Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ★★★½

After having been thoroughly disappointed by the MCU's recent output with the three Disney+ shows and Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings is undoubtedly a major step up, though it's also a film that I have significant problems with. It admirably tries to do something different compared to the rest of the series but this only works in some areas, with the parts of the film that feel the most similar to the MCU's overall style being by far the worst elements of the movie. Narratively and character-wise, Shang-Chi is very much keeping in line with the MCU overall so I was disappointed with how formulaic the movie was on a writing level, since the whole story is very predictable. The characters are also a bit of a mixed bag despite the strong performances and talented cast, with some characters (especially the character of Xialing, who could have been great if only they'd given her any development or story) feeing really let down by the writing. The best part of the film by far is Tony Leung as Wenwu, since his character and performance stand out the most as being the best of the movie and also one of my favourites in the whole MCU.

Another major issue I have with Shang-Chi is how, like Black Panther and Black Widow, it just devolves into an overload of CGI and visual effects by the end. Trotting out the massive dragons and monsters at the end ruins what could have been a more restrained and less effects-heavy film that focused more on character and martial arts, something that is vastly detrimental to the film overall for me. The fight scenes (at least the practical ones) are at least choreographed, shot, and edited well enough for an American production and are also a highlight of the film. I also have to give Shang-Chi major credit for giving us a film with such a large Asian cast, something I especially appreciate being a Chinese-Canadian from Mississauga, Ontario like Simu Liu himself.

Overall though, Shang-Chi ended up being a very good film in my opinion, but also one that falls just short of greatness. Some parts, like Tony Leung's performance and the martial arts action, are excellent but other things, like the writing and mediocre CGI just drag it down for me. Unsurprisingly, as someone who isn't the biggest fan of MCU's style of bland filmmaking, it's the parts most Marvel-like that I disliked the most, so if you like the Marvel formula, this might really appeal to you. As it is though, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings feels like a solid upper-tier Marvel film whose biggest flaws come when it most resembles the other films in the series, though there is still plenty about it that I love.

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