TL;DR – The cast was terrific, the action was tight, and it was funny to boot.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review –
I walked into Shang-Chi with a little bit of trepidation. Marvel has not had a good track record when delving into this realm, with Iron Fist being the low point, but even Dr Strange didn’t get everything right. But this time, Marvel was not just dipping their toes into this genre. It was diving all the way in. Thankfully those trepidations were for nothing as they have nailed it.
So to set the scene, we open with the story of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), who discovered a mystical set of ten rings. These rings gave him tremendous power and eternal life, and he used that to take control across the world, both actively and from the shadows. In 1996, he started his mission to claim the one realm he had not concurred, but his expedition to Ta Lo failed with him being the only one alive. At the gates to Ta Lo, he expected to find a guardian. He didn’t expect to find one that outclassed him in every way or that he would actually find love. He and Ying Li (Fala Chen) go home and start a family, but it ends in tragedy. In the modern-day, their son Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) goes by Shaun and works as a valet in San Francisco with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). It is a quiet life, right up until they get attacked on a bus by a bunch of goons sent by his father.
There are many places to start when looking at this film, but I want to start with the casting. First up, can I say that Marvel hit gold with Simu Liu. I had seen him in minor roles like in The Expanse, but he cannot only anchor a tent poll film but also excel in it. He can turn from jokey to serious on a dime. He brings warmth and charm to what could have been a very dull character otherwise. Along with this is the joy that is Awkwafina’s Katy. She exists as the fish-out-of-water in both the underground assassin world and also the mystical world. She brings her humour into this role, and it is a delight every moment she is on the screen.
But this is a film that is comfortable with both new and upcoming actors, as well as it is with showcasing the power of the old guard. I am not sure how Marvel got Tony Leung in his first English-language film, but I am glad that so many new people will get to see just what an outstanding actor he is. In this film, he has to shift from being confident, angry, loving, despondent, and both the antagonist and someone that you almost sympathise with because of his sadness. Tony nails each and every one of these emotions, creating a complex and interesting character. As well as this, I have said it once, and I will say it again, there is no production that will not be improved by casting Michelle Yeoh. She is the calm in the storm that is this film. She reaches across time and place and grounds it all. To add to this, it is always fun getting some Benedict Wong, and it was great to see [SPOILER] back.
On the whole, the action in MCU films tends to fluctuate from pretty good to just okay. I would say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still the high water mark for me personally. Shang-Chi is a close second. The standout is the bus sequence, early in the film, where they use the strengths that a confined fighting area gives you. You can see the work of Bradley James Allan throughout the film, and it is nice to see bamboo scaffolding and go, ‘I know what is going to happen here’ and being entirely right. This is helped with precise cinematography throughout, which helps when you have the cinematographer from The Matrix and Baby Driver. It is clear that the stars have put a lot of work into making all the action land, with good use of the actors that have clearly trained a lot for this film, but also supporting that with strong stunt performances, and some good compositing.
Then, of course, there is the world-building that you see etched across the film. I love bamboo forests, the way they sound as the wind slips through stalks. So to see it as both a place of tranquillity and danger created an almost ASMR feeling in me. All the creatures are delightful, even if they are just hitting that Pokémon nostalgia. But this time and care help in the ending that is a little overblown, but you are always visually engaged. On that point, while I did enjoy my time here, some issues did hold it back a bit. Structurally they pack a whole lot into this film, but you will kind of work out what the film is holding back quite early, so the piecemeal delivery is a bit frustrating. Thankfully the cast is so good that it is not a big issue, but it is still there. To add to this, much like many other Marvel films, the third act is all bombast, which you will probably take or leave.
In the end, do we recommend Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? Yes, yes, we do. Honestly, this film was a blast from start to finish. The cast was terrific, the action was tight, and it was funny to boot. If you liked Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we would also recommend to you The Farewell.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Directed by – Destin Daniel Cretton
Story by – Dave Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton
Screenplay by – Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham
Based on – Shang-Chi created by Steve Englehart & Jim Starlin
Music by – Joel P. West
Cinematography by – William Pope
Edited by – Nat Sanders, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir & Harry Yoon
Production/Distribution Companies – Marvel Studios & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Starring – Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Tony Leung & Michelle Yeoh with Jayden Zhang, Arnold Sun, Ronny Chieng, Yuen Wah, Jodi Long, Dallas Liu, Paul He, Tsai Chin, Andy Le, Stephanie Hsu, Kunal Dudhekar, Zach Cherry, Dee Baker & Jade Xu and Ben Kingsley, Benedict Wong, Tim Roth, Mark Ruffalo & Brie Larson
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13