Master of Kung-Fu Shang-Chi must face his past and reconnect with his family – for better or worse. Yet another movie in the Marvel lineup, the more unconventional Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings delivers an entertaining experience for audiences, provided they take the leap of faith.
Given the poorly received Marvel-Netflix show Iron Fist, another attempt at a more martial arts oriented character was a welcome addition to the extensive list of Marvel movies. Simu Liu shines as Marvel’s newest star, both in acting and in action scenes. Fans of the genre should be excited to have Liu’s Shang-Chi amongst the Avenger ranks. Sadly the same cannot be said for his co-star, Awkwafina. Although her role in this movie is a bit more serious than in other movies, she takes over the screen and provides the vast majority of the comic relief, which may very well not be everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps the most entertaining character on screen is Hong Kong star Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as the movie’s antagonist.
Thematically, the movie deals mainly with the concept of family. In many ways, the movie examines the importance of parents, inheritance and bonds. Sadly, the movie fails to elaborate on anything else, making the film seem like an all too well known shallow superhero movie with impressive visuals. Although this is one of the very few Marvel movies of a mostly-diverse cast, the movie doesn’t make any substantial strives to address topics of race and the significance of culture. Director Destin Daniel Cretton has explored many deeply human struggles in past movies like in the celebrated film Short Term 12. Sadly his potential in that respect is lost in this movie.
Cretton does deliver in other respects, however. Visually, the movie is mesmerizing. From intricate action scenes with daring camerawork to very well constructed sets and amazing character/creature designs, Shang-Chi seems to celebrate and revel in its Asian heritage and inspirations. It reaches its height with visual prowess and memorable moments.
The movie is bound to be divisive when it comes to its plot. Marketing for this movie kept secret huge plot points and most of the movie in general. This was surely intended to surprise and awe audiences but the intended effect might not be present for everyone. Approximately halfway through the movie kick-starts its true plot. This is where the movie will win audiences for the rest of its runtime or will completely lose them. Some of the creative decisions made in the writing room not only slowed the movie down but completely turned it into a different movie that seems to be struggling thematically and with its tone as well.
The movie left some things to be desired. A bigger focus on martial arts with a Marvel style would have been very welcome since the incredibly well choreographed martial arts are the best parts of the movie. Some characters on the other hand overstay their welcome and leave less room for other more interesting characters that don’t get enough time in the spotlight.
Overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is yet another success on the seemingly unstoppable Marvel train. It is a great debut for the latest Marvel hero who brings with him a change of pace and feel. Although not every gamble the movie takes lands appropriately, some of these directions are sure to alienate some audience members. On the other hand some of these daring changes set the movie apart from its counterparts. Struggling with pace and a weak plot, Shang-Chi at times feels a little rushed at times. Nonetheless the movie provides another solid entertaining chapter in the Marvel Saga.