The latest Marvel movie not only serves as a splendid character reference but also a promising expansion of the MCU universe

One of the keys to Marvel’s success is its knowing how to place its most iconic superheroes in films with their own identity that function as part of a set, and above all to have achieved it with lesser-known characters who, thanks to excellent screenwriting and casting work, end up garnering the same weight in the ever-expanding universe. Thus, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten rings” might appear to be another routine step on a very long staircase, a title from which we probably shouldn’t have expected anything more than a transition to more ambitious projects. But with Marvel, you should never take anything for granted, as they’ve more than demonstrated that they’re out on their own when it comes to working on the substance and form of their work, that shine both for what they are and for the future they promise. In this sense, there’s one more thing that has to be said for the boys and girls at MCU and it’s that no one has ever dared to do what Marvel has done, to build a story over years, (let’s not forget they began in 2008) that takes on unexpected nuances and encouraging horizons, and that captivates several generations of cinemagoers. Today it’s unprecedented and surprising; in a few years, it’ll be cinema history. Thus, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” not only knows how to be an indispensable piece in its universe, steering us in a direction that bring out the child in us, but it’s also a magnificent origin film, an introduction to a character who avoid the cliched pitfalls and even allows himself the luxury of innovation. A stylistic and narrative delight capable of placing Kung-Fu, traditional comedy, family drama and supernatural adventure on a par and where balance is achiever throughout.

Marvel’s commitment to the sum of genres, one of its specialties, is especially inspired on this occasion. In the first ten minutes, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has already explained its mystical backstory (some rings of ancestral origin with incalculable powers), the family conflict (some children fought with their father after the death of the mother) and its main protagonists (which, by the way, are expertly depicted). What comes next is a show of irresistible adventurous spirit with the savvy to introduce us to a new world without having to resort to grandiose speeches and with a disarming solvency that hybridizes a series of apparently irreconcilable tones. Only Marvel could deliver a running gag at the expense of the Eagles song “Hotel California”, recoup a comic character from fifteen movies ago and produce magical dragons, all in the same film, and make it work. Moreover, only Marvel can take a character apparently tagged to act as a counterpoint (Katy played by the great Awkwafina) and make it one of the main reasons to go see the film. The cast is another of this movie great successes. Simu Liu is a revelation and has audiences hooked from the very first scene, and the great Tony Leung stands out as one of the most multi-faceted baddies of the genre, largely because his motivation is perfectly understandable. More than a decade after embarking on this journey, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is clear confirmation that Marvel know how to stay fresh, how to evolve and still has a whole lot more to say. And regardless of whether you’re a fan of the superhero genre, whether or not you grew up surrounded by caped and masked avengers, this is the movie’s one true and indisputable talent.

Pep Prieto. Journalist and writer. Series critic on ‘El Món a RAC1’ and for the program ‘Àrtic’ on Betevé. Author of the essay ‘Al filo del mañana’, about time-travelling cinema, and ‘Poder absoluto’, about cinema and politics.