SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Review
After the critical and commercial success of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, Marvel Studios (and the rest of Hollywood) have come to the shock realisation that minority audiences do go and see movies with people that look like them in them; so long as they are good. Trawling through their catalogue of Asian characters, Marvel bring us Shang-Chi, with some heavy alterations on the source material.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (whew that's a mouthful) sees master of the martial arts, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) try to stop his crime lord father (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) from unleashing a horrible evil on the world.
As well as their first Asian-led superhero film, this is Marvel's first foray into martial arts/kung fu movies. The Marvel action sequence is usually a bunch of people hurling CGI thingamabobs at one another with a grey colour palette. For at least the first two-thirds of Shang-Chi, the action sequences are some of the best in the series. There is a fluidity to them as characters use their surronds to defend and attack others. An early action sequence on a bus is impressive in clearly capturing the action in and outside such a confined space. Simu Liu's training for this role is given the attention it deserves, with at times him evoking legends like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee in the way he uses action sequences for small comedic moments, like taking off and putting on a jacket mid-fight.
Sadly, by the third act, the fight quality and movie's overall quality drops. Instead of the intense, stylised and choreographed action we get another Marvel CGI fight on a field/dull fake area, much like Black Panther's disappointing finale. In this third act is also where the movie shifts tones from a kung fu/crime film into a fantasy with mystical, ancient kingdoms and creatures that look like Pokemon. Much like Black Panther though, it is the charm of its lead actor and writing of main villain that keep you some what engaged.
Simu Liu is going to be a fun, disarmingly charming and unique addition to the MCU, with a mid-credit scene teasing his future appearances alongside The Avengers. Not only is he clearly dedicated to the stunt work and fight choreography, but he has smaller emotional moments as he mourns the lose of his mother and trauma from his father. Unfortunately his partners on this journey are nowhere near as interesting or likeable as T'Challa with Awkwafina doing her grating, problematic 'black voice' routine and Meng'er Zhang as Shang-Chi's sister not given enough depth until the closing moments of the filming setting up and interesting sibling conflict.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai is...Tony Leung. What more is there to say about an actor who brings a range of emotions to a complexly motivated character. Leung as Xu Wenwu is the true Mandarian, lampshading the version seen in Iron Man 3, and weilds immense power with the titular Ten Rings but does so with honour. He is not motivated for revenge or undefined evil, but heartbreak and longing for the one spark of joy he experienced over his thousands of years alive. It is a relatable motivation, that is unfortunately undermined by a third act reveal of mystical influence.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings does not break new gound in the MCU like other entries, but is an exciting establishment for Simu Liu in the MCU. Boasting slick action sequences for the most part, a charismatic lead and a complex villain, it is all for naught with a bland, by-the-numbers finale leaving a bad taste at the end.