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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) – Review: A Top-Tier Marvel Cinematic Universe Film That is a Blast to Watch

August 24, 2021

Quick Thoughts: Grade – B+ – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a blast. It’s nice watching something that doesn’t have the weight of every MCU storyline on its shoulders. If you’re looking for a fun origin story featuring solid action scenes, likable characters, and adorable creatures, it doesn’t get much better

Directed and written by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, Short Term 12), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings is a breath of fresh air for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it doesn’t have the weight of 20+ films on its shoulders, and it can explore different worlds that get us away from world destroying titans. Also, it’s cool seeing Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, In the Mood for Love, Hero), and Michelle Yeoh (Supercop, Tomorrow Never Lies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in the MCU, and they’re given juicy roles that allow them to showcase their acting and action chops. Most importantly, Simu Lu and Awkwafina are wonderful as Shang-Chi and Katy, two karaoke loving best friends who find themselves traveling around the world (and never taking themselves too seriously) after being attacked by mercenaries in San Francisco. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings starts off by showing us how Wenwu (Leung), found the ten rings, and achieved power through centuries of war, murder and more murder. As the centuries progress, so does Wenwu’s wealth, as he hires out his trained mercenaries to kill world leaders and cause governments to collapse. During his quest to accumulate more power, he ends up coming across Jiang-Li (Fala Chen), the only person who can match his fighting skills. After an inspired fight scene, the two fall in love, have two children Shang-Chi (Lu), and Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and settle down for a pleasant domestic life. Since it’s a movie involving a retired ganglord, trouble comes to find the family, and Jiang-Li is killed, which pushes Wenwu back to his life of terrorism (and makes him a slightly more sympathetic villain as he tried to live a normal life). From there, things go sideways for the family, and they disperse around the world, and meet up once again when Wenwu recruits them back into action.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is easily one of the most fun MCU films as it always makes sure to provide quality gags interspersed within the creative action scenes featuring bus chases, scaffolding brawls, and gladiator-esque battles. The bus brawl might be one of the most fun moments in recent MCU memory, as it gives us a glimpse of the fighting skills of Shang-Chi, and gives Katy a moment to shine as she drives an out of control bus through the streets of San Francisco. The scene features some cheeky humor, inspired choreography that drives the scene, and a solid villain named Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu), who has a giant blade attached to his arm (he also has a cool car). 

The cinematography by Bill Pope (Darkman, The Matrix, Baby Driver) keeps the action in the camera, and it’s nice not watching jerkily shot action scenes that are edited into oblivion. Things do go CGI-heavy towards the end, but the likable characters, and new villain keep it intriguing. Also, the costume design by Kym Barrett (The Matrix, Romeo + Juliet, Speed Racer) is solid, as each character gets a chance to look great while they engage in the fights which were choreographed by Guillermo Grispo (Solo, The King’s Man) and Andy Cheng (Into the Badlands, 6 Underground). 

It would be great to see Shang-Chi tear it up at the box office, as it’s the first Marvel Studios film with an Asian director and a predominantly Asian cast. Based on the initial reaction of most critics, the film will have a very Fresh Tomatometer score, which will hopefully get people into theaters, who will then promote the movie to their friends. Shang-Chi is a blast, and while it doesn’t hit the heights of Iron Man or Black Panther, it belongs in the conversation of being one of the best standalone MCU movies.

Final Thoughts – Go watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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