The Stream: About 15 minutes too long and a bit corny comedically
The Big Screen: Great fighting sequences
The Final Bill: Another good addition to the MCU Universe– S2S: Movie Review and Trip Fontaine
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writers: Dave Callaham (screenplay by), Destin Daniel Cretton (screenplay by), Andrew Lanham (screenplay by)
Stars: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Superhero
Rating: PG-13 (violence/fight scenes)
Runtime: 2 hours (stay for end credit scenes)
Production Companies: Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Studios, Fox Studios Australia
Platform: Released in theaters September 3, 2021
Notable Trailers: Moonfall, No Time to Die, Dear Evan Hansen, West Side Story, Eternals,
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand and become more diverse with this weekend’s release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It is the first MCU theatrical release with a predominantly Asian cast. While it surely fits into the overall expanded universe, I can’t tell you how it fits into whatever phase this is, but it is essentially Shang-Chi’s origin story and, in that sense, it kind of can stand alone. The question is whether its worth trekking to the theater for all the action and drama – here’s how we see it.
Shang-Chi also known as “Shaun” (Simu Liu) has been an unassuming valet for years paling around with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina) in San Francisco. On one fateful day as Shang-Chi and Katy are on their way to work, they get attacked by a group of thugs from the Ten Rings led by the goon, Razor Fist. Shang-Chi fends off the attackers in an impressive action sequence, but he exposes what he had otherwise hidden from Katy – kung-fu prowess and a history connected to those men that attacked him. From there, Shang-Chi and Katy set out on a quest to confront his past, protect his sister, and defeat his diabolical father who has had overwhelming power for a thousand years thanks to the titular Ten Rings.
For most of these MCU films, what are we really looking for? Action. Comedy. Spectacle. A tie-in to the expanded universe. Shang-Chi delivers on most of that.
Action – as a newcomer to the MCU, Simu Liu does a good job of setting up who Shang-Chi is and how he might fit into the larger group. The early fight sequences are exciting primarily because of Liu’s athletic abilities. The kinetic energy brought to those set pieces are good enough to jolt some awake. Also, there is a fight between Tony Leung and Fala Chen early on that is a must see – it is quite awe-inspiring. When it comes to the MCU, the climactic battles are usually a mish-mosh and over-the-top, fortunately, this one is no different.
Comedy – Liu also has good chemistry with Awkwafina – although the comedy is a bit lacking considering Awkwafina’s reputation. There were not really any laugh out loud moments, but the easy tone of the film overall makes it generally enjoyable. It feels like they were trying for it, but it didn’t hit the mark.
Spectacle – the special effects here are pretty good. The power of the Ten Rings is interesting and the way they work into the action sequences works really well. The production design of Ta Lo is really beautiful to look at. Of course, Marvel Studios used their Marvel money to make the setting stand out. I can’t say it is Black Panther impressive, but it was good nonetheless. What I will say is there are plenty of Easter eggs and cameos that make this spectacle worth seeing in contention of the overall MCU.
In some ways, the movie gets a bit too stereotypical with Asian folks and dragons and never aging and then turning into dragons. There also is a tinge of this movie hearkening too close to Mulan in look and feel as if Disney was like we have some content we can save money on for this. Either way, I’m glad that Disney has opened minds to diversity with their live action films. Let’s keep it up! And in fact Disney, provides some great cultural and societal dialogue about the complexity of family dynamics. The father/son relationship and portrayal is really well done adding to what Marvel already does well… Family.
Long story short, Marvel doesn’t really make missteps and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is no different. The movie is a bit too long and Simu Liu might not have found his comedic legs yet. And still the movie is stereotypically enjoyable and well done by the MCU. I wonder how this will fit into the next phases of Marvel but until then I’ll pick up a big box of popcorn as I ponder. I’m sure Trip, as a non-marvel lover, will be quite satisfied with a bowl of popcorn because he’s a hater.
Disclaimer those of you who don’t like long movies might catch a z or two but wake up for the end.