A Marvel legend will rise.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a 2021 martial arts superhero film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, written by Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, and Andrew Lanham, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film is based on various Shang-Chi comics by Marvel Comics. It stars Simu Liu and Awkwafina. It was nominated for Best Visual Effects, but did not win. This is the twenty-fifth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a technical sequel to Black Widow, but, chronologically, it acts as a sequel to Avengers: Endgame, Doctor Strange, and Iron Man 3. In release order, it will be followed by Eternals. A direct sequel and spin-off TV show have been confirmed.
"I told my men they couldn't kill you if they tried. Glad to see I was right." -The Mandarin
Shang-Chi is the son of Xu Wenwu, a violent warrior king and terrorist leader. For years, Shang-Chi has tried to escape his shadow, but he must act fast when Wenwu's army, The Ten Rings, comes for him for a mysterious reason. As secrets are revealed, Shang-Chi realizes that the way to deal with his past is not to run from it...but to face it.
The Mandarin / Mandarin and Shang-Chi / Shang-Chi and Xialing / Action / Moral Dilemmas / Asian Culture / Importance to MCU / Trying Too Hard to Be an MCU Movie / Comedy / CGI Finale / Second Act Slowness / Slow-Mo / Soundtrack
One of the reasons that Iron Man 3 is my second-least favorite MCU movie is because of the Mandarin twist. And, oh boy, did Shang-Chi fix that. Tony Leung's Mandarin is easily one of the best villains in the franchise. The way that his character is portrayed can be horrifying, but also sympathetic. They do a great job of showing the way that he can switch from easygoing to menacing. His end goal is understandable and sad, and his motivations are justified. He is an incredibly complex and layered character. And I'm so glad that they were able to nail him in this film.
His relationship with Shang-Chi is as complex and deep as his character. They both have a mutual understanding of each other. While Shang-Chi clearly has his problems with his father, you can tell that he still looks up to him in a way. They also both respect each other. You can see that Wenwu definitely still wants to be Shang-Chi's father figure, but is having trouble because of obvious reasons that are shown in the trailer. It's a great little arc inside of the main story, and I absolutely love the way that it pays off in the finale.
They also flesh out Shang-Chi and his sister very well. Both of these characters have great backstories that are interwoven with one another. The way that Shang-Chi's backstory played out affected his sister, and I liked seeing that trickle effect. Their relationship was also paid off well in the final battle.
The action is pretty cool as well. Since it pays tribute to all the martial artists in Hollywood, we get tons of quick-moving fight scenes that are visually stunning. There's a lot of swings done with the camera and cool overhead shots that I absolutely adored. Director Destin Daniel Crettin hit it on the head with the way that the action is shot. It's some of the best in the MCU.
I also like the way that the story contemplates moral dilemmas. Morality and the right thing to do is a big theme in the film, and I think that that was a cool idea to throw in the mix. None of the characters (except maybe Awkwafina) are entirely innocent. Some have done some pretty bad things in the past. Some are making decisions that they think are good but are much worse than they realize. It's a cool little thing to notice as you go through the film.
The way that it represents Asian culture is also fabulous. We are definitely getting more representation in superhero movies nowadays: Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and, now Shang-Chi. It's cool that we get to have a movie that pays tribute to tons of Asian culture and cinema across the years. I really appreciated that.
The movie also has some big teases for the future of the MCU. Shang-Chi is a character that I am excited to see return, and I think that the idea of the Ten Rings as extremely powerful objects can have big implications on the outer MCU. The after-credits both have fun teases and cameos that I enjoyed. I think that this film is an important entry in the MCU canon. That was a big problem with Black Widow, because it didn't feel impactful. Shang-Chi is impactful.
I'm sad to say that I was definitely disappointed by this movie, though.
The biggest problem with Shang-Chi is that it tries too hard to be an MCU movie. The usual MCU gags are shoved into the film and are just non-stop. They try so hard to get a laugh out of you every two minutes, and it just got tiring eventually. There are times where it breaks tension and takes away from the main story, and I just didn't like that.
There's also one character that's brought in that is really, really funny for a second. Then he keeps going. Then he stays with our main characters for the rest of the movie. I rolled my eyes at this decision, because it just wouldn't let up with the endless quips and gags. Of course, there were times when this film was funny, but when it didn't land, it just felt out of place and bad. I was not a fan of the way that the comedy was handled in this movie.
Another MCU requirement is a huge, slam-bang, CGI finale. And I thought Shang-Chi wasn't going to have that. It has a big fight scene between Shang-Chi and the Mandarin that is absolutely incredible and one of my favorite scenes in the MCU. But then it keeps on going and turns into a bland, CGI battle scene that is just so boring. My eyes were watching this part, but my brain wasn't absorbing it because there isn't anything to absorb. My dad said that that part felt like Godzilla vs. Kong, and I completely agree.
The film also slows down quite a bit near the middle. The beginning offers tons of great action and exciting scenes, but after the scene where Shang-Chi, Katy, and his sister hang out with the Mandarin for a little bit, it just slows to a crawl. What follows the scene that I will only refer to as the forest is just a bunch of exposition and training for the finale. It was just frustrating to have this exciting movie turn into a bunch of characters sitting around, talking.
The movie also uses too much slow-mo. That's a big problem with Zack Snyder's Justice League and some of the other DCEU movies, but that's never really been a problem that the MCU has had. Sometimes, we're in the middle of a great fight scene, and then we get five seconds of slow-motion. It just destroys the pacing of the fight, and I was absolutely not on board with this.
Finally, the soundtrack for this movie is a blend of great, peaceful Asian melodies and modern pop music. This is another problem that MCU movies almost never have. The music is usually fantastic. But rap doesn't fit inside of the MCU. It never has. Yet, for some reason, the makers of this movie decided that they wanted to throw it into Shang-Chi. And it just takes away from the experience of the movie when you are distracted by the rap and pop music going on in the background. Then, out of nowhere, it will completely switch to the Asian pipe melody. Such a weird decision.
Analogy and Final Score
Let's call Shang-Chi a car. It's a certain brand of car. A Marvel car. The boss of the company has different requirements. Sometimes those requirements are broken and they try new things. Like their recent WandaVision model. Shang-Chi has some great things. The dashboard to Iron Man 3 was broken, and Shang-Chi perfected that dashboard. But it tries to fit too many of the Marvel car requirements. It tries to take wheels and seats from other cars that did it better: Ragnarok, Far From Home, Endgame, but customers are just tired of those same parts. Overall, Shang-Chi works well, but is using all the worst parts from the other Marvel cars.
I still will go Savory here. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"
Fun Factor: 7/10
Characters: 8.5/10 Story: 7.5/10
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Rated PG-13 for superhero violence and action, language, disturbing themes and images
Released on September 3, 2021
2 hours and 12 minutes
Simu Liu as Shang-Chi
Awkwafina as Katy
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as Xu Wenwu/The Mandarin
Meng'er Zhang as Xu Xialing
Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan
Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist
Fala Chen as Ying Li
Wah Yuen as Master Guang Bo
Andy Le as Death Dealer
Jayden Zhang as Young Shang-Chi
Arnold Sun as Teen Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong as Young Xialing
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery
Benedict Wong as Wong