When Marvel returned to the big screen this year with Black Widow, it’s safe to say that their first post-lockdown release divided opinion. Whilst many enjoyed it for what it was (a blockbuster action movie that was somewhat misplaced in terms of MCU chronology), many felt let down, as if Marvel had lost their pizzazz. It’s nice to see, then, that Shang-Chi seems to have mostly had the opposite response in that so many of the reviews are positive.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu in the title role, which is kind of fun in itself because he’s relatively unknown. Born and bred in Canada, Liu has had roles in Canadian TV favourites such as Kim’s Convenience and Orphan Black, but starred only in two feature films before Shang-Chi. The film begins with Shang-Chi and his best pal Katy (Awkwafina) living modest lives as car valets in present day San Francisco. Both of their lives are steady yet unremarkable, until one day Shang-Chi is forced to confront his heritage when he is drawn in by the ancient ‘Ten Rings’ organisation – a mysterious operation headed by his powerful father played by Tony Leung.
My first thought when the credits began to roll? Man, now I’m excited for Phase 4. Whilst I really did enjoy Black Widow, we all know it was made five years too late. You can still enjoy it as a standalone movie, but something about Shang-Chi felt like it was looking forward to something much bigger.
There’s nothing more glaringly masterful within this movie than the outstanding stunts and action sequences. The fight choreography is simply stunning, bringing John Wick to mind, although that would be quite reductive because this movies comes with a balletic grace that makes it easily the best I’ve seen so far this year. From the bus in the beginning to the original yet familiar scuffle on the side of a building, this film is testament to what a talented man Brad Allan was.
Now, the cast. Yes, Simu Liu is good and Tony Leung is (obviously) great, but I can’t help but feel that Awkwafina isn’t getting enough praise for her work here. (Possibly due to some of the questionable choices she’s made in the past.) Chiefly she’s there for comedic value, and without her it would have been way too serious a movie, but her dramatic acting is completely underrated. We did see it in The Farewell, but she brings some of that ability with her here too and it’s great to see.
Like most Marvel outings, the plot is mostly engaging, though some dialogue scenes were tough to get through due to their length and mild complexity. However, I don’t see why some found the third act to have a jarringly slow change of pace – it never really dragged at all for me. I did find myself not paying attention to everything that was said from time to time, but Michelle Yeoh breathed new life into the movie at that point and quickly became my favourite character in the whole thing. Not sorry. Yeoh for President.
On the whole, Shang-Chi is a solid entry into the MCU canon and should make you feel excited for what’s to come. With CGI and visuals like this, it seems we have nothing to worry about.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently showing in most UK cinemas.
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