**This review contains massive spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. If you haven’t seen the film, and you want to avoid spoilers, I would look away now**
After a tumultuous 2020 in which no new films were released, the MCU is back in 2021 with two strong releases: Black Widow, and now, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
I must admit, after the whole emotional rollercoaster of the Infinity Saga, I have been feeling a little superheroe’d out lately. The zeal that got me through the last 13 years of MCU cinema has felt a little on the empty side. However, after the Black Widow movie left me in a good mood, and now Shang-Chi hitting theatres, I’m starting to feel the MCU again.
Just to keep you on the up-and-up, not everything about Shang-Chi was my cup of tea. I’ll get into this in a bit. However, overall, the film was an enjoying, exhilarating, martial art inspired popcorn flick to which I was more than happy to pay the price of admission.
This review won’t be getting bogged down in the detail of the plot. For that, I recommend searching for a Shang-Chi Recap, or something along those lines. This review will be focussing on the general feel of the film and how it sits in the grander MCU picture.
Here is myShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings review.
What We Thought
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings can best be described as a two-part movie. There’s the first half, in which you see some of the best martial arts performances in years. Then there’s the second half, which delves deeper into the fantasy genre, filled with mystical creatures and weapons.
I absolutely loved the movies first half. The bus scene, in which Shaun (Shang-Chi) played by the talented Simu Liu, beats up half a dozen 10 Rings soldiers, is one of my favourite in years. The action packed sequence is exactly what you want from this kind of film. It was fast, frenetic, and it keeps you on your toes. Perfecto.
Additionally, the first half introduced us to our cast. Filled with actors who nailed their respective roles. We mentioned Simu Liu, but Awkwafina was terrific as the quippy friend/side kick, Katy. In addition, Meng’er Zhang played Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing. Xialing was a brutal fighter who helped move the narrative along nicely. In saying that, the film didn’t really get a chance to explore her character from an emotional standpoint. I’d imagine Shang-Chi 2 will allow us to see more of Xialing.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai, played Shang-Chi’s father and the films villain. While his performance was strong, his role as the central villain didn’t quite do it for me. I think in a situation in which your films villain is the father of the protagonist, it can be quite difficult to build real villainary and suspense. While wearing the rings, he did give off a light air of invincibility. However, showing him evenly matched in the films early stages by Leiko Wu (Shang-Chi’s Mother) wasn’t quite the plot device they were hoping.
What Changed In The Film’s Second Half
The films first half had Captain America: Winter Soldier vibes, while the second half was more Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s not to say either is good or bad by nature. It’s just they were very difficult tones.
I didn’t quite take to the second half of the film. It just felt a bit…much.
In my version of this films perfect ending, I see our protagonist fighting his father in the films most epic fight. Ultimately, he would spare his father, showing the kind of mercy he would never expect in return.
What we got, however, was our films villain dying at the hands of a faceless (not technically) enemy, and a Pacific Rim-like showdown between two huge mystical creatures we met like 5 minutes earlier.
The ending felt very rushed and convoluted. I imagine a bunch of screen writers gathered at a table, throwing all of their ideas at the head writer, who ultimately responding by saying, “let’s do all of them”.
The amount I enjoyed the films first half gave me enough juice to sit through the second half without getting too bogged down in the finer details. Overall, I’m coming out of this film with a “it was good” attitude. It’s definitely not at Civil War or Infinity War levels, but it’s nowhere near Thor 2 or Captain Marvel, either.
I believe history will show thatShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a strong introduction into the MCU for Shang-Chi, and his character should grow in leaps and bounds from here.
I thought the film’s setting, whether they were in America, China or a brand-new dimension, were fantastic. The background setting did a marvelous job of telling a story, without taking away from the narrative. Moreover, the CGI felt seamless. Many of the final battles included a heavy amount of water and air, which does tend to mask any bad CGI effects, but still, I can’t take away from what they’ve achieved there.
The film’s ending brought so many bits and pieces to the table that it was super easy to lose track of who you should be paying attention to. If and when Shang-Chi 2 is made, I would hope they use the “less is more” mantra.
Post Credit Scenes
In post credit scene 1 we see Wong, Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel talking to Shang-Chi & Katy about the 10 rings. They discuss how they sent off some sort of beacon. The scene essentially introduces both of them to the world of the Avengers. This scene did urk me a little bit. I really enjoyed Katy throughout the film, she played a central role in defeated the film enemy, after all. But at this point (and this may change in the future), she really has no place in an Avengers level discussion. Frankly, Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, who was a total badass, could’ve taken that place.
However, in post credit scene 2, we see Xialing rebuilding the 10 Rings outpost with her own unique flair. One would imagine this is setting Xialing up us the villain for the Shang-Chi sequel.
It’s such a close call between the action sequence on the bus and the sequence on the scaffolding. Both were unbelievable pieces of fight choreography and cinematography. If pressed for an answer, I would probably pick the bus scene.