MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience [TV series], Taken [TV series]), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell), Tony Chui-Wai Leung (In the Mood for Love, The Grandmaster), Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen (The Undoing [TV series], Sound of the Desert [TV series]), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies), Florian Munteanu (Creed II, Borderlands), and Ben Kingsley (Schindler’s List, Ender’s Game). It is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12), who also wrote it with Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla ) and Andrew Lanham (The Shack , The Glass Castle).
Shang-Chi (Liu), a former warrior turned valet, must confront his past when his vengeful father comes searching for him.
In wrapping out September, I trekked to the theater to see yet another Marvel movie. For my 800th review. I thought I was done with these superhero things. Why do I keep paying the Mouse? Guess there’s not much to compete for my attention…
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” is Marvel’s latest addition to their fourth phase, establishing a brand new hero to be inducted into the ever-changing Avengers line-up. When the trailer for it came out, I often found myself confusing it with “Snake Eyes,” that one G.I. Joe movie that didn’t do so hot at the box office (since when do they ever do well?). One thing I find quite hilarious is the tendency for Hollywood to pair other cultures in cinema with rap music in their promotionals. I guess “Black Panther” made its mark.
To my surprise, this film was actually solid. Not that I had low expectations; I had none to begin with. You want to know why it succeeded in my heart? It doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie. Sure, we have a formulaic hero’s journey with sleek cinematography akin to the company films of the past, but the Asian American fusion in both story, characters, and action help to separate it from the same old, same old.
From start to finish, I was fairly entertained. The highlight of this movie is its world. If you like kung-fu flicks, this is a good one for you. It’s rich with lore and backstory, which seep into the fun atmosphere. Obviously, it’s not all new. The legend of these ten rings are a tale as old as time, but the visual representation of it all kept me engaged. Not to mention the fight sequences, which were rather impressive. For once we get to see some longer action takes; quite a bit is in-camera, or with few cuts.
This stands as a testament to director Destin Daniel Cretton’s talent, who has made a good mark on the industry since his debut of “Short Term 12” back in 2013. He attended the Los Angeles film program I attended back in spring 2020, and it’s always nice to see the new stuff he’s creating (really, he was the only reason I would ever see this). Clearly, Marvel gave him some leeway in style, which allowed for an experience that wasn’t all too familiar. What’s even better? It’s not hingent on the serial world around it. The movie is fairly stand-alone, and in a world of sequels, remakes, and reboots, it’s nice to see something somewhat original.
It should also be stated that the performances are pretty solid, too. I enjoyed the whole cast, even though not all jokes landed (Awkwafina was hit or miss for me in this). Simu Liu made for a good lead, and kicked some serious butt. For those who don’t know, we also get a surprise return of a Marvel character in this; one that I wasn’t too pleased with. Mainly because he represents a horrible, horrendous plot twist that was given in the Marvel movie he was in. It truly ticked me off, and when I look at him, all I can do is shake my head. At least he had some funny moments (when I accepted him for who he is).
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a fun, different Marvel movie that works on many levels, from characters to action. I enjoyed watching it, and while it never really had me gripping my seat or blown away, it at the very least surprised me in its quality. Good on yah Destin for making another solid piece of cinema. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: