RichAtThePics’s review published on Letterboxd:
A new, and welcome direction for Marvel, which plunges fistsfirst into Chinese martial arts culture with this one, and predominantly, does not disappoint.
Simu Liu is excellently cast as Shang-Chi, bringing unreal physical abilities, substantial charisma, emotional complexity, and brilliant comedic timing to the role. He makes for a fantastic, likeable leading man. Very much look forward to seeing more of him in the MCU as we head deeper into phase four.
Beside him, Awkwafina does what she does so well as his best pal, Katy, providing excellent comedic sidekick (and potentially more?) support. It's just a shame she's not given more to do emotionally, given her significant talents as a dramatic performer too. Still, let's hope for more development in future installments.
Tony Leung is also excellent as Shang-Chi's father and antagonist of the piece, Xu Wenwu, making the most of the surprisingly well-rounded and emotionally sympathetic character writing afforded to him.
The martial arts choreography is absolutely exquisite. It blends the supreme fights sequences you'd expect from martial arts cinema's finest films, with the contemporary Marvel action we've come to know and love. In particular, the bus scene in the first act is jaw-droppingly staged and delivered. It's the kind of sublime, crunching action set piece that you will relish rewatching again and again once the film hits Disney+. While, later in the film we see more of the wonderfully balletic, wushu-style sequences that floor you with their grace and beauty.
Unfortunately, the climatic third act reverts to Marvel's tired, tedious, formulaic and CGI heavy rulebook, rather than sticking to what's worked so well in the preceding hour and half. It's a shame because, although it succeeds in getting some seriously cool and culturally rich Chinese mythology and iconography into the mix, the unnecessary introduction of oppositional Constantinesque ghouls to "raise the stakes", only detracts from the well-established character drama, and just feels... cheap and out of place. Instead, it would have been far more satisfying, and in-keeping with the overall story, to have finished on another exceptional martial arts showdown.
Another quibble is the knowing, self-congratulatory manner in which they deal with their Iron Man 3 Mandarin misstep. Props that they've been big enough to put their hands up and admit their mistake, but the self-depricational comedy employed to do it is mined a little too deep, tipping it over into slightly smug, cringe territory.
Still, it's a super fun action adventure flick and it's truly fantastic to finally see Asian superheroes on our screens. Keep the diverse, positive representation coming please.
Definitely one which will benefit from repeat viewings.