Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

Had fun, though I kept finding myself wishing things were smaller. I kept wanting the story to veer away from the inevitable CGI conclusion, hoping against hope that all this drama would boil down to two people on the ground, using martial arts to tell a story. Because the movie is actually pretty good at that. The first big fight, though still laden with VFX trickery, is a pretty good attempt at Zhang Yimou-style wuxia seduction, all while expressing differences in fighting philosophies.

Later on, it's Jackie Chan, fighting in an enclosed space, or among scaffolds in Macau. We get a little bit of Michelle Yeoh doing Tai Chi, and it's beautiful. I found the film beautiful when it had its feet on the ground, paying attention to the little details that can emerge when two bodies are in conflict, and paying loving homage to the greats.

But then, it had to be big. And one understands the need to be big, seeing the context in which this film exists. But I think it's great when it's small. When it is big, it resembles one of those ugly Chinese blockbusters, driven more by the perceived need to show off what the budget is capable of, rather than what these people really want to show us. At its core, this is actually a really small story about a family. But commerce demands that it be bigger, and that monsters fight in the sky.

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