Movie Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

The twenty-fifth entry into the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released in 2021, and was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Working as a valet driver in San Francisco, Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) spend their days working and nights singing karaoke tunes. Secretly, Shaun is Xu Shang-Chi, the son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), the leader of the Ten Rings, a millennium-spanning group of assassins, once considered a terrorist organisation. Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past when his father beckons him to join the Ten Rings in order to locate a mythical village. Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong and Michelle Yeoh also star.

+ Liu absolutely embodies what a superhero could be. I don’t claim to follow his career closely, but the character of Shang-Chi just seems like a really nice guy and that is thanks entirely to Liu’s portrayal. Meanwhile, Leung as antagonist Wenwu is so charming and fun that it’s hard to really see him as the villain (surely an intentional decision). It was the correct move to not make Shang-Chi’s father “Fu Manchu”, a comic character that may be seen as problematic now, to say the least
+ good comedy that didn’t feel so out of place, like many other Marvel properties. An early fight scene actually looks and feels a lot like a Jackie Chan comedy scene, which I mean as a huge compliment, though this fight is certainly not treated as comedy. Akwafina’s comedic timing fits her character here, rather than the snarky garbage Ultron was spouting, or the one-liners from other more serious heroes
+ it’s hard to get too deep into this for fear of spoilers, but there is a great supporting cast; Michelle Yeoh is basically an Airbender a la Avatar, and she gets some of the more stylistic choreography to play with. Benedict Wong is an absolute treasure, and his scene with another familiar(ish) face(ish) is a true highlight
+ there were a lot of background Easter eggs in this movie, linking it directly to the MCU. Whether these be returning characters, previous events, or named locations it is clear that this movie is more than capable of slotting itself into a pre-existing universe. I know Black Widow was technically the first movie of Phase Four, but I think we can all agree that this is the first real movie of Phase Four

– when it comes to fight scene choreography, I feel like I’m repeating myself more often than I’d like, but there were just so many garbage camera cuts that it was hard to see how good the choreography was. The close ups show how much effort was done in things like hand movements and the ‘stalemate forearm clashes’ for lack of a better term, and it’s such a shame we didn’t get some clear shots of it all. This aspect even gets (unintentionally) dunked on in the full bus brawl as seen in the trailers, which ends on a single, dolly shot as Shang-Chi kicks all kind of ass
– this is not so much a critique of this movie, but the MCU as a whole: it’s hard to imagine that Shang-Chi, no matter how powerful he may become, could ever stand up against Captain Marvel, Hulk, or especially Thor. I understand the concept of small scale stories, but am I to believe that the primary antagonist in this movie is world threatening, when we have seen Captain Marvel tear through Thanos’ flagship, or already have a team literally called the Guardians of the Galaxy? There may in fact be an answer here (wink wink), but someone more versed in Shang-Chi, please let me know

> when does this movie take place? I would suggest something like a month or two after Avengers: Endgame (that is, mid- to late-2023) but it’s never made entirely clear
> this was my first cinema experience since March, for Godzilla vs. Kong. Between you and me, I’m still on a high that my big green boi beat that damned dirty ape

Should you see this film: I expected to enjoy this, and I did. The comedy was well timed, the action scenes were great (when you could see them) and the introduction of a new hero is very welcome after some 14 years of the same group. I guess I’m now a fan of Shang-Chi.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s