Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first entry in MCU Phase 4 with a completely new superhero, an origin story, and is about Shang-Chi, son of a powerful man who has control of the ten rings as well as having an organization of the same name. Living a normal life, his world is turned upside down when the past he has left behind comes back to bite him. Not gonna lie, I wasn't hoping much from this movie considering how disappointing Phase 4 has been but to my surprise, this turned out to be the most entertaining entry in this Post-Infinity Saga so far, particularly because I didn't leave it filled with a layer of disappointment that gets worse the more you think about it.

It's not groundbreaking or different from what the MCU has given us before, especially when it comes to origin stories. In fact, it feels very reminiscent of the earlier movies that came in this cinematic universe following a lot of the same formula, part of the reason I enjoyed it as it reminded me of the good ole days where I was genuinely hyped about the MCU and getting introduced to all these superheroes without having any solid comic-book reading history. It's the usual Marvel schtick with a different skin but with good enough execution in certain parts that you get a steady flow of entertainment and hardly any major frustrations, if at all, from the entire 130 mins runtime.

What I enjoyed the most was the action sequences, which were predominantly hand-to-hand combat and weaponry based kung-fu. With good choreography and cinematography, fewer cuts, non-shaky cam, and the actors performing a lot of the combat themselves, it was thrilling. The accompanying soundtrack was nice too with a mix of modern and East Asian tracks that flowed well with the action.

The story itself, while ending up with the usual end-of-the-world trope that so many superhero flicks have, wasn't bad either. It was cool to see this side of the world in this cinematic universe and not having a typical Human baddie was nice as well.

However, the writing was still not particularly good as the movie sorely lacked urgency and stakes. There wasn't that OOOMPH that would have propelled this movie to higher tiers. It played safe and light with a lot of predictable elements so you just sorta experience the events which play out mostly how you'd expect. The dialogue could have been a lot better as well with the same story beats the movie employs and would have given characters a lot more depth where the emotional moments could have been hard-hitting. The titular character himself felt lacking in energy and charisma.

I did like the overall ensemble and how it all came together in the end even if full of cliches. I was worried about Awkwafina's character Katie and that she'll be annoying for the rest of the movie but I was pleasantly surprised by her relationship with Shang-Chi played by Simu Lu, it was sweet. I'm glad the humour wasn't in your face throughout and took a backseat at certain points as MCU lately has developed a habit of injecting way too much of their brand of humour and it hasn't worked for me. Not saying the comedy here was great as some of it fell flat on its face but some of it did work.

All in all, despite its problems, despite the movie playing it safe, despite it being predictable, I had fun. I do hope Simu Lu gives a stronger performance wherever his character shows up next because compared to other MCU heroes, Shang-Chi himself is among the lower end for me for now. If you like the MCU, then certainly give this a go. If nothing else, you'll probably enjoy the action. And if I were to rate it, I'd give it a 6.8/10.

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