Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

a very similar structural issue to Black Widow— Marvel wants a pedal-to-the-metal opening act and a latter half filled to the brim with surprises, so they settle for a supremely backloaded film in the way of exposition. Shang-Chi’s final act shift is even more jarring, going from a martial arts actioner with fairly personal stakes into… a massive full-tilt fantasy CG extravaganza, in which the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. and, like. ughhhgh. it’s not bad, just disappointing, and at some point I just kinda disconnected from a film I was previously digging.

see, Tony Leung’s story and performance is genuinely complex and captivating. the film gets started right with a wonderfully intriguing opening, and I generally dug how all the flashback stuff unfolds over the course of the runtime, gradually enriching and deepening the present emotions. also the action here rocks. stupidly good by MCU standards. makes me retroactively even more annoyed by all the shaky quick cut 2nd unit nonsense that’s come before. the bus set piece in particular is superb.

so I was quite sold on this one — surprisingly so — for the first hour or so. and then it delves so fully into typical MCU nonsense I got whiplash. at the end of the day, I’m left with an enjoyable theatrical experience, but not one as satisfying or cathartic as I’d hoped.

I’m hoping Shang-Chi’s forthcoming relevance in the MCU at large will up the ante overall in terms of fight scenes. that’s about the extent of my investment in the character. he gets lost in the shuffle a lot here, and Simu Liu’s merely competent performance does little to help. the film is ultimately owned by the supporting cast — particularly Leung, but also god bless Awkwafina. she’s never less than a delight to watch here.

so I mean whatever. solid MCU flick. had a good time. Brad Allen’s a fucking legend.

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