Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

shang chi and the legend of the ten rings poster 2021 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Love Shang-Chi, love that the MCU is getting some diversity and different voices

Too long, tries to win in too many genres which leads to not excelling in any of them

Movie Info

Movie Name: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Studio:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures/Fox Studios Australia

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Martial Arts/Comic Book/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  August 16, 2021 (Premiere)/September 3, 2021 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Damn it…why can’t my dad hire anyone named “Turnip -Hand” or “Pillow-Hand”…Razor Fist?!?!

Shaun Chi (Simu Liu) and his friend Katy (Awkwafina) live a rather subdued life in San Francisco.  When Shaun is attacked on a bus and reveals himself to be a master of martial arts, Katy learns that Shaun is actually Shang and Shang’s past is coming back to haunt him.  Shang-Chi and Katy set out to find Shang’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and keep one step ahead of the forces of his father Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung).  Wenwu has a goal and he will stop at nothing to see it happen.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (who also helped write the screenplay and story), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a martial arts Marvel Universe action fantasy film.  Following Black Widow in 2021, the MCU Phase IV movie was released to positive reviews.  It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Shang-Chi was one of my favorite characters growing up.  The man with the hands that were deadly weapons worked espionage with British agents while fending off attacks by his father Fu Manchu and trying to maintain a moral balance important to his training.  To see a live-action Shang-Chi on screen is amazing…and while I commend the cast and the look of the movie, some of the story choices aren’t my favorite.

shang chi and the legend of the ten rings xu xialing menger zhang

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

The story is best when it is a story that avoids the MCU.  With Black Panther being an exception, it feels like it was about time to tell a story with a truly different world perspective.  While Shang-Chi has been rather Americanized, he still lives in a culture that strong and rich despite being in America.  The movie starts out by setting up a great cast (including an interesting supporting cast in Katy’s family who just disappears).  The issue of family, tradition, blood oaths, and honor sculpt a lot of the action, but from the introduction of the faux Mandarin (Ben Kingsley returning from Iron Man 3 to tie-up the mismanagement and bad calls on that character), the story really loses steam and direction.  It becomes a rather typical (but blasé) Marvel movie with more swearing.

It is too bad because the cast is good.  I like Simu Liu as Shang-Chi because he does get the fighting and still can be fun (the old Shang-Chi was kind of wet-blanket though).  The old comic supporting cast is jettisoned which isn’t a shock and doesn’t surprise me.  Awkwafina provides a fun sidekick and I really like Meng’er Zhang as the sister who has not only lived in Shang-Chi’s shadow, but always been treated poorly by her father as a result of her mother’s death.  Michelle Yeoh is always great to see, and I like Tony Leung as Shang and Xialing’s father (Fu Manchu as Shang-Chi’s father was scrapped years ago due to rights over the character).  This was Ben Kingsley’s big chance to redeem his irritating character from Iron Man 3, but he’s still pretty irritating.  The movie also features your expected MCU cameos.

shang chi and the legend of the ten rings vs father fimu liu tony leung

The ultimate fight for control of the Slinky spring weapons

The fights and the battles are great.  The battle on the bus and the battle on the side of the building are highlights, but they also come early.  The movie tries to toe too many different genres.  The MCU stuff feels kind of out of place.  It was nice to see Abomination back but that was extremely random (at least it was classic Abomination right down to his blue shorts).  The number of martial arts sequences of the film kind of are lacking due to the all-out fantasy fight at the end but the fantasy world which kind of explores Asian mythic culture also feels a bit half-baked since it took so long to get there.  It all looks good, but it doesn’t necessarily connect.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tries to be a different Marvel and it succeeds in that…but as a martial arts movie, it isn’t that good and as a “super hero” it falters.  The movie once again poses the problem of it being really unnecessarily long.  This imbalance hurts the movie and the acting and visuals can’t overcome it.  Now, Shang-Chi is fully embedded in the MCU, so I don’t know that a second entry will be as exploratory or daring in regards to culture (the fact that the movie actually has a ton of subtitles distinguishes it from other MCU titles alone).  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is followed by Eternals in November 2021.

Related Links:

The 94th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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