Warning: This article contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of The Ten Rings
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been splendid in making character quality its priority. Movies have overarching storylines but there’s an emphasis on the protagonists and antagonists’ own issues that they need to overcome, which runs simultaneously with the plot.
This was the case with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings where the titular hero fought his father, Wenwu, in order to protect the people of Ta Lo. Shang-Chi’s story of returning home and learning of his mother’s past was just one of many arcs he and the supporting characters got, so it’s worth taking a deeper look into the best ones from the movie.
8 Ying Nan Fulfilling Her Responsibility Toward Shang-Chi & Xialing
Although she arrived late in the story, Ying Nan immediately got into her arc. This was about her fulfilling her responsibility toward Shang-Chi and Xialing, who were the children of her sister. Despite seeing that Shang-Chi lacked the inner peace he needed to take on the power she and her sister commanded, Ying Nan stayed true to her goal.
This was a storyline of patience, with Ying Nan offering Shang-Chi both words of encouragement and wisdom, along with teaching him how to master his senses. The most satisfying aspect about Ying Nan’s role was how well it was accomplished, as Shang-Chi saved Ta Lo while Xialing took over the Ten Rings organization.
7 Trevor’s Hopes To Redeem Himself
Although his cowardice was still played for laughs, Trevor got his own storyline of wanting to do right after he had posed as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 and threatened the world.
Trevor’s role saw him help the heroes reach Ta Lo and even stay there despite being afraid to fight. By the movie’s end, Trevor did redeem himself by standing by Ta Lo’s forces against the Dweller-in-Darkness, which was a positive U-turn from his much-maligned role in Iron Man 3.
6 Wenwu & Ying Li’s Love Story
The MCU diverged from what comic book fans know of the Mandarin by making Wenwu’s main story about his attempts to bring Ying Lin back. Although she perished at the start of the movie, this arc remained throughout the movie as Wenwu refused to accept that she couldn’t return.
It was Wenwu’s redeeming quality, as his love for Ying Lin was the last trace of his humanity despite his obsession with resurrecting her leading to Ta Lo’s ruin. The main hook for viewers was to see how deep Wenwu’s love ran for Ying Lin and it turned out that the purpose of this arc was to show that Wenwu failed to move on.
5 Shang-Chi & Xialing’s Path Toward Reconciliation
It was made to appear as if Shang-Chi’s return to China to save Xialing would lead to a family reunion, but this was just the beginning of their see-saw arc. Although Shang-Chi attempted to reconcile with her, it was later revealed that he was the one who’d abandoned her.
Their collective story was sprinkled with moments where Shang-Chi didn’t fully make up for his mistakes, leading to the big moment in the finale when he saved Xialing’s life with the Great Protector. The MCU has delivered plenty of sibling-based storylines, with this one about Shang-Chi and Xialing’s estrangement and reconciliation being another quality addition.
4 Wenwu’s Growing Descent Into Villainy
While the Mandarin is one of Shang-Chi’s villains in the comics, he started out in the MCU as a man still hopelessly in love with his deceased wife. The story saw Wenwu go from someone viewers could sympathize with into a true villain as he looked to destroy all of Ta Lo.
This arc was progressively told, with Wenwu’s initial turn for the better after meeting Ying Lin contrasted by his later acts of beating down his own children and releasing the Dweller-in-Darkness. It was a deconstruction of the villain trope as the movie provided material for Wenwu to be seen both as an antagonist and a complex character.
3 Xialing’s Wrestling With Her Need To Be Accepted
Xialing played an important role in protecting Ta Lo but this wasn’t her primary storyline. Her story was about accepting that she did inherently want to be accepted by her family and her refusal to face the feelings of abandonment she experienced from her father and brother.
This was eventually accomplished when Xialing saw that Shang-Chi genuinely cared about her when he was willing to die alongside his sibling, along with Xialing finding the acceptance she craved in Ta Lo where she was treated as an equal to the men. The movie went further by placing her as the new leader of the Ten Rings to leave viewers speculating what her renewed mindset will mean for Xialing as the organization’s head.
2 Katy’s Desire To Find Something Worth More In Her Life
Katy was deemed to be an immature person by her family and friends at the beginning of the movie. It was even made to appear as if these claims weren’t unfounded as she slacked off work and seemed unmotivated. However, Katy’s arc was to find her place in life that she eventually found in Ta Lo.
Katy played a central role in helping Shang-Chi achieve his quest, being the one to motivate him toward learning from Ying Nan and eventually becoming his partner in superhero activities. The best thing about this arc was its message that people don’t need super abilities to prove they’re special.
1 Shang-Chi Learning To Accept Responsibility And Stop Hiding
Before his MCU debut, there were numerous questions about Shang-Chi over how he would be portrayed. It turned out that his arc wasn’t the usual good versus bad, as Shang-Chi’s true storyline was to accept his mistake in running away from home and that he needed to face his past.
To this end, Shang-Chi finally forgave himself for taking the life of his mother’s killer when he was just a teenager, made up with the sister he’d abandoned, and became the rightful wielder of the Ten Rings. This arc has propelled him into the MCU’s future as Shang-Chi is now in the right frame of mind to deal with the issue that Wong, Bruce Banner, and Captain Marvel want his help with.