Photo courtesy Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is entering uncharted territory. After Marvel Studios’ decade of dominance got tied up with a nice little bow on top in “Avengers: Endgame,” there’s been a period of transition (and a global pandemic) that’s kept us from knowing where things are headed next.  

Oh sure, we got a fun look back with “Black Widow” and some supporting characters got fleshed out on Disney+ with the series “WandaVision,” “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki,” but it’s been a minute since Marvel’s given us anything that’s felt truly fresh and new.

Well watch out, because fresh and new just kicked in the door with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”  

The easiest summation of “Shang-Chi” is that it’s Marvel’s version of a kung-fu movie. If either of those things are relevant to your interests then you will be assured to have a grand time.

For those of you who need a little more convincing, no worries as “Shang-Chi” has a heck of a lot more going on.

The titular Shang-Chi (played with charm and flair by relative newcomer Simu Liu) was trained as an assassin as a young boy by his father Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), the leader of the international crime syndicate the Ten Rings.

Marvel has hinted at the Ten Rings before, most notably in the “Iron Man” movies (which provides the opportunity for a fun little cameo), but here the curtain is pulled back to reveal that the Ten Rings are powerful artifacts wielded by Wenwu that give him incredible power.

Shang-Chi breaks away from his father and when we meet him he is leading an unassuming life working as a valet in San Francisco with his buddy Katy (the always hilarious Awkwafina).

Naturally fate intervenes and Shang-Chi’s past comes calling, whisking us around the world on an adventure that features car chases, Chinese mythology and some of the most spectacular fight sequences you’ll see this side of Jet Li.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton does an excellent job of taking characters that were based on caricatures and stereotypes in the comics in the 1970s and reclaiming them as fully-developed people while representing the full spectrum of Asian culture.

“Shang-Chi” takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an exciting new direction without leaving behind all the fun and thrills. The future is in good hands.

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

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