“Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” Review

Jake Heelein (TheLorian)

After 10 plus years of Marvel content that has ranged from mediocre to exceptional, the biggest questions I had going into this film were about where on the spectrum it would fall. Can Marvel still introduce characters in new and interesting ways when so many of their recent outings (“Ant-Man,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Captain Marvel”) have been nothing short of polarizing?  Let’s talk about it.

Coming from Daniel Destin Cretton, (“Short Term 12”) and starring relative newcomer Simu Liu, “Shang Chi” is exactly the film it needed to be.  It is a culturally significant, humorous, and heart-filled film that avoids many of the tired tropes we see in modern comic book movies. Boosted by a stellar ensemble, breathtaking visuals, and a layered villain, “Shang Chi” is not a film you want to miss.

Shang Chi, the character, is a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’m not just talking about his strength. The careful mix of childish goofiness, internal anguish, and impressive skill gives us one of the most fascinating characters the MCU has ever produced. Obviously, much of this credit must go to star Simu Liu who is absolutely delightful to watch. Not since the first “Thor” have we witnessed the rise of a D-List actor into Marvel Superstar, and frankly you can’t not delight in watching as it happens.

The fight choreography within this film is on another level. The quickness and precision of everyone involved are beyond admirable and are the most visually interesting fighting I’ve ever seen from the genre. At this point, I do not doubt that “Shang Chi” will be the frontrunner to win Best Stunt Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild. I’d also anticipate that with “Shang Chi,” “In the Heights,” and the Spielberg-directed “West Side Story” all having 2021 releases, the conversation surrounding the addition of the “Best Choreography” Academy Award category will reignite.

It is worth noting that this film is a departure from a lot of Marvel work, specifically in regards to tone. If your major complaint about Marvel is that their films are too jokey, this could be the film for you. While it certainly has comedy, the jokes are far more sporadic and carefully placed. On second viewing, I noticed an extended segment, possibly 20 minutes long, in which no jokes are uttered, something that is practically unheard of from Marvel!

While my experience with the film was largely positive, “Shang Chi” is not devoid of problems. The film is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, and at a certain point, you feel that time. A lot of this can be attributed to the fictional city of Ta-Lo. In a piece of this caliber, the location needed to act as a character of its own, and despite being far more visually stunning than the average Marvel city, too much explanation too late into the film halted the pacing. 

So now we get to the big question, “Where does ‘Shang Chi’ fall in the overall MCU ranking?” It is definitely in the top 10 (maybe even top 5), and is the best origin film we’ve seen since “Iron Man 1.” If you don’t like comic book films, Shang Chi probably won’t be the film to change your mind about the genre. With that in mind, I would argue that this film has more in store for film buffs than the average Superhero outing. It is heavily inspired by Asian cinema, and you can see its influence throughout.

My final recommendation is that you see this film on the biggest screen you can!

4.35/5

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