Justin Decloux’s review published on Letterboxd:
You know what, I've reached my Marvel film factory threshold.
The last few movies were duds, I found the TV shows' a slog, and now SHANG-CHI, a movie that's right up my alley, left me cold. I should be blown away by a martial arts extravaganza that takes place in the comic book universe I love!
The fights are great - shot in long takes with excellent choreography by Brad Allan (RIP) and Andy Cheng. The first act moves at a blisteringly fast pace, the characters are fun, and I was excited to see where it went...
Unfortunately, SHANG-CHI has two major problems:
1) Tony Leung is the GOAT. The filmmakers know this, so he seemingly gets more screentime than the titular hero. The emotional wrestling matches you see play out on his expressive face every time he gets a close-up make everyone else's problems seem insignificant. It doesn't help that star Simu Liu doesn't really get a chance to do anything fun once they get to magical finale land - or that his big climactic hero moments belong to a computer-generated double.
2) It turns into a CGI encrusted Mainland Chinese blockbuster. There are tons of 'cute monsters' and an endless finale that climaxes with two generic beasts crashing into each other for hours on end. Why should I care about a dragon and a bat creature that only gets introduced in the last half-hour?
My feelings on the experience can be summed up by the surprise return of a character from a previous film. It was neat he was there! And then he hung around, and didn't do anything, or contribute to anything, and he was seemingly just added because fans would be happy to see him. Also, he had a cute CGI sidekick.
You gotta give me more than that.