I’m going to say something that I don’t think I’ve ever said in my articles and only on one or two occasions in my life. I’m sorry. Usually, my articles, especially those containing lists are 100% accurate with no room for error. But I made a grave mistake with my “Top 6 Superhero Movies that You Should be Looking Forward to in 2021” article. I did not include a film that should be the betting favorite for best superhero film of the year. Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings. Yep, even over the Snyder Cut, Black Widow, or The Suicide Squad. Even though those will or, in the case of the Snyder Cut, have been awesome as well. To prove my prediction, let’s break down six reasons why Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings will be the best superhero movie of 2021.
6. Shang-Chi’s Mysterious Backstory
Everyone likes a dark superhero backstory. That’s one of the reasons why there have been more Batman movies than any other superhero. And Shang-Chi, who will be played by Simu Liu, has one of the most complicated backstories of any superhero. Born in the Hovan province of China, Shang-Chi was raised to be an assassin by his father. Shang-Chi served his father under the assumption that he was a humanitarian.
After becoming a master in multiple martial arts, Shang-Chi gradually learns about his father’s past and is faced with many ethical dilemmas. Seeing Shang-Chi grapple with these as well as try to escape his past in San Francisco will be very interesting and presumably deadly when these worlds inevitably collide. And, having committed his own crimes, Shang-Chi has to be on guard not only for when his past will come back to haunt but who from it wants revenge.
Bill Pope is one of the most underrated cinematographers at the moment. And he has a very extensive resume. Army of Darkness, The Matrix Trilogy, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, The Jungle Book, and Baby Driver are just some of his past projects. And even in this trailer, you can see Pope’s fingerprints are all over this film.
We can already see slow-motion action sequences as well as the unique color gradients that transport the audience to the different worlds that Shang-Chi encounters. I know many people recognized the greenish hue of Shang-Chi’s training that resembled that of The Matrix. With complaints about the uniformity of MCU cinematography, this film is poised to visually stand apart from its counterparts.
This is adding on to number 5 but focuses more on the source material. I’ve said this in previous articles, but in the superhero genre, it’s essential to tell effective stories not only in the dialogue but also in the actions between our heroes and villains. And by actions, I for the most part mean fight scenes. An over-reliance on bad CGI and a lack of storytelling during fight scenes can really hold a movie back. This was probably the worst flaw of Suicide Squad.
Hand-to-hand combat is usually a safer bet at telling a more effective visual story than an abundance of CGI. And there are so many martial arts that Shang-Chi and his enemies master to work with. Additionally, the unique traits of the ten rings that will be at Bill Pope and director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s disposal, combined with the different settings and time periods give the two a lot of room for creativity. The potential in terms of visual storytelling is as high as can be in Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Speaking of director Destin Daniel Cretton, he’s great. While this will be his first dive into the superhero genre, that should be little cause for concern. As Ryan Coogler showed in Black Panther, when you have a capable director who can produce effective, sympathetic characters on both sides, you have the makings of a terrific superhero movie so long as the action sequences are solid. And similar to Coogler, Cretton has a very effective background in the drama genre.
The courtroom biographical drama Just Mercy was one of the best films of 2019. And Short Term 12 is frankly one of the best films of the past decade. The ladder film is even more essential to consider because it is a coming-of-age drama. From what we’ve seen from the trailer and the comics, Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings is definitely a coming-of-age journey for our protagonist as he tries to escape his old life and live on his own in San Francisco.
What’s more important to a great superhero film? The villain or the hero? Of course, both are very important, but if the film does not have at least a compelling villain, then it really holds the film back. Even in movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, while Ronan the Accuser maybe had somewhat bland ambitions, he still had a captivating aura to himself (thank you Lee Pace) while other villains such as Nebula and Thanos officially introduced themselves to the MCU.
The Mandarin, who will be played by an extremely accomplished actor, Tony Leung, in Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings, will be a great villain. Along with giving us closure on who the Mandarin is, which dates back to Iron Man 3. Questions of why this character commits the crimes he does, how long he has been around, as well as his relation to the ten rings and Shang-Chi, have all the makings of a great, main villain.
One of the greatest strengths of Black Panther was Ryan Coogler’s exploration of African and African-American culture. In particular, Coogler was able to showcase the differences as well as the disconnect between the two. Killmonger’s astral plane is a perfect exhibition of this detachment. Killmonger, like so many African-Americans, has been ripped away from his roots, fueling his anger towards the Wakandans.
Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings allows Destin Daniel Cretton, who is Asian-American, to explore that relationship from a whole new demographic. In particular, the cultural shift that Shang-Chi experiences moving to San Francisco will be of great significance to the film’s plot. In addition, how those in his new life see his past and those from the past see his present will tie into the multi-cultural themes that Cretton will explore. Similar to Coogler, Cretton can draw on a lot of personal experience to shape his narrative. With what he did with Just Mercy, I’m positive he’ll do great. And I can’t wait for Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings when it hits theaters on September 3, 2021.
Are looking forward to Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings? Do you accept my apology? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!