Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie poster
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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie poster

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Movie Review

A highly entertaining, big budget kung fu film that makes the most of its stunt work and action choreography, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings interestingly works best as a buddy comedy thanks to the charisma of and chemistry between its two leads.

Simu Liu headlines with co-star Awkwafina, and both actors bring their A-game. The two are absolute naturals together, and arguably elicit more laughter than other Marvel movies while making the typical Marvel quips feel less… quippish. Their connection feels heartfelt, and the scenes between the two power the story and channel its energy in amazing fashion.

The action isn’t half-bad, either. 

American films have often bundled martial arts by refusing to trust in the fighting skills of martial arts fighters, opting instead for fast cuts and occasionally CGI to obscure the talent on screen. While Shang-Chi has plenty of CGI, director Destin Daniel Cretton (best known for the indie Short Term 12) and cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix) resist such urges. The result is a series of impressively staged action sequences that feel markedly different from other Marvel movies. At least for a while.

In true Marvel fashion, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings suffers from the same third-act formula that calls for going big even when the story doesn’t dictate it. Here, the movie at least leans in heavily to Chinese folklore in a way that feels less surface level than other Chinese d**k-sucking Disney films have (2020’s Mulan comes to mind), pushing Marvel into a fresh setting with some imaginative moments.

Even still, the Marvel powers that be simply couldn’t resist putting the entire world at stake with giant, hard-to-kill monsters, a shame when a much more satisfying conclusion would have entailed a more epic, emotional, and grounded battle between Shang-Chi and his father, played by Tony Leung.

The ending diminishes what up until that point had been a surprisingly villain. Played convincingly by Leung, Xu Wenwu is a character who vacillates between unrelenting ruthlessness and tenderness; as well as Shang-Chi is written, the movie fails him when it matters most.

None of that will matter much to the Marvel faithful, and that’s understandable. Energetic, exciting, and charming in so many ways, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is worthy of a theater visit, COVID be damned.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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