Marvel isn’t doing anything new when it comes to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A significant step forward in MCU representation, like Black Panther, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is introduced as the film’s titular hero in the MCU’s latest release. But Shang-Chi’s ending suffers from the same flaws that have plagued several previous Marvel films.
As Shang-Chi and Xialing’s father, Xu Wenwu is the film’s main antagonist. Dweller in Darkness (a creature concealed by the villagers of Ta Lo to prevent it from unleashing havoc on the world) is the film’s true antagonist. He is tricked into believing that opening the Dark Gate will bring back his late wife, Ying Li.
The problem with Shang Chi’s ending act is that it is essentially another massive CGI battle in the sky. Many of the MCU films have come to a similar conclusion, perhaps best illustrated by the original Battle of New York in The Avengers, where the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes came together for the first time to fend off Loki’s Chitauri invasion.
For all its praise and high Rotten Tomatoes rating, even Black Panther has been criticized for its use of CGI in the final act. That same decision to stick to this formula by Marvel Studios means that Shang-Chi and Wenwu’s family drama is also sacrificed.
The film’s first two acts are dedicated to Shang-Chi and Wenwu’s battle for power and dominance. Shang Chi’s villain, Wenwu, has garnered much praise, and the film is at its best when exploring the emotional turmoil surrounding his relationship with his children. This film’s best elements are weakened by the abrupt switch to a final CGI battle in the sky, introduced by the film’s Dweller in Darkness villain. As exciting as the last fight is in and of itself, including it when doing so compromises a complex family dynamic is a problem.
As previously stated, the MCU’s final acts have been dominated by elaborate CGI battles. However, although many of these action sequences have been well-executed (such as End Game’s epic finale), they all tend to feel formulaic and trite. Chitauri is nothing more than a plot device, despite the film’s success in bringing the Avengers together for an epic showdown.
However epic, the giant space whales were flying through New York’s skies. Despite being the main antagonist, Loki is marginalized for the majority of the final battle because they are so easy to take out. In the end, the MCU’s CGI battles are entertaining, but they detract from the film’s best moments.
The formulaic conclusion to Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings by Marvel Studios is flawed. Although there has been much criticism of the MCU’s final battles, the fact that this problem persists in Phase 4 shows that the MCU has not learned its lesson. It would be great if future films could help to change that.