Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

#Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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It’s that time for the next film in Phase Four of the MCU. It’s time ladies and gentlemen for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a film that is as much about its titular character as it is about its villain Wenwu aka The Mandarin played by Tony Yeung. This is a family drama with martial arts and mystical elements thrown in. Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) has to face off against his father when he is pulled back into the dangerous world his father has been a part of for a very long time.

Along the journey with him is his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) who is baffled by this world of monsters and immortals. He also has to reconnect with his estranged sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) to try and protect her from the machinations of their father.

Are you ready?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is at its best when it’s not about Shang-Chi in my opinion. The reason for this is that Wenwu is such a fascinating villain that all I wanted to do was learn everything about him. Tony Yeung plays him with such conviction that you can’t take your eyes off him. This is unfortunate because at a certain point in the film he disappears and you feel the void his presence leaves.

Simu Liu is decent as Shang-Chi but much like how Shang-Chi lives in the shadow of his father when Tony Yeung isn’t there he’s not got much to do. He’s an affable guy, and he does all the right things like any other hero but apart from that, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about him. Awkwafina is pretty much Awkwafina in this film.

If you’ve seen her in one film you already know what she is going to be like. Based on how you feel about her as an actor will indicate whether you like or dislike Katy, I found her harmless. It doesn’t help that you know her character journey as it is painfully set up at the beginning of the film. On top of that, she is the eyes of the audience so unfortunately for her she’s asking all the questions so we can better understand the world. It’s an unfortunate burden for any character.


A product of all who came before him

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does have some strong elements. It opens strong with a mythic tale about the origins of Wenwu and is bookended with a semi-decent CGI brawl. The fights in the film are decently choreographed. However, when they start bringing in CGI to “enhance” them it feels false. I never felt like the heroes were in danger and though there are great fights some of them are visually uninteresting. A particular third act fight between father and son is given a surprisingly drab backdrop. Another problem is the film feels quite bloodless, there’s barely any bite to it. The only times the film feels somewhat intense is when Wenwu is going full villain on someone.

It feels at times like the director saw Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and learned some of the poorest lessons from that. He then implemented them here and because director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t have the deft hand as Ang Lee these fights feel corny at times.

Also if you’re going to make a martial arts film you have to show that your characters are hurt. There is a fight where a character takes on 30 people by themselves. This is a setup for a great fight. Unfortunately, we don’t see the fight and when we see the results of one person versus 30 people the body of said character is surprisingly clean. There are no wounds, bruises or even a drop of blood. It’s bizarre. The characters swear surprisingly a lot but some blood or bruises is where you draw the line?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is at its core a great family drama, a decent MCU film and a mediocre martial arts film. As the world’s introduction to Shang-Chi, you could do a lot worse but you could have done a whole lot better in my opinion.

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