SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Review; "Simu Liu Was Born To Play The MCU’s Newest Avenger"
Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has finally arrived, but what does the first Phase 4 origin story bring to the MCU? Plenty of action, a lot of laughs, and an incredible new hero!
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has finally arrived in theaters, but this movie was worth the wait. Like the rest of Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 slate, it slipped down the release calendar thanks to COVID, but saving it for the big screen was the right decision because this is an adventure best experienced in a theater. The visuals are out of this world, and the action scenes are unlike anything we’ve seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s a good description for the movie itself, though, as this is both a heart-wrenching family story and an action-packed fantasy epic that kicks open the door to a whole new side of this shared world.
The fight choreography is nothing short of jaw-dropping, and an early opening battle between Wenwu and Ying Li proves to be a beautiful sight to behold. From there, the action only intensifies, and director Destin Daniel Cretton shoots these scenes in a way that means you won’t want to blink for fear of missing something. The bus battle is a pure edge of your seat adrenaline ride, as is the fight on the scaffolding we’ve seen in the trailers. However, it’s the movie’s final act that amps things up to a point that cements this as Marvel Studios’ best action movie yet. Of course, the best action scenes in the world are no good if there’s not a story to match it, but Shang-Chi is a triumph in that respect as well.
An emotional, moving story about a father and son, Wenwu proves to be as compelling to follow as the title character, and is far from a typical "villain." That description simply doesn’t do him justice, and while his actions aren’t those of a good man, he’s a conflicted, complex character who is ultimately battling grief and making all the wrong decisions because of it (Vision’s line, "What is grief if not love persevering?", is apt for this movie). Cretton, Dave Callaham, and Andrew Lanham’s screenplay proves to be the perfect mix of action, comedy, and family drama, making Shang-Chi one of Marvel Studios’ best origin stories. Events do slow down a little too much at the movie’s midpoint, while the return of a character from the Iron Man franchise results in plenty of laughs, but feels otherwise unnecessary. The movie does a great job of moving on from the stereotypical groundwork laid in the Armoured Avenger’s movies, though, but this punchline from a "One-Shot" most casual fans probably haven’t seen...well, Shang-Chi would have been just fine without it.
Wenwu is one of the MCU’s best antagonists, and much of the credit for that obviously deserves to go to Tony Leung. The actor is utterly phenomenal as the leader of the Ten Rings, and we can only hope this performance leads to us seeing a whole lot more of him on our screens moving forward. This isn’t a case of a bad guy overshadowing the hero, though, because Simu Liu proves himself the perfect fit to bring Shang-Chi to life in the MCU. Every bit as likeable as Chris Evans, but with the same charm as a Paul Rudd or Anthony Mackie, Liu makes Shang-Chi his own and does so in a way that ensures you’ll fall in love with this character and want to see much more of him. Meng'er Zhang delivers a breakout performance, Fala Chen is terrific, and Florian Munteanu establishes himself as a formidable baddie as Razor Fist. However, the highlight might just be Awkwafina as Katy; it would have been easy for her to become that same annoying "sidekick" we’ve seen in so many superhero movies before this one, but she’s both a riot (with many of Shang-Chi’s funniest lines) and an awesome character in her own right.
Shang-Chi is an exciting, diverse new entry into this MCU saga and one that does for this character what Black Panther did for T’Challa. Embracing Chinese culture and mythology, there are no stereotypes to be found here, and each of the heroes and villains we meet are layered, well thought out additions to the ever-expanding MCU mythos. This feels like a very special movie, and that mixture of martial arts and big CGI set pieces mesh together nicely to create something that feels wholly original and fresh. By the time the credits roll, the stage is set for a whole new style of storytelling, and we can only hope this same creative team reunites (including cinematographer William Pope and composer Joel P. West, both of whom excel here) for a sequel as soon as possible.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is nothing short of action movie perfection; this is the MCU like you’ve never seen before, and it’s no exaggeration to say Simu Liu was born to play the MCU’s newest Avenger.