“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the newest Marvel Studios film to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is the company’s first film to feature an Asian lead. “Shang-Chi” is a refreshing new start for the MCU after the rather underwhelming and formulaic “Black Widow.”
While the film does have its faults, it is a standout amongst most of its Marvel predecessors, making for a more interesting superhero origin film. It is a wild ride through and through that is both compelling and visually stunning.
First of all, this cast of characters is super charming and endearing to watch on the big screen. Awkwafina is great as well as newcomer Meng’er Zhang, who play the best friend and sister to the lead, respectively. Everyone gives an impressive performance, especially Simu Liu in the lead role and legendary Hong Kong actor Tony Leung. Their performances as not only enemies but father and son really make this movie work as well as it does.
Unlike most Marvel films that fail to bring audiences interesting and compelling antagonists, “Shang-Chi” is a very wonderful exception. Tony Leung is not only captivating every moment that he is on screen, but he manages to remain sympathetic as well as menacing from beginning to end. He is that perfect combination of sad and frightening that makes for the very best villains.
Some characters are pushed to the side, but that can be expected in an origin story for our main character. Compared to other superhero origin stories, “Shang-Chi” offers the audience a much more developed world for them to explore.
Director Destin Daniel Cretin steps out from his indie movie roots to direct a major action film, and he does a great job at it. Cinematographer William Pope, who is known for his work on “The Matrix” trilogy, films every action sequence to near perfection. These two combined give “Shang-Chi” a distinct look that is incomparable to other superhero films.
The action in “Shang-Chi” is also part of its unique look and captivating story. It’s just all so well done. Everything is quick, but never jumbled or hard to see. There is a sequence in the first half of the movie that takes place on a bus that is particularly captivating. It makes you wish they handed out more awards for things like stunt work and fight choreography.
While “Shang-Chi” is a great Marvel Studios film, it is at its worst when it is the most Marvel. That’s because it falls into some of the Marvel tropes that are beginning to grow tired, yet somehow still seem to be a requirement for all of its productions. The constant quipping and excessively large CGI action displays in the third act do get a little old and predictable.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is overall not without fault, but it is now one of the best films in the Marvel Studios repertoire. It’s also among the best movies of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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