Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is another great trip to the Marvel theme park. It’s an exciting story full of action and adventure, but it’s more immediately the story of Shang-Chi coming to terms with his upbringing, reconciling the good with the bad, and truly learning to harness the heart of the dragon. It’s also the story of how martial arts, dragons, and Tony Leung are cool as hell.
The Battle against the Dweller
Shang-Chi rides on the Great Protector, who takes on the Dweller-in-Darkness. At one point, Xialing joins Shang-Chi, almost falling off the Great Protector and telling Shang-Chi to let her go. The moment reflects an earlier time in their lives when Xialing was left behind by her brother, and Shang-Chi says no, he’s not going to lose her again. At this point, many people have been lost and the situation has become dire — until Katy is finally allowed to join the fight.
The Dweller tries to absorb the power of the dragon, but Katy manages to shoot the Dweller in the neck with an enhanced arrow. The beast is finally defeated, and the village mourns those they lost.
Back in San Francisco, Shang-Chi and Katy recount their adventure to friends, adding that Xialing went to her father’s compound to shut down the operation. These friends, understandably, don’t believe them … until Wong shows up, makes sure Shang-Chi has the Rings, and brings them back through a portal.
The mid-credits scene reveals that the Rings were a beacon, and Bruce Banner and Carols Danvers welcome the two to “the circus.” Instead of going back home, Katy and Shang-Chi take Wong out for some karaoke, with all three belting out a celebratory “Hotel California.”
The post-credits scene reveals that Xialing did not, in fact, shut down the operation. Instead, she took it over and now seems to be training an army. Her designs at this point are unknown, but fans are told by a title card that the Ten Rings will return.
The Hero’s Journey
Shang-Chi’s transformation is both complex and simple. He started the movie as a man trying to move on from his upbringing, but nobody — especially people with literal supervillain fathers — can outrun their past.
By the end of the movie, he has stopped running and come to terms with his upbringing: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. He has the heart of the dragon, like his mother said. It’s not 100% clear whether his father willingly gave him the Rings or whether he retrieved them himself, but either way the end result is that he is worthy to wield them.
When Katy trained as an archer, she was told that she’d hit nothing if she aimed at nothing. At the start of the movie, Katy is proudly directionless. She revels in being good enough at a dead-end job that allows her to party all the time. Now she has a purpose — however, she still makes time for late-night karaoke.
Xialing, meanwhile, had to learn her skills in the shadows. Her father would barely acknowledge her, much less train her. She also learned not to trust people, especially the men in her life. It’s too early to tell whether she trusts Shang-Chi again, but now that she’s in charge of something more powerful than an underground fighting ring, it’s clear that she’ll never let women be sidelined again under her watch.