corey’s review published on Letterboxd:
as always with Marvel films, there is a compelling story to be told, much of which is visually and Hollywood-level emotionally, but consistently with heart that never seems illusory or facetious. but, also as always with Marvel films, their formulaic tropes and repetitive shortcomings are inescapable. luckily for Shang-Chi, the former shines through just a little stronger, allowing its lead role and the climactic experience to culminate together as one that ever-so-slightly overpowers the latter.
however, that does not excuse the entourage of nuisances that plague the studio with each subsequent release, especially prominent since Ragnarok. the Legend of the Ten Rings hits the quota: big city to a distant, fantastical land; a humorous, archetype sidekick; some sort of pet companion, egregious exposition dumps; and a happy ending that remains subtly ominous in order to progress the never-ending universe this has turned into. are these inherently bad? not at all. but it certainly causes these films to operate like clockwork, only to be refreshed by different tales, settings and people. what further hinders Shang-Chi is the constant use of flashbacks which for some reason have been deemed as necessary for origin stories because there seems to be a misunderstanding of how to properly fit enough coherency and linearity into a two/two and a half hour long runtime. and in this case, bits and pieces of these recollections are unveiled and added onto as the story progresses, which do not entirely catch up to the present or feel entirely fitting—it asks to feel something in an emotional buildup, but does not execute it in fluidity. this can be due to the shoehorned comedic popcorn-movie value that has to be included, or the stop-and-go whiplash from pacing issues, both catered to the aforementioned heaps of dialogue that spoon-feed rather than permit discovery. but…
the film still manages to be fun and sharp—not as sharp as the acclaimed cinematographer whose hand is relatively invisible should be making it, but solid enough nonetheless. dragons, soul-sucking demons, neon lights into lush greens, and Michelle Yeoh? hard to contest the entertainment value that clearly exists to at least some degree. as expected, much of the driving force stems from Simu Liu’s helming presence along with excellent combat choreography within this breezy, yet momentous atmosphere. even when muddied by exasperating CGI, the screen demands attention, and does a fine job expanding on its magic with relative cultivation. there is clear attention to detail, and though a tad underdeveloped, the toxicity of an abusive father/son relationship bears a density that does not call for much catharsis, but establishes a layer of endearment that certainly benefits the final product.
Shang-Chi, as with Black Widow, finds itself in a tough spot. this phase of Marvel films pre-Doctor Strange sequel are all contingent upon how they are slotted into this next large step/setup, which ultimately forces redundancy and prevents them from being a little more. despite this and its disappointments, it is about about as much as one can expect from another summer blockbuster experience, for better or worse.