Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Enjoyable film creatively introduces new characters
Cons: Few niggles, but minor overall
The Bottom Line:
New superhero
Creative introduction
Overall, it’s fun

Fun Introduction of a New Hero

While I’ve been watching the Marvel shows on Disney+ this year, I’ve been slow to jump back into the movies.  I finally changed that this last week with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.  (Yes, I know I still need to go back and catch Black Widow.)  It was a different first movie for a new hero, and one I enjoyed.

After an extensive prologue in the past, we are introduced to Shaun (Simu Liu) in present day San Francisco where he serves as a valet with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina).  What he hasn’t told her is that he’s spent the last ten years of his life hiding from his past where he was raised as Shang-Chi.  When that past shows up on their bus ride to work one morning, he has to come clean to her.  Katy joins him on his trip to China to worn his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), that their father (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) is trying to get something from them.  What is he after?  What will it mean if he succeeds?

I actually skipped over the prologue on purpose.  While it gives us a little immediate context, the film actually does a good job of using flashbacks to fill us in on Shang-Chi’s past throughout the entire run of the film.  That past is critical to the plot of the movie, but we don’t get it in a giant dump.  Instead, we get it as we need it and as it means something.  Flashbacks can be tricky, but I appreciated how they were used here.

It also means we can get to the action sooner.  There are three set pieces (and a few other fun bits of action) through the film.  The climax is very special effects heavy, but the first two are much more grounded in stunt work.  They are a blast.  I’m not saying the climax was bad, but I enjoyed the other two more.

I’ve been struggling a bit with superhero movies, especially origin stories, since they all felt the same.  I didn’t feel that was the case with this movie.  Maybe it’s because I’ve taken a bit of time off from watching them, or maybe it truly was that this one did things differently.  There was a bit more of a mystery to the plot than a typical superhero film as well.  Yes, there were still some familiar elements and predictability to the plot, but overall, it was fun.

Speaking of fun, there are some great one liners and situations that made me laugh along the way.

Outside about three characters, I felt like the rest could have used a bit more development.  I’m not blaming the actors for this since they all did fine.  It’s the writing that could have made them sharper.  But that’s what sequels are for, right?

I waited to watch this until it was streaming on Disney+.  There were a couple of times that either my streaming went a little glitchy or the special effects weren’t quite up to pair.  Or both.  But for the most part, what we saw on screen was impressive.  Considering how heavy on the special effects the second half is, that’s saying something.

If you aren’t up to date on the Marvel movies, you could watch this one without missing too much.  There are a few subtle things that tie in to the rest of the movies, but the biggest spoiler is for Iron Man 3.  It helps that they are introducing mostly all new characters, and the movie is focused on them and their story.

The movie features a portion of the story in Mandarin with subtitles.  I was a bit surprised, but I quickly got used to it.

Of course, we get the usual two credits scenes we are used to with Marvel movies, so be sure to watch for those.

Yes, I had a few niggles with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but overall, I enjoyed it.  It’s a perfectly enjoyable superhero movie, so when that is what you are in the mood for, sit back and enjoy.

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