Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is film number 25 in the MCU catalog and marks the first Asian character to join the Avengers. The character Shang-Chi first appeared in Special Edition Marvel #15 (1973) and was the titular character of his line of comics until 1983. The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cotton (The Glass Castle, Just Mercy) and stars Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, and Meng’er Zhang.
A True Martial Arts Movie
The first thing that stands out for Shang-Chi are the incredibly well-choreographed fight sequences. It truly felt like a martial arts movie for the vast majority of the fight scenes. The bus scene and the fight on the side of the building were especially impressive. The scenes toward the end of the movie that had a lot more bodies to coordinate felt a bit sloppy and less impressive.
Let’s give some major props to Simu Liu. He may not be the most polished actor, but he seems to fit the role and is clearly likable enough to garner a 92% Critic/98% Audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Liu was a stunt double early in his career, and the fact that he does most of his own stunts adds a lot to the authenticity of the action sequences. I also really liked Tony Leung’s portrayal as Shang’s father and the leader of the Ten Rings.
Sometimes Good Things Fall Apart
Who got my Jon Bellion reference in the subheading? Anyway, like many promising movies, there were just a few too many things that made Shang-Chi fall apart in my eyes. First of all, for some reason, the film felt like it just got off to a cheesy start and that stuck with me a little bit throughout. The opening dance-fight where they stopped for awkward slow-mos of Mom and Dad’s faces immediately brought me out of my suspension of disbelief, which never bodes well for a movie in a fantasy genre. The dialogue felt cheesy throughout and a lot of the jokes didn’t garner much more than a pity chuckle from me.
Speaking of comedic relief, I just really was not a fan of the way they used Katy. I should preface that I typically am simply not a fan of Awkwafina in general, and that remains true in this movie. However, it is abundantly clear that Katy is inserted into nearly every single scene with the sole purpose of adding comedic relief. Towards the beginning, I was enjoying some of the jokes, but as we ventured further into deeper waters of action and potential peril, her lines came became less and less appreciated. Truly I would’ve preferred if she had been left behind when Shang-Chi and Xialing (his sister) go to Ta Lo and prepare for a battle. There is absolutely nothing that Katy added to the fight (except for a random arrow that was written in to make her character relevant) and no reason she should’ve been there at all.
I have been absolutely blown away by the critical acclaim this movie seems to be getting around the world right now. I do wonder if there are reasons outside of the movie itself that many people seem to really want to hype it up and elevate it to the level of the MCU elite. It is nowhere near that level for me, as the faults I had with it seemed to really overshadow the incredible action sequences. Make no mistake, I had fun and I’d watch it again, but Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is a lower-tier MCU movie in my eyes.