Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ★★★★

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels wholly unique for its place in the MCU, even though it clearly takes influence from other genres, be it wuxia films or the recent rise of hand-to-hand combat in modern action films. Indeed, this is clearly the best action Marvel has ever done, flowing with an element of exciting spontaneity and multiple moving parts that's a thrill to try to keep up with... until the second half of the third act, where it does unfortunately become a tad too CGI heavy. Still, credit to the late Brad Allan to his work here, as two of the setpieces feel like easy all-timers in modern superhero cinema, with a wonderful sense of kinetic energy flowing through them.

Simu Liu is likable as Shang-Chi, although this is ultimately where my biggest problem with the film lies. Simply put, Shang-Chi lacks a strong personality, unless he's sharing the scene only with Awkwafina's Katy. Some of this feels like intentional repression due to his relationship with his father, but considering how charming Liu is in real life, one can hope in the future, Shang-Chi is a bit more fun than what we get in this film.

Awkwafina brings some good levity to the movie, with her own sense of humor allowing her character to actually feel more than the perfunctory female lead love interest. Leung is excellent, as expected. He can do more acting with his eyes than most actors can do entirely, and he elevates the role (which is still probably the most interestingly written in the film) to the best part of the film.

Cretton's work feels anonymous here outside of a few of Leung's scenes, which is a tad disappointing. The score is enjoyable in the moment, although it lacks a real solid theme to stick with you. The special effects could be a tad better, although the fantastical realms this eventually ends up in is pretty exciting in terms of design and color.

Overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a thrilling action movie with a great main villain. The protagonist is the only place it really falters a bit, but really, it feels like a solid beginning to a new sub-franchise in this cinematic universe. There's certainly room for improvement, but ultimately, this is the type of enthralling new superhero world the MCU needs more of. A very solid blockbuster and a good time at the movies!

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