SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
Starring: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, and Florian Munteanu
Directors: Destin Daniel Cretton
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a blast that demands a big screen. That said, it does share some of the same shortcomings as other MCU films. The visual effects are very shoddy, while the final act is a muddled CGI slugfest. However, what comes before that helps solidify it as one of the MCU’s best. This is mostly due to its style, which creates an undeniable distinction from other MCU entries thanks to the cultural references and wicked choreography. Its themes of growth and family also are very welcome and well written. A definite must-see!
While its quality may vary for many, Shang-Chi is wildly different from anything the MCU has done before. It's closer to a martial arts film with a superhero spin than the other way around. The fight sequences are fantastic and easily the highlight of the film, while each performance commits wholesale to the spirit of the story. Simu Liu and Awkwafina carry most of it admirably, but the standout here is Tony Leung. Although it is a bit too long and lacks the deeper exploration of its characters, it remains a refreshing change of pace for Marvel at this stage.
Looking back, there was always this feeling one would get when watching a 90s Jackie Chan martial arts film: eyes-wide, constant smile, and intermittent giggles at the perfect combination of great fight choreography and purposeful silliness. With the addition of mesmerizing mysticism, you get Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Simu Liu is a star, Awkwafina bounces well off him well, and Tony Leung is masterful. A few moments drag and there are some (not great) silly plot points, but those flaws don't dampen this well-crafted movie.
Going into Shang-Chi, I was the most unexcited for an MCU movie as I had ever been, mostly due to my unfamiliarity with the character and cast. However, I was pleasantly surprised! It's not flawless, mind you: Awkwafina's character is entirely unnecessary and the film's climax is shot in a dense fog, making it hard to see what is happening. But the fight choreography is the best since The Winter Soldier, while the addition of mystical Chinese influences cover for most of the "Marvel formula" issues. Overall, you've got a solid palette cleanser for the disappointment that was Black Widow.