Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

PLOT: After losing touch with his past, Shang-Chi is pulled back into the Ten Rings organization. Once he returns to the birthplace of his mother, he must find the strength to fight back against a very personal foe.

REVIEW: To say the MCU has been shockingly successful over the last decade and a half is a massive understatement. Since the introduction of Robert Downey Jr. and his take on Iron Man, characters like Black Widow, Thor, and Captain America have proven to satisfy more than just comic book fans. And now, after the events in both Infinity War and Endgame, we have a brand new hero. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a slight departure from what we’re used to seeing. And frankly, this is a good thing. While the new feature directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) – co-written by Cretton, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham – may have a few familiar avenues, there is a sense of wonder and mystery that is generally new to this cinematic universe. We’ve certainly seen the use of magic and such in previous films. Yet here we are offered the art of Kung Fu and a mystical element in the fighting style reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 5 Fingers of Death, and so much more. And it works.

When we first meet Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), he’s living an unassuming life as a valet, along with his best pal Katy (Awkwafina). However, things get complicated when the two are attacked by a group of marauders while on a city bus. The villainous men desperately try and steal a pendant worn by Shang-Chi. Thankfully, he is well equipped to fight off the mysterious men, much to Katy’s shock. After this, he seeks out his long-lost sister, Xialing (Meng’ er Zhang), who herself has started an underground fight club of sorts, one that deals with numerous magical members. The two discover that their father, Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), is hearing the voice of his deceased wife, seemingly calling out to her widowed husband to rescue her from captivity. Is she still alive? Or is this simply a trick that could unleash hell on Earth?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a surprisingly fresh take on the superhero genre. Destin Daniel Cretton and cinematographer Bill Pope create an exciting and fanciful world complete with impressive creature effects and stunning visuals that inspire some serious movie magic. From the very beginning, when Wenwu – the leader of the Ten Rings organization – discovers a secret place, one where he ultimately meets his future wife, there is beauty on display. The image of trees shifting to briefly reveal the road to this secret world is simply astounding. And most impressively, the film manages to create a stunning landscape where winged monsters and other beasts live amongst those protecting this sacred land. The final act may feel familiar to what we’ve seen before in a Marvel film with the predictable last stand battle. Yet this rises above due to the mix of mystifying images merging with the brilliant fighting styles coming to life.

Bringing the art of Kung Fu to this feature elevates the latest Marvel origin story up a few notches. As mentioned, when Wenwu and his wife first meet as she protects her home from strangers, it is as much a dance as it is a kick-ass fight sequence. Even as thrilling as the fight choreography is, it’s equally romantic and charming as the two use magic to bring the other down. And when Shang-Chi proves his worth trying to protect himself and Katy on the bus, there is a sense of urgency and danger that makes for one hell of a fantastic sequence. There’s been a lot of talk over the years about stunt work consideration when it comes to Academy Award recognition. Shang-Chi makes a good argument that we should be honoring the talented folk that helps make the on-screen stunts so awe-inspiring. Balancing these images together and infusing fantastical elements into the mix makes for some of the most profoundly engaging moments in the film.

Taking on the leading role, Simu Liu brings a grounded charm to his unsuspecting superhero. The actor is equally as comfortable going after Death Dealer (Andy Le) and Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) as he is sharing a laugh with his co-star Awkwafina. The two work perfectly together, making for one of the most charismatic on-screen non-romantic couples we’ve seen in the MCU. As well, Tony Leung takes on the role of Wenwu with his commanding performance. You can say the same about Michelle Yeoh’s Ying Nan. While she appears late into the film, she gives a nuanced and layered show, one equally as important to the world Mr. Cretton creates here. And yes, you’ll find a couple of fun casting surprises likely to please fans – or perhaps annoy them depending on what you thought of their previous introduction into the Marvel universe. I’m sure most of you can figure these surprises out with a simple Google search, but I’m not going to be the one to spoil it here.

As far as moving the MCU forward, Shang-Chi manages to do that as well. For those wondering, there are a couple of post-credit scenes that help establish what we can expect in the future from this story. Being an origin tale, however, the script focuses on the situation at hand. And while the entire experience is an enjoyable one, you could argue that there might be a couple of moments midway through that don’t push the story forward and feel slightly superfluous in context to the rest of the film. It’s only a minor flaw considering this adventure manages to bring a sense of wonder and heart to this universe. You could also add that the solid musical score by Joel P. West is another element that brings this flick to life.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an artful and entertaining introduction to an exciting new hero. The performances are all terrific, and the story makes for one of the better origin tales in the cinematic MCU. While the script is, at times, bogged down with a couple of unnecessary scenes, it never derails the magical journey unfolding. By bringing such artistry to the on-screen action, it manages to offer something wonderfully unique to a universe already overflowing with heroes and villains. Shang-Chi is a fanciful and electric introduction to yet another heroic badass ready to save the world from evil. It’s a thrilling and magical continuation, proving that the MCU has a ton more characters and adventures worth exploring.

8
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Source: JoBlo.com

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.