Shang Chi the Legend of the Ten Rings ⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 5
It would take Marvel to create a great Kung Fu movie in 2021.
As Carl Douglas once said “Everybody was Kung Fu fighting”, and I can feel his words echo to 2021. With Snake Eyes coming out recently and now Shang-Chi, everyone is indeed Kung Fu fighting. Shang-Chi does it way better : better fights, more humour and more emotion in general. In what is an easy bet to become a hit, Shang-Chi hits all the positive points of a Marvel movie and more.
The movie is about Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu), as he tries to navigate the complete disarray that is his family. He begins in San Francisco with the hilarious Katy (played by Awkwafina) by his side, as it is revealed after an incredible fight on a bus that Shang-Chi is, as you might have guessed, a trained child assassin. From here, the rest of the action takes place in China as Shang-Chi teams up with his sister Xialing (played by Meng’er Zhang), to confront their father Wenwu (played by Tony Chiu-Wai Leung). Oh, and by the way, Wenwu is a thousand year old warlord who is a threat as he wishes to open a demonic gate because he hears his dead wife calling out to him to do so. This begs the point that men will literally open a demonic gate rather than get therapy.
The title role is played by Simu Liu, which is a new name to me, but he definitely does impress in what could be a career defining role. Awkwafina is someone you should be accustomed to, and if not check her out in Crazy Rich Asians or Raya and the Last Dragon, she is great in both, and equally great in Shang-Chi. The film does include some veteran actors, the likes of Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies + Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) who are both great in the new film. It was Ben Kingley (Iron Man 3, Gandhi) who really stole the show for me though. He isn’t a major character but I just laughed at everything he did.
In terms of behind the scenes there aren’t any massive names in the writer/director seats. Directed and partly written by Destin Daniel Cretton whose biggest credit is 2019’s Just Mercy, which was grand but not spectacular. Cretton, with the help of fellow Just Mercy writer Andrew Lanham, really came together to create characters we really feel for, but combined with Dave Callaham, who was the writer behind all the Expendables movies, Zombieland: Double Tap and WW84, we get a effect heavy action movie with characters we really feel for. A great choice by Marvel.
It’s time to show the world the power of #ShangChi. See Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings only in theaters September 3. Get tickets now: https://t.co/NbO5NBDNcO pic.twitter.com/IJAZTKTDCJ
— Shang-Chi (@shangchi) August 26, 2021
I feel like I have managed to talk about the movie a bit without going into how much I loved all the action. I will do that here. It was just brilliant. Supervised by the late, great Brad Allan, whom the movie is in memory of, the fights managed to have a real feeling to them. They weren’t fighting for the sake of it. Each movement had meaning, with the ones that embraced magic actually feeling magical, closer to what you might see in an anime than a Marvel movie. There was one fight that had a romance to it, you could feel the love in it, more than some entire movies. Parts even had a comedy to it, akin to something that you might see Jackie Chan do, but just not quite at his level. Honestly the action alone is worth seeing Shang-Chi for.
It is a well stated fact that the world of cinema has had many diversity problems, and while there is still a while to go, it does feel like Shang-Chi and it’s almost entirely Asian based cast will be a positive stepping stone on the path to the future. Then in terms of its content, there are many references to what I’m presuming are Chinese myths and legends, especially creatures, which are captured stunningly with CGI.
That brings me onto the CGI itself. Really well done but not overdone to the point that you think the actors never got to perform in the light of day. Certain sequences are truly beautifully done and combined with the stunning costumes, leads to a great looking movie.
A point that is often raised is that Marvel villains are sometimes forgettable. They just want to take over the world, I mean who doesn’t. In Shang-Chi the main villain is a man that had the world at his fingertips, had achieved every treasure and wealth, and had even retired from being a conqueror because he fell in love. Goals. However, in an act of revenge for his wife’s death, he once again becomes the villain he once was, to try and avenge her. At times I even considered whether he was truly the bad guy, or was he just lost and grieving.
The last point is just that even with the action and the comedy, I did tear up once or twice. The movie is emotional, with solid lessons about moving on and growing up, which may or may not have hit too close to home.
Overall Shang-Chi is an all round great time. You get the comedy, but with characters you feel for. I think Shang-Chi may not become a household name but that, like Black Panther, may cater to an audience that couldn’t fully identify with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes to cinemas on the 3rd of September.