REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


So, after the credits rolled for this film, I got back home and sat down on my living room couch where one question was on repeat in my head: “Why in the world did Bob Iger (CEO of all things Disney) refer to this film as just ‘an interesting experiment?’” 

Destin Daniel Cretton (writer and director of indie films such as “Short Term 12” and “Just Mercy”) comes to us with his astonishing first big-budget film with the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (damn, that’s a mouthful).

This film stars Simu Liu and Awkwafina and introduces the MCU’s newest hero, Shang Chi: a seemingly normal hotel valet parking attendant. However, when a group of his father’s henchman come for him, he must abandon the delusion of being a simple average joe and confront his traumatic past when faced with the organization of the Ten Rings. To begin with, and I say this without hesitation, this film has some of the best action the MCU has ever given us. Lately, with projects like “Black Widow,” the action within Phase Four (not always, but sometimes) has been missing a lot of that spark the Russo Brothers laid on the table when they made “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” back in 2014.

With this movie, my fears of having low-quality action in the rest of phase four may have been eradicated. Every single hand-to-hand combat sequence in this film is handled with care on a level that I have not yet experienced in the MCU. There were so many long-take action sequences which made me exceedingly giddy with excitement.

In particular, there was an amazing scene involving a fight on a building with wooden platforms on its exterior (as is customary for buildings in China) which was incredibly white-knuckled and just overall insane. From an action standpoint, it’s practically flawless, and for many reasons, has never been better (which I am so happy to finally say about an MCU film). 

Another aspect I personally found appealing is the strong Chinese vibe of this film. About eight years ago now, my family made the adventurous decision to move overseas to live in southeast Asia for two years. The first of those years had us living in Nanjing, China, and watching this film gave me a comforting, nostalgic feeling that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. From the soundtrack to the beautiful lush forests and the city scapes of Macau, it brought back fond memories that may have all been forgotten had it not been for this film

As for the narrative and the characters, the storyline definitely isn’t the film’s strong suit (which is partially due to some slightly unnecessary exposition dumps), but it still manages to maintain solid ground enough to be engaging, which is largely due to the cast. Simu Liu performs great as Shang Chi, but for me, Awkwafina easily steals the show with the comedy she brings to the table (she basically has that ability for anything she’s in these days). Each time she was on screen, she made me giggle and sometimes laugh out loud in the theater. The humor in general for me was really funny and clever, but that stems from personal taste. I understand that Marvel humor is subjective and it doesn’t always work for everyone, but for me, it most definitely worked.

This film is not, however, without its semi-halting faults. For one, I feel it is status quo for me (or for a lot of people when talking about an MCU project, for that matter) to tell you that the CGI doesn’t always work in this film. Similar to the waterfall scene in Black Panther, there were times where I noticed that the CGI looked like it had been somewhat copied and pasted into a shot (particularly a scene revolving around moving trees).

Also, the final battle’s CGI left a bit to be desired and was very questionable at times. That’s not to say that it was unbearable; it just felt to me like the CGI team could have worked around some issues way more than they did. 

While this film isn’t perfect, it is still an absolute blast. Overall, the exciting action, likeable characters, beautiful set pieces, and heartfelt messages sprinkled in make this movie a must- watch for fans of Marvel. If we can expect this kind of quality in upcoming installments, I think the future for the MCU looks blindingly bright. 


Jury declares: A-