Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features phenomenal choreography and likable stars in an otherwise average MCU film...

I haven’t seen that Marvel Studios logo on the big screen in two years, ever since I saw Spider-Man: Far From Home, I got legitimate chills while hearing the familiar fanfare, and watching my favorite characters and scenes appear in those glorious letters. So, as always, you came to hear my thought’s on the MCUs next big film, and not to see me ramble about the profound, deep experience I had with the opening seconds, and I don’t plan to disappoint. Okay, how was Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) Maybe I got too excited when I heard people calling it Marvel’s best solo film since Thor: Ragnarok, or perhaps the trailers got me to overhype it to the point of preparing a top 10 spot in my MCU rankings for this film, but honestly, it was…fine. Compared to the studio’s best, it’s definitely a mid-tier installment that I loved at points but is undeniably flawed. However, it did manage to get me excited about this character’s future role in this vast universe, so, I guess it could’ve been much worse.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tells the story of Shang-Chi, who at 15, escaped his warlord, grieving father to live his life for 10 years, but when the past comes knocking on his door, he must decide to embark on an epic quest to find and stop what he originally wished to escape from, his dad’s mysterious Ten Rings army.

Let’s start this thing off, shall we? First of all, the action, holy crap it was good (most of the time). The fighting choreography in this film is some of the best from the MCU since The Winter Soldier, they clearly hired a handful of extremely talented martial artists, got a director who knew what the hell he was doing, and combined the two to make some breathtaking action sequences accompanied by an exhilarating soundtrack. When I say “some,” though, I mean, a few that were fantastic, particularly this bus fight that really got the adrenaline pumping. Overall, though, the fights were pretty hit or miss in my opinion, when they hit though, they hit hard, it’s just that many of them weren’t nearly as memorable as the others, and got kind of exhausting after a while. Simu Liu has proven himself to be an instant superstar in this movie, he was such a charismatic, likable, fun presence in the film that you do really care for. He’s also accompanied by the once again terrific, and hilarious Awkwafina who carries much of the MCUs signature on-point humor.

Tony Leung is awesome as Shang-Chi’s dad, although I found his character to be weaker than the performance (we’ll talk about that later). Ben Kingsley makes a surprise return, redeeming himself after Iron Man 3, and he was hysterical, I loved everything the writers did with his character. Michelle Yeoh, from another martial arts film you may have heard of, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made a fabulous appearance which was also cool to see. One performance that did bug me quite a bit though was Meng’er Zhang as Shang-Chi’s sister, she was the weakest actor in the film in my opinion, many of her choices felt forced and obvious compared to the rest, and I didn’t adore her character either. The CGI is astounding, at this point, I don’t expect much less from this studio, the final battle looks remarkable, overloaded with VFX of course, but damn good VFX at that. Usually, in a Marvel film, there are a few CGI shots that you can tell look fake, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has fewer of those, showing how far the MCU’s special effects have come.

I’ll get to my flaw’s in a second, but what I appreciated the most about this movie was that it largely doesn’t feel like an MCU film in terms of style, at least, not until the very end with a certain obligatory post-credit scene setting up the next film, can’t be an MCU movie without that though. Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12) does a reasonably good job directing the film, it’s very fast-paced, at almost 2hrs 20mins, it largely moves by like that, the writing is where most of my issues lie. The “villain” in the film, Shang-Chi’s father is kind of just another power-hungry bad guy who’s not necessarily evil in any way, in fact, I’d hardly call him evil, rather, a puppet to let open the final battle, and someone for our protagonist to get mad at and fight. His motivation is not entirely clear, and he’s almost possessed of this goal he has that’s actually not all too terrible, he just wants his wife back, but what I don’t understand is, the film strangely acts like this is a bad thing.

Okay, but maybe the screenwriters were going for a villain you can kind of get behind, the MCUs been doing more of that lately, but if they were doing that, Thanos and Killmonger are much better examples of villains with extra layers that are more specific. The relationship between the father and son was fascinating, but it was clear the writers were relying on flashbacks to make him seem horrible and menacing. There’s also a lot of expository dialogue, even for an MCU film, the middle of the movie has so much explaining, and it does drag for some time, the opening scenes and last 30-40mins were the best parts of the film for me. I give it credit for stylistically differentiating itself from other MCU flicks, but the script was extremely sloppy. There’s an amazing film buried somewhere in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but I didn’t love it as much as most, it’s pretty good, I enjoyed myself, but it didn’t meet my full expectations.

72/100

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