before him, but we don't hear about them. Still, the way Li talked, it sounded to me like she was saying Wenwu was the first one to find the rings, though it is unclear where. Whatever, it's not important. What's important is that the rings (which Wenwu wears on his arms) give the wearer incredible power and immortality. He organized an army, which is known as the Ten Rings. It seems like they pretty openly conquered kingdoms or whatever in the early days, but throughout most of Wenwu's thousand years of life, the organization has operated in the shadows, but had a profound effect on history. Anyway, in 1996, Wenwu decides to seek for the legendary village of Ta Lo, whose occupants are said to possess a form of martial arts that came from the gods, or something. He doesn't quite find the village, but he does find one of its guardians, Ying Li, whom he fights with his rings, but she ultimately beats him. Still, the two of them fall in love and have two children, a boy named Shang-Chi, as I mentioned, and his younger sister, Xu Xialing.
We later learn that when Shang-Chi was 7 years old, his mother was killed by enemies of his father. At that point, Wenwu began training Shang-Chi as a warrior and assassin. When he was 14, Wenwu sent him to kill the man who had killed Li. After that, Shang-Chi ran away. He promised to return for his sister in three days, but he never came back. He moved to San Francisco and changed his name to Shaun, whom we see in the present as a young man. He has a best friend named Katy (Awkwafina), and the two of them are both working as valets. They have a couple other friends who are of no great importance to the film, who believe Shaun and Katy are both wasting their potential, but they enjoy their lives as they are. Then one day, a few members of the Ten Rings organization attack Shaun, to steal a pendant his mother had given him when he was a kid. He believes Xialing will be their next target, so he decides to go to Macau to warn her. (He had her address on a postcard with no message that she apparently sent him, but we later learn that she didn't send the card. I don't think the movie ever made it clear who did, but I can only assume it was Wenwu.) Katy insists on accompanying Shaun, who tells her the story of his past, and that his name is really Shang-Chi. (She makes fun of him making such a subtle change to his name if he was going into hiding from his father, which I really enjoyed because it reminds me of some of the characters from my book.)
The address turns out to be the location of a fight club, which has some pretty unusual fighters. (We see a bit of a match between Abomination, from "The Incredible Hulk", and Wong, from "Doctor Strange".) At the club, Shang-Chi and Katy are greeted by a man named Jon Jon (Ronny Chieng), who insists Shang-Chi participate in a fight, which turns out to be against his sister, who owns the club. (As a child, neither she nor any other girls/women had been allowed to train with the boys/men in the Ten Rings, but she watched their training and taught herself to be a badass martial artist.) After awhile, members of the Ten Rings show up looking for Xialing, as well as Shang-Chi (and Katy is mixed up in the fight/escape attempt that ensues). Shang-Chi beats his opponents, until his father shows up and all three are captured and taken back to his headquarters.
Wenwu tells his kids that he has been hearing his wife's voice telling him to rescue her, as she had been imprisoned behind a magical gate or whatever, back in Ta Lo. His children, of course, are skeptical. They want to stop him from his plan to invade Ta Lo to rescue Li, which means they'll have to escape and get there before him. They meet Trevor Slattery, the actor who had impersonated the Mandarin in "Iron Man 3", and who had been captured by the Ten Rings in the short film All Hail the King. He is friends with a magical creature which Wikipedia informs me is called a hundun, which Trevor calls 'Morris'. The hundun talks to Trevor, and only he can understand the creature, but he translates for it, as it can guide them to Ta Lo. Once there, they meet Li's sister, Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh), who tells them the truth about what's behind the Dark Gate, an ancient and terrible being that's trying to trick Wenwu into freeing it. They all prepare to battle the Ten Rings, including Katy, who begins learning archery. And eventually there's a pretty epic battle that involves the monster behind the gate and its minions, as well as a dragon called the Great Protector, who is on the side of the residents of Ta Lo.
That's all I want to reveal of the plot (it's a lot, but I feel like it's the minimum I could have possibly revealed). But there is also a fun mid-credits scene in which Shang-Chi and Katy meet with Wong, Bruce Banner, and Captain Marvel. (I was a bit confused about Bruce being Bruce, because I don't remember him turning back into his human form after "Avengers: Endgame". I remember him being permanently in Hulk mode, or at least half-Hulk mode. But probably this is just another example of my memory sucking.) There's also a post-credits scene with Xialing, the nature of which I don't want to spoil. Anyway... the whole movie is pretty great. It's an interesting and compelling story, with good characters, drama, humor, mythology, lots of cool fight scenes and CGI creatures, and... I'm not sure what else to tell you.
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