Marvel fans are pushing this film to huge box office receipts. I’m not sure it’s deserved. I recommend that you see Iron Man 3 before seeing this movie. There’s a major cameo, more of a supporting role really, that the audience got audibly excited upon reveal. It was lost on me due to my incomplete Marvel viewing history. But now that the Avengers: Endgame wrapped the latest creative phase within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a need for new heroes, so here we go.
This is the first Marvel Asian superhero, and a wonderful casting opportunity for Asian actors. We’re starting to see lots of crossover among fan favorites like Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Henry Golding and were certain Golding was in this film, but apparently we are suffering from movie trailer confusion. I was convinced that Benedict Wong from Dr. Strange was among the cast members in Shang-Chi but it was actually Alfred K. Chow. Can you see how I got confused? That’s Wong on the right. Speaking of Dr. Strange, I’m not a fan of “superheroes” who spend a lifetime mastering mystical arts. The spinning circle of sparks from Strange is used heavily here. It has been argued that Tony Stark is not a legitimate superhero, but he’s so super-intelligent, witty and able to create ad hoc enhancements to his Iron Man suit that I let it slide.
This is a dysfunctional family get together, if you can call ninja attacks to steal family jewels an invitation to Daddy’s house. Daddy is Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,) who happens to be one thousand years old, a brutal Warlord tamed by his love for Xialing, who is played by Meng‘er Zhang. They leave their combative ways behind to raise Shaun (Simu Liu) and Li (Fala Chen), but following Xialing’s death, both kids undergo assassin training to do Daddy’s bidding. Many years later they have gone their separate ways, but reunite to battle dragons and prevent soul-sucking demons from empowering a world-ending “Dweller in Darkness.”
I’m not giving much away here. The legends are so complicated that the on-screen action has to stop while things are explained, allegedly for the characters, but mostly for the audience. I guess this is preferable to an eight-hour film that follows the writing adage, “show, don’t tell,” but a more sophisticated script should be able to accomplish this without disrupting the story.
I’m also not a fan of dragons, especially the ones that let you ride them. I know, I know…Pandora, Harry Potter, Pete, I’m in the minority here. So let’s talk about Awkwafina instead. She’s great for comic relief, but she crosses the line in Shang-Chi as a suddenly brilliant archer on the battlefield.
I’m being way too negative about this movie. The opening martial arts battle on board an articulated bus would be great even if not running without brakes through the streets and hills of San Francisco. Other fights are amazingly choreographed scenes of unarmed weaponry-based Kung Fu. Simu Liu trains extensively in martial arts and stunt work, and it shows.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) runs 2 hours, 12 minutes and is rated PG-13.