The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may have only premiered yesterday, but it’s been dominating the online discourse ever since, so this is your spoiler warning before we delve into the nitty gritty of Destin Daniel Cretton’s martial arts fantasy blockbuster.
For two-thirds of its running time, Shang-Chi is relatively grounded within the context of the MCU. There’s a hero that’s turned his back on destiny who gets drawn back into the life he’d sworn to leave behind, with the requisite mysticism thrown in via Tony Leung’s Wenwu and the titular artifact he’s worn on his wrists for a thousand years.
Up to a point, we’re lulled into a false sense of suspicion that the third act is going to culminate in a one-on-one scrap between Shang-Chi and Wenwu, while the warriors of Ta Lo battle the forces of the Ten Rings on the ground. That’s true to a certain extent, at least until the Great Protector and the Dweller-in-Darkness show up and turn the climactic action sequence into a full-blown fantasy epic with dragons and demons.
As you can see from the reactions below, fans were not expecting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to take such a wild detour so late in the game, but they were totally on board with it nonetheless.
The Dweller-in-Darkness might even end up tying Shang-Chi to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, given that the demon hails from the same dimension as Sorcerer Supreme villain Nightmare, but it’s fair to say that nobody expected a monstrous tentacled beast trying to suck the soul out of a dragon capping off the movie.