Post Avengers: Infinity War, the hype for the follow up was, understandably, through the roof. Even with Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel scheduled to tide fans over during the year-long wait for Avengers: Endgame, the films ultimately seemed to get the cold shoulder. Neither were necessarily bad in any way, they just weren’t exactly highly anticipated.

Fast forward to current day, the same thing seemed to be happening with the films scheduled to release prior to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Black Widow wasn’t entirely a letdown, but it also was essentially too little too late. There was nothing negative to say, but nothing special either. So, that underwhelming feeling paired with the teases from the incredibly well-done Disney+ shows like Loki and WandaVision about what to expect in the next outings for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, didn’t exactly set up the likes of Eternals or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings for success.

This isn’t to say they didn’t look promising, but more so seemed to be just another couple of origin stories to sweep under the rug and kill some time before getting to the good stuff. However, while it’s a bit more difficult to compare them since Natasha Romanoff was an already established character in the MCU, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did everything that a film like Black Widow should have at this point in the Marvel universe.

It delivered a unique origin story with absolutely captivating visuals and cinematography and somehow managed to also do a stellar job of world building in a cinematic world that’s already stuffed to the brim with content. Not to mention the story, led by the amazing duo of Simu Liu and Awkwafina, was heartfelt, sincere and fun with a villain that had relatable motives to boot. Most importantly, though, it was an origin film that also made sure to give plenty of signs of what’s to come next.

Solo adventures in the MCU have already become anything but a singular hero’s story. From Doctor Strange popping up in Thor: Ragnarok to Captain America: Civil War, which might as well have been an Avengers entry, Marvel has been sure to let viewers know that everything is officially connected in recent MCU years. In that same vein, Shang-Chi’s introduction now shows what upcoming origin films might look like.

Which isn’t to say that this connectivity takes away from the beginnings of new heroes. Rather, it brings them into the Marvel family in an incredibly smooth fashion. Whether it was the mention of the Blip or the absolutely incredible reintroduction of everyone’s favorite fake Mandarin, Trevor Slattery, Shang-Chi succeeded at being not only an interesting origin film but also a flawless introduction of a character into the larger cinematic universe.

The film is very much Shang-Chi’s journey, his story, but the callbacks and references make the film stand out and puts Marvel on a better path moving forward after the shortcomings of Black Widow. Not being afraid to include larger MCU plot threads and characters makes the solo film all the more impactful and exciting moving forward. More so than even past after credit scenes have done, though, Shang-Chi has a couple very intriguing ones.

At the end of the day, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn’t going to be a theatrical event like Avengers: Endgame was. But it certainly is one of the most successful introductory films to ever come out of this universe and comfortably places itself among the best movies we’ve seen from Marvel in general.

This definitely isn’t one to skip over or see as just a filler film, and the trailers for Eternals are already looking to be fantastic as well. Though these are supposedly smaller scale outings, even the entries without a team up are clearly building toward whatever the next big thing in the MCU is, whether that be multiversal madness or threats of deep space celestials. Plus, they make the hype bearable and the wait for the likes of Spider-Man or Doctor Strange that much more fun.

Jackson Horvat is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.