‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Review—Action-Packed Glory
Marvel’s newest superhero film has arrived in theaters, this time boasting a majority-Asian cast and a (slightly) fresher spin on the superhero genre.
Destin Daniel Cretton, the director of films such as Short Term 12 and Just Mercy, helms Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a superhero movie starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, a martial artist living in San Francisco, who must confront his past while taking on the Ten Rings organization.
While it can feel like Hollywood is getting oversaturated with superhero content, as this is Marvel’s sixth project of the year, Kevin Feige has managed to keep the MCU as fresh as he can. With this film, we have an Asian-American director and writers, and a truly honest, wonderful representation of the Asian community.
The opening fight scene between Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Jiang Li (Fala Chen) perfectly pays tribute to classic wuxia cinema. It’s beautifully choreographed and it elegantly combines practical stuntwork with fantastical elements.
As Shang-Chi is a martial artist, the action sequences alone are worth the price of admission. While crafting the fight scenes, Cretton took inspiration from Jackie Chan films and other classic movies in the martial arts genre. This pays off in volumes, as we have incredibly exciting fight scenes.
Shang-Chi is introduced as a hotel valet working with his friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Through scenes of Shang-Chi eating dinner with friends, sharing stories, and doing karaoke, he is a relatable, charismatic everyman who the audience can immediately latch onto.
However, after Shang-Chi is confronted on a bus, all hell breaks loose and we have an incredibly entertaining action setpiece where his true nature is unveiled. He takes on a group of bad guys in a scene where we immediately learn of Shang-Chi’s skill beyond what meets the eye.
The action sequences are kinetic and thrilling, with a scaffolding fight scene that feels inspired by one in Rush Hour 2. Cretton skillfully takes a standard fight scene and elevates them to Hollywood levels, while allowing the audience to clearly see every hit, punch, and kick. This film offers some of the best MCU fights since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Beyond just the fight scenes, we have an excellent story that delves into Shang-Chi’s past and how his relationship with his father shaped him into who he grew up to be. This film has him confronting the past he ran away from, and while it doesn’t pull at the heartstrings the way that it could, the characters go to some interesting places.
We have excellent performances, as usual for an MCU film. Liu does an excellent job branching out from his sitcom days on Kim’s Convenience. Awkwafina is providing the same charm she brings to all of her roles, and she offers a lot of the film’s comic relief.
But Marvel made the wise choice to cast Hong Kong legend Tony Leung as Wenwu. He brings every bit of his established talent to the MCU, as he gives a very strong performance. Shang-Chi’s personal connection to Wenwu leads to a fascinating dynamic.
The film contains the story beats of every origin story, and the final act can slip into classic Marvel territory with two opposing armies running towards each other and fighting. And while the visual effects in the film are incredible, the final thirty minutes heavily utilizes CGI, which may disappoint those looking for a more grounded battle.
Also, as the film is very rich in a deep mythology, there are long scenes where characters explain the lore. These scenes can hold the film back a little, as there are a few too many stories which the movie spends a lot of time on that don’t feel integral to the main story surrounding Shang-Chi.
However, this movie is a remarkable achievement for the MCU as far as representation. We have a brand new hero getting his introduction into this cinematic universe of superheroes, and the success of this film could open doors for more diversity in the future.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings boasts action-packed glory at every turn, giving MCU fans the fights, characters, and laughs that we have all come to love from this endlessly growing world of heroes.
Grade: ★★★★☆ [8/10, B+]
Jonathan’s Tips: Before this film comes out, make sure you have watched Iron Man 3 and Doctor Strange. If you like the MCU or martial arts films, this movie won’t disappoint. Also, about 20% of the dialogue is in Mandarin, with subtitles. As an Asian guy, that means the world to me.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is only in theaters September 3.