Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings-(Mostly) SPOILER FREE Review



Simu Liu, star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as the titular role in battle stance

(In this review I will spoil light elements but will not go into specifics involving the plot or any surprises that happen before or after the credits)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has some of the best action in any Marvel movie. 

The bus fight scene, featured heavily in the trailers, is a great example. Placed in a small indoor area, the scene creates claustrophobia and forces Shang-Chi to take more hits, making him feel vincible. The civilians sitting around the bus create stakes outside of Shang-Chi’s well-being, since we know so little about Shang-Chi at this point of the movie.

The setting: a moving bus with an incapacitated driver creates an extra layer of tension, as the busy streets of San Francisco are crowded with cars, civilians, and trolleys. The many antagonists attacking Shang-Chi evoke the one versus many fights of popular superhero blockbusters such as Deadpool. Scenes like this show that the director, Dustin Daniel Cretton, knows how to make these fight scenes work.

So the question is, why aren’t there more of these scenes in the movie? Shang-Chi falls into the usual origin movie trap of, well, being an origin movie. It gives a lot of backstory and a lot of exposition. Backstory isn’t bad. It can make us feel sympathetic towards a character. But when you have at least five scenes explaining why the villain is who he is and only four or so action scenes you may be overdoing it.

One of these four fight scenes is the inevitable Marvel third act fight scene. Some Marvel movies have circumvented this formula, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange. Shang-Chi is not one of these movies. The final fight scene is no different from Black Panther’s or The Avengers’. Huge CGI army made of characters or monsters we know little to nothing about? Check. A lack of progress to show which side has the upper hand? Check. Everything boiling down to a one vs one fight that negates the previous twenty minutes of action? Big check. For a movie inspired by the Bruce Lee kung-fu action movies of the 1950s, there sure is a lot of 2010s CGI puke.

Another problem Shang-Chi has is its protagonists. This is Simu Liu’s, who plays Shang-Chi, first big movie, with most of his previous roles being in TV, most notably the sitcom Kim’s Convenience, and stock photos. And to be honest, it shows. He’s not incompetent in the titular role, but Marvel’s amazing casting track record, which has brought out the star power in relative unknowns like Tom Holland and Chris Hemsworth, may have not hit this time. Liu feels too jokey as Shang-Chi. I can’t fault him for this, as his biggest role thus far has been in the previously mentioned Kim’s Convenience. And other MCU stars have succeeded in a jokey tone, like Chris Pratt as Star-Lord. But the humorous writing (or lack thereof) of Shang-Chi does not compare to James Gunns’. Awkwafina, who plays Shang-Chi’s best friend Katie, also disappoints. I’m not a big fan of hers, having only seen her in Oceans 8 where she didn’t make a huge impression among the star-studded cast. Katie, primarily used for exposition dumps and comic relief, is pretty annoying. Most of her jokes fall flat, which is a shame because most of the comedy does come from her character. None of the other protagonists of Shang-Chi are fleshed out enough for me to even remember their names. They are simply weapons, with no personality or character development, only used to add another great fighter to the final battle.

The movie does have its strengths, however. The main villain, Shang-Chi’s father Wenwu, has motivations that make sense, which sets him apart from other Marvel origin villains, like Darren Cross of Ant-Man. I think Tony Leung does a great job as Wenwu. Like I said before, the action scenes really stand out. There are three scenes in particular, all in the first act, that stand out. Unfortunately, they were all in the first hour of a 132-minute movie. But besides that? It just seems like an average Marvel origin movie.

Verdict: A few creative action scenes are not enough to save Shang-Chi from fading to the background of Marvel’s impressive catalog.



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