Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows Shang-Chi being forced to confront his father and his old life after having run away from it as a kid.
It’s been 13 years and more than 20 movies since I saw Iron Man as a kid in 2008. I know it seems lame to bring it up every time something new from Marvel shows up. However, Shang-Chi is the first ‘all-new story since Endgame. This is the first ‘fresh’ movie since the Infinity Saga wrapped up with ‘Far from Home’. ‘Black Widow’ feels rather standalone so not counting that. Safe to say, it’s a lot of Marvel out there. Shang-Chi had me, a hard-core MCU fanboy, worried that MCU might just be losing steam. I’m glad to say I was completely wrong. Shang-Chi stands as one of the stronger MCU Origin stories out there. Even more so than that of some of the A-List superheroes in the roster.
Wuxia in MCU, sing me up
Something I never expected to happen but dearly hoped for was having Chinese characters speak in their native language. As an immigrant myself, I can vouch for one thing. No matter how comfortable English is, at my most emotional state, I will be speaking in my native language. Shang-Chi does that brilliantly. The movie begins with a Chinese narration/voice-over, immediately establishing it is very much immersed in that culture. Any time most characters are in an emotionally heightened state of mind, they speak in Chinese (Mandarin to be precise). I love that. There was no way around this and having Chinese natives speak in English throughout the film would’ve been a huge disservice.
The highlight is the action/fight choreography, arguably being the best in the MCU yet. Every punch, kick and throw, has weight to it and is not ruined by snappy cuts. Actions and the subsequent points of hits are almost always in the same take. It feels elementary but it just shows the kind of passion that has gone into displaying this style of fighting respectfully. Simu Liu and Tony Leung are the absolute highlights as a father-son duo. Their constant back and forth as a tough parent and a rebellious kid is what drives this movie to a triumph.
It’s Marvel all right
Shang-Chi, being a product of Marvel’s tried and tested formula is its biggest strength and weakness. As much as I loved seeing this culture in a major blockbuster movie, it’s also what holds it back from realizing its potential. An end that’s supposed to be a clash of ideologies between a father and a son turns into an inter-dimensional CGI battle that has very little impact. At that moment, it feels as though the MCU is unavoidably too big for its own good. If it’s a self-contained movie about a father and a son, it has no relevance to the grand scheme of things that are so prevalent in the MCU right now. There’s no way out of it and I understand that it had to be this way.
Shang-Chi is one of the stronger MCU origin movies, more so than some of the big names in the current Avengers lineup. Marvel ups its game with some excellent fight choreography and yet another great villain but a disappointing CGI-heavy third act that desperately tries to make the movie feel relevant in the grand MCU storyline.